Editor's Note: Posted this blog again just in case you missed it earlier this week. It's a great one!
I was having an after-school chat with my kids one afternoon last week about their day, and one of them mentioned that the Cape is referred to by some of their non-Cape middle school friends as "ghetto," as in, "The Cape is SO ghetto." I was taken aback at this casual comment because the word ghetto is loaded with a variety of heavy meanings and connotations, most of which my children do not even understand. How was it possible that our ordinary, happy, suburban life in the Cape could be considered "ghetto" by anyone?
I went online to look up definitions of "ghetto." Obviously the word brings to mind impoverished, crime ridden, inner city neighborhoods where violence, lawlessness, and lack of opportunity prevail. I know the Cape has its unsavory elements as evidenced by the odd drug bust, rundown home, and incidents of vandalism, but it certainly does not rise to the level of this description.
The origin of the word ghetto dates back to the 14th century when persecuted Jews were forced to live in poor conditions on the Venetian island of Getto. Of course, we are all familiar with the Jewish ghettos created centuries later by Nazis, the most infamous of which was the terrible Warsaw ghetto. Again, not the type of ghetto with which the Cape was being labeled.
No, I think the way that ghetto is being used to stereotype the Cape fits better under the definition that I found online at Urban Dictionary: "An improperly overused word that most teenagers and young adults use to describe something that is old, run down, or dirty." Not that I'm suggesting "mean kids" are going around Magothy River Middle openly degrading those they perceive to have less. The way the use of "ghetto" was described to me by my daughter was more joking than nasty, but there's still an underlying message there that I don't love.
My mind flashed back over the 18 years we've lived in the Cape to try and grasp this perception of the place we've come to know as home. I have affectionately referred to this community in the past as "redneck'lectic" to describe the somewhat eclectic vibe of the neighborhood tinted with its "local color." We have a wide socio-economic range in the Cape, and we certainly harbor a few unsavory characters across the spectrum. Some people have the means to shield themselves from such elements in gated or upscale communities. Some do not. Others weigh them against their personal comfort level and decide if the benefits of their chosen home outweigh the negatives.
The latter applies to our choice to live in the Cape. We were drawn here by the sense of community that comes with having our own quality schools in walking distance, a shopping center, post office, gas station, churches, beaches, marinas, restaurants, fire station, swim club, etc. We fell in love with the trees, non-cookie-cutter homes, quirky character, and fabulous water access. We loved it enough to choose it twice when we bought our second home in the Cape. We are not blind to the few distasteful aspects of this place, but find enough value to continue to make it our home. Everyone makes tradeoffs when they select a place to live and raise a family. We are fully satisfied with the ones we've made.
Since I know I cannot significantly alter the Cape's rap as "ghetto" for those who insist on labeling, I think instead I will own it. People who survive ghettos are marvels of resourcefulness and toughness. These are qualities I can embrace as I get in touch with my inner Cape ghetto mama. Our kids will be tougher for walking the mean, hard streets of the Cape on their way to sailing camp at lovely Lake Claire beach, to swim team practice at the Swim Club, to get an ice cream at Rita's, or to participate in the yearly Strawberry Festival parade or Elementary School 5K race. It's rough out there in the 'hood, Capers, but we're made of tenacious stuff. Don't mess with the Cape or the feared CSC Improvement Association might go all gangsta' on you. Oh, and watch out for those little Garden Club ladies. They might be packing...
See photos at top right of recent Garden Club vandalism at the shopping center (can nobody put an end to their reign of terror)...
*For the record, I have no idea if the Garden Club is comprised of "little ladies," and the pretty flower beds at the shopping center may not be their handiwork. I do have my suspicions that they're packing, though. Here's the link to the Cape Garden Club website with information about the "plant sale" this weekend. Don't let the pretty flower pictures fool you. They will mess you up...