Live in Radnor? Better Not Say You’re From Philly

Such is the ridiculous argument of a Philadelphia County native.

radnor township

Hey, youse guys! You are not from Philadelphia, got that? Image of not-Philadelphia via Wikipedia

Hillary Kelly wrote a ridiculous piece for the New Republic a few days ago to say that unless a person is from Philadelphia County proper — “inside the city lines” — they should not say they’re from Philadelphia, and particularly not at a party. Those who falsely make the Philly-native claim are liars, she says, and are not entitled to imply that they have certain qualities that are her own:

I’m proud to come of my hometown—proud that, as a kid, I could rattle off Philly’s neighborhoods and understand the cultural intricacies of each one, a kid who loved watching the cityscape change as I took the bus deeper into Philly to my grandmother’s house, who knew which areas were dangerous and which were gentrifying (thanks to my father, a police officer).

She then says, “I can’t deny my urban elitism” and moves right along with the essay as breezily as if she’s skipping down a sidewalk on a sunny day. I know little about Hillary Kelly, but I’m guessing she can’t be more than, say, 33 because I can’t imagine anyone older than that gliding past a confession of elitism without recognizing that it needs to be interrogated intellectually. (And it should be noted that many, many people in their 20s and 30s recognize this as well.)




Plus, it's such an interesting dynamic -- this tension between urban elitists and suburban elitists, and what it means in terms of class, among many factors. It certainly would have made for a better essay than the subsequent paragraphs about her fiancé's impeccable behavior. As a woman who used to do this myself, I ask: why must young female writers invoke the example of the men they're shtupping having sex with in articles like this? You don't need the penis opinion, ladies. Your own is solid enough.

I should know a little something about Philadelphia bona fides. I just published a piece about growing up in Philly -- and inside the city lines, too. But when the person I'm speaking with says, "Well, actually, I'm from Radnor," I say, "Oh, for heaven's sake. Same thing." Because, well, I'll let TNR commenter Dave Hamilton to take the stage, as he puts it so well:

The notion that the influence, characteristics, and soul of a city dissipate upon crossing the city line is ludicrous, especially in the age of highly integrated transit systems. The people who work, eat, spend money in and participate the cultural life of the city may sleep in surrounding towns. But they contribute to the overall character of the city that the author wants to claim for her own. They don't just mooch off the nostalgia and identification of those who grew up near downtown.

I dare say that a lot of kids raised in the burbs may be the progeny of native in-city residents who, at a certain age, wanted a backyard or thought they could find better schools for their kids. If you're brought up in the suburbs by people who grew up within the city limits, does that give partial cultural credit? What if you're taught by them in school? You get the idea. The distinction is ridiculous up to some distance from the city proper, depending on the size of the city. Over decades and even centuries, a city grows and infuses itself into the identity of the surrounding area even if its borders don't change at all. Philadelphia couldn't hold its people or its character within its borders if somehow legislated to do so.

Thank goodness for intelligent commenters. They are out there.

Don't Say You're From the City If You're Really From the 'Burbs [TNR]

8/12/14: This piece has been updated with the replacement of a Yiddishism with regular old English and the addition of the word "ridiculous" for clarification.

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  • Oskar

    Since when did the TNR start publishing drivel best suited for the Daily Pennsylvanian?

  • Остин Элвин

    This article is nitpicky and cynical. Ask yourself: why does it really matter if someone claims they’re from Philly if they’re from a suburb of Philly? Sometimes it’s just easier to say “I’m from the Philadelphia area.” When speaking to someone who otherwise wouldn’t know where West Chester is. It’s just not that big of a deal. I expect more from PhillyMag.

    • DTurner

      I guess you missed the part of the article, sorry, the entire article, that is saying exactly what you are saying.

  • JB

    Yawn! TNP must be struggling to fill pages.

  • tmmccloskey

    So if Radnor is ok, where is the acceptable border, West Chester? Pottsville? Allentown or Scranton? Elkon, Maryland? Havre De Grace?

    • DTurner

      Chester county, Bucks, Wilmington, & Pine Barrens. Anything past generally has it’s own non-Philly identity. The shore might be a bit more difficult, though.

  • Rocco Lamagela

    Garbage article! Not journalism!

  • Nate Williams

    I really lost it after the use of the word “shtupping”. This is grade A comedy.

    • Johnny Domino

      Gold, Jerry

  • Guest

    Except there are areas within the “city lines” of Philadelphia County that are farther away from downtown Philly than parts of Radnor, mostly neighborhoods in Northeast Philly specifically. If you are within 10-15 miles of downtown Philadelphia I think you are allowed to say you are from Philadelphia regardless of what “lines” you are within.

  • Waggs

    Except there are areas within the “city lines” of Philadelphia County that are farther away from downtown Philly than parts of Radnor. If you are within 10-15 miles of downtown Philadelphia I think you are allowed to say you are from Philadelphia regardless of what imaginary “lines” you are within.

  • Guest

    Except there are areas within the “city lines” of Philadelphia County that are farther away from downtown Philly than parts of Radnor. If you are within 10-15 miles of downtown Philadelphia I think you are allowed to say you are from Philadelphia regardless of what imaginary “lines” you are within.

  • kclo3

    IMO, Philly “elitism” is just as pointless and harmful as Negadelphianism. We were never about being elite or being too boosterist in the first place.

  • Denise Rambo

    My son has been raised in the suburbs (Bridgeport, PA) but spends 99.9% of his time in the city and has since he was old enough to take the train by himself. All of his friends are in the city, everywhere he socializes is in the city … he doesn’t have friends in the suburbs, he doesn’t hang out in the suburbs … he’s a city guy through and through. He’s proud to say he’s from Bridgeport but, especially when he’s traveling (he’s a musician), he says he’s from Philadelphia when asked.

  • bill k

    Montgomery County and Chester County are part of Philly and Philadelphia County is better off for it. It makes a more powerful entity.