A Moment of Jen
THE NEXT BEST THING — In Stores July 3rd!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007
posted by Jen at 10/23/2007 05:44:00 PM

Every few years, some circulation-hungry magazine will launch a survey of our nation’s cities…and every few years, my home town takes it in the teeth.

A few years back, it was Men’s Fitness magazine gleefully reporting that of all of the cities in our country, we’re the fattest.

Now comes Travel and Leisure, claming that an online survey of its readers reveals that, to quote the Daily News, we’re not just fat, we’re ugly, too.

This might be my own rose-colored glasses (or nearsightedness) talking, but I don't see it. After twelve years as a resident, seven years as a novelist and more book tours and speaking engagements than I can count, the residents of my adopted home town doesn't look any worse than the people anywhere else (unless you’re stacking us up against Travel & Leisure winner Miami Beach, where nubile young men and women come to get plastic surgery and/or work as models…and really, how’s any place on the east coast supposed to compete with that?)

I’m worried about the fallout. A few years back, when Men’s Fitness started making fattie, fattie, two-by-four jokes about us, the city’s government went into a tizzy. Mayor John Street actually took the study so seriously that he hired a “fitness czar” to shame the citizenry into getting in shape.

Which worked out fine: I'm all for healthy school lunches, better education about nutrition, and making city streets friendlier to bikers and walkers.

But really: when Men’s Fitness magazine – best known for its helpful advice on building better pecs, and its online profiles of adult film stars -- starts dictating city health policy, we’ve got bigger problems that our love handles. What now? Will the mayor hire a beauty czar to rid the city streets of the sallow-skinned and double-chinned, the pockmarked and the pasty, handing out fines and paper bags with eye-holes?

I hope not…especially because it seems that there’s a real opportunity here, a chance to turn Philadelphia’s perceived lack of hotness into a positive.

I know our murder rate’s sky high, our stadiums have a tendency to collapse, our sports teams don’t win and this one time, we almost killed a Supreme Court justice. But never mind any of that!

Who wouldn’t want to visit, or even move to, a place that’s scenic and affordable; where you can buy a house, get your kid into nursery school or kindergarten without applying to twelve different places, and park at Trader Joe’s…and that even comes with the built-in guarantee of better self-esteem for any woman who manages to wax her upper lip on a semi-regular basis?

Remembe the episode of 30 Rock where Tina Fey went to Cleveland and people kept stopping her on the street to ask if she was a model and telling her to eat something? It could be like that for Philadelphia!

Think about it. Would you rather drop off your kid off for kindergarten next to some lady who’s got sleep in her eyes and a clip in her hair, or Angelina Jolie, coiffed and groomed and ready for her close-up?

Do you want to breast-feed in the park next to a woman who’s six months post-partum and still wearing maternity jeans by Old Navy, or Oscar-nominated Michelle Williams, late of Dawson's Creek and Heath Ledger?

Do you want to spend your time and tourist dollars in the city where the native daughter is Heidi Klum or Tina Fey?

Smart marketing gurus should turn the diss into an opportunity, and begin thinking up new slogans immediately.

Philadelphia: Come for the History, Stay Because You’ll Feel at Least 2 Points Cuter on the 1-to-10 Scale.

Or: Philadelphia: The City That Loves All Your Back.

In other news, Marie Osmond collapsed on Dancing with the Stars, and I am slightly obsessed by it, which I'm chalking it up to the pregnancy.

Also, I am not the only author who has noticed that the New York Times Book Review is not so much lovin' the ladies...and that being dissed, and pissed off, can actually work in a writer's favor.

Finally, on the plains of the high/low divide, Entertainment Weekly gets critics' darling Tom Perrotta to confess that he once ghost-wrote an R.L. Stine book. Love him. So much.
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