Population (2000): 114,024
Area: 27.7 miles
It is fashionable among graduate students to complain about life in Ann Arbor. Bad food, shitty nightlife, too small, nowhere to go out, nothing to do, too many students, too many townies, too many bo-bos, too many families, terrible weather, no charm, too many chains, too… boring.
Please shut the fuck up.
I have spent the last three years as an A2 defender. It’s not a role I planned to take on. I left this state the day after I turned 18 for New York City, vowing never to return to live here. Six years later I was eating crow and living alone for the first time in my life. Since I basically hated growing up in MI, I figured I’d hate living in Ann Arbor.
I don’t. I might even say that I love it. And now I find myself wanting to face-punch my friends, acquaintances, and peers who say that it’s horrible here, that it’s the worst place ever. It's not. Get over it.
I don’t plan on living here the rest of my life. And there are certainly better places to live, especially for a brown gay man with a mod sensibility and a love of Latin American food (vegetarian, please!). But A2 is hardly the ninth circle of hell. And complaining about living here shows a terrible lack of perspective. There are many, many worse places to live.
For example: the suburbs, where I grew up. I would have given my left arm to live in Ann Arbor fifteen years ago. Mainly because being a minority kid where you needed a car to get anywhere interesting was pretty bad, especially when you live in a fairly un-diverse, non-progressive place. Ann Arbor is hardly a model for diversity – the racial and economic spectrum here isn’t as large as it could or should be – but it’s a lot better than most of the state. That doesn't mean it's good, but it does mean that are a lot of inferior options a stone's throw away.
Having lived in New York, DC, and San Francisco over the last few years I can’t say with a straight face that A2 is a peer of those cities. But I also won’t deny that A2 has its own advantages. Cheap drinks and relatively low rent being two of the most obvious perks, in my opinion.
What bothers me most about the criticisms of Ann Arbor is that implies that anyone who would want to live here is an idiot. And there are many, many people who choose to do so for perfectly valid reasons. It takes a special type of deafness to make categorical statements about one’s opinion, no matter how true it might be.
So next time you feel like slagging on A2, just remember: you can probably get a one-way ticket to New York or Chicago or Los Angeles for under $200. We’ll probably all be better off if you buy it.