Monday, July 06, 2009

We are not vacuous plastic surgery-obsessed cultureless Neanderthals

Patty here…

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the California culture wars, there is a longstanding snobbish point of view held by some Northern Californians toward we who live in Southern California. Here’s a 2004 article written by Megan H. Chin for USC's Daily Trojan about this subject. She credits Will Rogers with saying, "children in San Francisco are taught two things: love the Lord and hate Los Angeles."

Chin writes,

Southern California is summer, Northern California spring. We're cerebral, you're celeb. We're the birthplace of Jerry Garcia, the microprocessor, Genentech, Ghirardelli chocolate and the world's biggest garlic festival. You spawned O.J., boob jobs and the Valley.

So, how do we SoCalers feel about them? We know Bay folk bristle if you refer to San Francisco as “Frisco,” but beyond that we don’t spend much time thinking about them at all.

I’m aware of this North-versus-South prejudice but I’ve personally not heard it expressed for ages—until a couple of weeks ago when we had as our guest a woman from Berkeley whom I had never met. We invited her to accompany us to an event during which we paid for all expenses associated with the trip, except for her transportation to and from Los Angeles.

She began to irritate me early on with her, “I will never, never, NEVER color my hair.” Okay, fine. Don’t color your hair. I have absolutely no problem with a look like this. That’s the wonderful thing about the women’s movement. We are free to do anything we damn well please, preferably without condemnation from our sisters.

She had a number of other annoying traits (I am the most awesome person on the planet. Don’t you agree? Huh? Huh? Huh?) that I ignored for the sake of harmony. Then she started in on her version of LA people are vacuous, plastic surgery-obsessed, cultureless and inappropriately dressed Neanderthals. As we say in fiction, the conflict was rising. I overlooked the insult once but when she repeated it again a short time later, I called her on it.

“You know,” I said, “I’m getting a little weary of your Northern California fantasy that somehow you are better than the rest of us. It’s so yesterday.”

“Well,” she blustered. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

But see, I think she did mean to offend me and even more galling was that she offended me while accepting my hospitality.

When I was in business school, I read the book How to Deal with Difficult People by Ursula Markham. I don’t remember anything about it, which is why I’m not very good at it. There was probably a better way to have handled this situation. What would you have done?

Happy Monday!


  1. I hate generalizations and stereotypes. By the way, San Franciscans are snobbish.

  2. And furthermore...

    Ghiradelli chocolates are vastly overrated. Average. A nice sign visible from the Bay. Welcome tourists.

    And speaking of tourists, Fisherman's Wharf is as cheesy as anything in L.A.

  3. One more thing.

    O.J. Simpson was born in SAN FRANCISCO!

  4. Tell it like it is, Paulie. Plus SFO has all those steep hills. Very hard on the brakes. And that fog! Don't get me started...

  5. And too many people wear black even in the summer. Very funereal.

  6. Did I mention that over-water runway at the airport? Very scary landing experience.

  7. Actually, some people wear orange and black...San Francisco Giants colors.

    Confession: I love San Francisco.

  8. Dude. I resemble those remarks.


    Real San Franciscans can't be bothered with snobbery, we're too busy drinking wine and eating cheese. And most of us don't like Fisherman's Wharf. And black is slimming and goes with everything. Agree with you about the Ghirardelli chocolate, though. Recchiuti is much better.

    Answering your question, Patty, I think you did exactly the right thing. The woman was being a bully, and the only way to stop a bully is to call them on their nonsense. I had a similar experience with some visitors to San Francisco - I got them a room (comped, thank you very much) at the Four Seasons, treated them to dinner at the very nice hotel restaurant, and all they could talk about was how they got better deals in their home town. My one regret about the experience is that I didn't confront them about their poor behavior.

  9. P.S. I like all of Southern California, LA included. ;-)

  10. Truth be told I (heart) SFO, and Rae who epitomizes all things great and wonderful about the place.

  11. There should be a law against rude guests.

  12. Once when I was arriving at Eppley airport, I overheard the woman in front of me exclaim "Thank God I'm back in Omaha!"

    Most people wouldn't think twice about it, except that I have never forgotten it. What moved her to proclaim her relief to the rest of us? Where do you think she had been? San Francisco? New York? Topeka? Yakima? How can people not realize that the phrase "Thank God I'm back in Omaha" is just comical, no matter what you may or not think of Omaha?

    Anyhoo, she may have been the same woman that was visited upon you, Patty. If you had had her for another night, she might have regaled you with "I will never whiten my teeth!"

    San Francisco, Omaha. Ranters are the same all over the world. And please bear in mind that the city motto of the paradise in which I currently reside is "Fountain Valley. A nice place to live." Which is why I keep my mouth shut when I am deplaning at John Wayne Airport.

    And I will never color my hair because I am a Winter.

  13. Hey Patty,

    Fun post. L.A.-S.F. I love 'em both. My two oldest live in S.F. now, and, gasp, have even ditched the Dodgers for the Giants. (I just didn't raise them well.)

    So to WWID? When she said, "I didn't mean to offend you." my mind just SCREAMED, "You haven't, but your boring the hell out of me." I'm not sure I'd have said it though.

