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Bradentuckian

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When it comes to our two-town feud, I’ve never known which side I’m supposed to be on.   By Hannah Wallace   Well, I caved. Traded Infinities for Impalas, Bordeaux for Budweiser. Ventured northward to live the simple life in our unloved stepsister city. Yup, I now live in Bradenton.   Or, wait, did I […]

January 9, 2008


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When it comes to our two-town feud, I’ve never known which side I’m supposed to be on.
 
By Hannah Wallace
 
Well, I caved. Traded Infinities for Impalas, Bordeaux for Budweiser. Ventured northward to live the simple life in our unloved stepsister city. Yup, I now live in Bradenton.
 
Or, wait, did I always live here?
 
It’s an entertaining, uneasy rivalry to someone who grew up in this area: Artistic, intellectual, cultured, beautiful Sarasota vs. blue-collar, rural, backwards, burning-orange-peels Bradenton. Or was it folksy, laid-back, honest Bradenton v. snotty, uptight, elitist Sarasota? As though the county line were the Berlin Wall or something.
 
I spent all of my childhood in the same house in Whitfield Estates, and by kindergarten I’d obediently memorized my home address: 7941 Broughton St., Sarasota. At that age, it was a slightly exotic difference, like being left-handed or a palindrome—not an advantage so much as an attention-getter. When my Manatee County teachers and classmates inquired, I checked with my parents and learned to clarify, “Yes, I live in Manatee County, technically, but I have a Sarasota mailing address.”
 
But in high school, little differences like that become targets. I was a hypocrite. It was spelled out for me, simply, like a child (with a Manatee County public education): “Where do you live? North of University Parkway. You live in Bradenton.”
 
I went on the defensive (big surprise, I know). There’s nothing hypocritical, I argued, with saying I’m from Sarasota, since, after all, that’s what my address is. I was born in Sarasota Memorial Hospital; my parents worked in classy, cultured Sarasota (just barely); we went to church downtown, had picnics on south Lido Beach (yes, veeery classy), took piano lessons just off Siesta Drive. I played in the Sarasota United Soccer League, darn it. Sarasota, Sarasota, Sarasota. That’s what it says on my driver’s license. I’m not going out of my way to lay claim to false heritage. I have nothing against Bradenton. But why would I say it’s where I live when, clearly, that’s not what it’s called?
 
But for all that rationalization, true enough, there was a voice buried in my head whimpering, But I don’t want to be from Bradenton.
 
(Interesting, perhaps a bit horrifying, to equate that quiet, persistent instinct of mine with the way other prejudices are passed so subtly without your ever knowing: Doesn’t matter what evidence to the contrary you may encounter or whatever your own observations may tell you; somehow the socialization has already seeped in and solidified.)
 
Now I know: Whitfield Estates is technically “unincorporated Manatee County”—you don’t get to Bradenton until you’ve gone a few more miles up the Trail. (Phew.) As I was recently told (by a Bradentonian), because some snotty people in the Estates didn’t want to say they lived in Bradenton—the nerve—they campaigned to call the area “Sarasota.” And who was I to argue?
 
So I’ve spent the last few years decidedly in Sarasota, to settle all disputes about my residency. Now, however, I’ve moved to Bradenton, in part to make peace with what may or may not be my hometown roots. (And in part to get ten times the square footage—including a cozy doghouse for CCB—at only $300 more a month). Immersed in the habitat, I resolve to get to the bottom of that sneering nickname, Bradentucky—no doubt thought up by one of those snobs from south of the border. That’s just Sarasotacky.
 
Next: Find out how my first weeks in B-town are treating me.