In his famous work Animal Farm, George Orwell penned the following lines: "All animals are equal. Some animals are more equal than others." This pretty well sums up the attitude of a lot of people in Klal Yisroel. The lines are especially applicable to the New York/out of town divide.
Lest you think the "out of town" designation is something new in Klal, it's not. It was around many years ago when I arrived to New York from Oregon. I'm sure it was around before that as well. It's a funny term, though. It means many different things to many different people.
To those living in geographic locations that are not New York City and Long Island, out of town is a literal geographic tool: a place not where I am. For the most part, those living out of town do not attach any emotional baggage to the phrase. Someone in Seattle, or anywhere else in the country, who tells their friends that their child is seeing a boy from out of town simply means the boy is not from Seattle. And it has been my experience that people living "out of town" generally identify specific places rather than just saying a blanket "out of town"--my child is seeing someone from Chicago.
Say "out of town" in New York, however, and you are dealing with a whole different concept. When most New Yorkers say "out of town" they mean "not from here and not one of us." There is a value judgement in "out of town." I actually heard someone call out of towners "auslanders," not from this country. Furthermore, for some New York residents ANY place that is not where they live is "out of town." So Borough Park is out of town to a Williamsburger, and Queens is out of town for some Brooklynites. Let's not even mention New Jersey, which might as well be south of the Mason-Dixon line. (Lakewood sometimes excepted, of course.)
I asked the boys attending one of my classes if anyone was from out of town. Every boy in the class said yes. This was kind of surprising to me and I asked each boy where they were from. The first boy answered "Ohio." The others all mentioned areas of New York City that were not Brooklyn. Out of town? Why?By the way, "out of townism" can be passed on from parents to children, even if those children were born and raised in New York. I am not surprised anymore when people say of my children, all born in New York City, that they have a real "out of town" attitude.
At an affair once someone commented on my accent and asked where I came from. When I answered "Oregon" he told me, completely straight faced, that it was good that I was doing teshuva by moving to New York. I at first thought he was putting me on, but he was deadly serious.
New Yorkers will sometimes say, of out of New York locations:"It's an okay place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there." They just might be surprised that many of those same "out of towners" feel the same way about New York. And Brooklynites might be surprised to learn that Queens residents wouldn't want to live in Brooklyn.
If I call up a parent about a shidduch here in New York, a family that is frum, and I red a particular boy, also from New York, there seems to be an assumption that both the boy and his family are frum. I don't think I've ever been asked by a New York parent if a person I am redding is frum--what kind of frum maybe, but if he/she was frum never. Not so if I red an "out of towner." Then the first question is "Is he/she frum?" New Yorkers seem to have problems with the idea of frumkeit existing anywhere but in New York. Even when they are willing to concede that frumkeit just might exist elsewhere they qualify that frumkeit as "different."
I will even go so far as to state that some New Yorkers see out of towners as in some way "threatening." They bring something to the table that New Yorkers don't want. What that is no one has ever articulated to me. It's just generally covered with the statement "Well you know, they are from out of town."
Why this attitude about out of town? Stay tuned for further postings on the subject. And please, whether from New York or from "out of town," comment and let me know where you stand.