    I'd get the ultimate revenge of writing her into my next novel. Then I'd write off all those tabs I picked up on my taxes.

    It was fun to see you at the Pasadena conference. You were great.


  14. When I moved from The Valley (there is only one) to the Bay Area, I was assaulted by the NoCal vs. SoCal hostility. Which was funny, because when I lived in the south I rarely heard an acknowledgment that there was another part of the state. Personally, I prefer it up north, but I'd hope to be more gracious about it than Patty's Berkleyite visitor. Even if she were right, that's just plain rude!

  15. Patty,
    Here in the other south--South Carolina--we put up with North vs. South prejudices every single day. Our standard reply to rude visitors is to simply state the obvious, "Darlin', don't you know the highway that brought you here run both ways?"

  16. I like LA and SF a lot, but if I had to choose I'd pick SF because I hate to drive.

    As for your guest, I was subjected to one of those recently. He bitched about his food, what others were eating, the heat, his ex-wife, his kids, you name it.

    When we left to go to a jam he blamed his host for not telling him in advance so he could bring his guitar. You can borrow one, we told him, but he was set on being aggrieved and insisted that the guitars wouldn't be good enough and believe me, in that bar the players (one of them a Muscle Shoals rhythm player) swing some mighty fine axes.

    No, he just wanted to be an asshole. Like your visitor.

    What did I do? I got away from him as quickly as I could. His negativity was as welcome as a fart in church.

    Life is too short.

  17. I would have said that "some people's tastes are only in their mouths."

    Or, "When I grow up, I want to be just like you," {add, to taste, your "favourite" insult ----} "an ill mannered pompous jackass"


  18. While I don't blame you for venting on your guest, and I realize your post is supposed to be funny, it missed the mark. Differences are a marvelous thing, and they should be celebrated as such, not ranked on a scale of better or worse. Where I come from, we call that prejudice. Categorizing your guest's remarks as a "Northern California fantasy that somehow you are better than the rest of us" reveals your own bias and demonstrates how much you and your guest have in common.

  19. james o. born7/06/2009 3:51 PM

    Smack her.

  20. from Jacqueline

    Well, I think I can comment on this, as I shuttle from one end of the state to the other - and as we all know, I hate snobbery of any kind.

    The fact is that you have your plastic surgery obsessed blondes (or brunettes) of both sexes in both LA and SF - seem 'em. You have your people who hate to read and your people who love the theatre in LA & SF. I can go hiking with my pals in SoCal, or my pals up here (I'm in the Bay Area at the moment), and I will have a great time with both. Real people can always find real other people - we're like vampires, we can tell each other a mile off.

    The fact is that I prefer the Bay Area because SoCal gets too darn hot for me in the summer (our home is in Ojai). My husband would rather be down there because he prefers that heat.

    Ghiradelli chocs are really overrated and I cannot stand Fisherman's Wharf - it really is for the tourists. I've seen as much fog in SoCal as I have in the SF Bay Area (and more in both of those than I have in England). And I have come across all sorts of snobbery in both, and many lovely down-to-earth folks too. So, what would I have done if I'd had that woman in my house? I would have called her on it, and told her that wherever we are we draw the people to us who reflect something of ourselves back to us - so she must know some real charmers!

  21. Oh, what wonderful stories. Thanks to all for sharing.

    Mims, I loved Omaha the one time I was there. Such lovely people.

    Carson, great seeing you, too. CCWC was a great conference and Robert Crais' keynote was hilarious.

    Hank, indeed, there is only one Valley, just ask Paulie.

    DebbieJ, love the response to your NoSo problem. What's the deal? This seems to be a common geographic issue.

    David, your guest sounds way more rude than mine. Can't believe you were so tolerant. Kudos.

    Jon, geeeeze, I wish I'd have thought of that one. Next time...

    Anon, you missed the point. Of course I celebrate differences. If I didn't, I wouldn't be living in L.A. I did not say I was better than my guest. What I said was NorCal folk are not better than SoCal peeps, which is what she was inferring with some very condescending remarks.

    James O, short and sweet. Thanks.

    Our J, yes, what you said.

  22. this really is a global theme, patty. i know they have this north/south thing in britain, england and london. we have it here in germany between the prussians and the bavarians and even on a smaller scale. frankfurt is only about 25 miles away from us, bit the best thing about frankfurt is the train to mainz - my hometown (of course).

    i loved l.a. and i adore s.f., but this tourist didn't like fisherman's wharf either, jackie.


  23. Thanks for the comments, Sybille. It's been a long time since I visited Fisherman's Wharf. I must go back to revisit the cheese.

  24. Go-Lo....I forgot this one: If you are looking for perfection, DON'T look in a mirror !

  25. Tee hee, Jon. I LOVE it.

  26. Gee, and here I thought that one of my friends' girlfriends, who is constantly finding ways to "help" everyone by "improving" them, was the only stupid bi*** around. Apparently she hasn't figured out that she's telling everyone, "Hey, you're not good enough for me..."

    I think that the real problem with your NorCal...acquaintance, Patty, is that she's simply regurgitating what she's been told, and not bothering to observe, let alone think for herself.

    There's a shock, isn't it?