The Broad is Back!

October 24, 2007

Musing on New England

Filed under: American culture,New Broads — by maggiec @ 3:10 pm

Every day, I think, I really want to write something.  And I never do.  I think I should just be more a blogger and less an essayist.  Just write and do it.  But the writer in me resists.  Too much training, I guess. 

Getting into the swing of things again.  Weird, to say the least.  Had to change my driver’s license and register a car.  That was interesting.  The Mass Registry of Motor Vehicles people are much nicer than the people I used to deal with at the Dept of Motor Vehicles in NY.  Sorry, NYers.  When I mentioned it to the man behind the counter, he was happy at the compliment.  He also said that they are trying to be more customer orientated.  So maybe that’s a general shift that has happened in the past 12 years while I was gone.

But I’m not sure about that.  Sometimes I think Massachusetts is a new country I’m living in.  Yes, it’s the United States, but it is very different from New York.  Not better, not worse, just different.

I used to tell my American Culture studies students that New York and New England were very different places.  The other AmCul teacher was from Connecticut, so we made a good visual.  I’m loud, pushy, sarcastic and threatening, at least to students.  She’s soft-spoken, sweet, polite and motherly.  I’m motherly, too, if you think of an alley cat as a mother.  If you annoy me, I’ll bat you upside the head.  But knowing the differences and living the differences are, hm, strange is the only word that comes to mind right now.

Right now the Sox are in the World Series (a name that used to annoy my European and Asian students no end–“What do you mean world series?  How arrogant!  It’s only Americans.”  I used to tell them there were Canadian teams, as well, but they weren’t buying it.  Baseball is BIG in Taiwan.)  Now when the Yankees make the series, there is jubilation.  But this is odd.  Students don’t do their homework!  They have to watch baseball.  My sister is the world’s most devoted Yankee fan, and even she doesn’t get this excited.  Of course, she’s currently in mourning.

But back to New England.  I used to tell my students that the United States is made up of 46 sovereign states and 4 commonwealths: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  Each gives up part of that sovereignty to the federal government, but the people think of themselves as citizens of their state first.  I am and always will be a New Yorker.  And these Massachusetts people are different.  Right now I’m working on analyzing the why.  It’s not the accent so much as the attitude.  It’s certainly more homogenous here than it was in NY, but that’s not it, either.  This one will take some time.

 Was in Boston the other day.  Unlike New York City, it has a small town feel.  This isn’t to say it’s provincial.  I like Boston very much, but it felt more like Geneva than London, to use European examples.  More Dublin than London.  But that is probably more to do with New York than Boston.

I truly believe there are a few international cities in the world, and they are the only places that share the same vibe–New York, Tokyo, London.  Sorry, I haven’t been to any South American big cities or other Asian cities.  Taipei doesn’t have it.  I don’t think Paris and Rome do, either, but I haven’t spent too much time in either city.  So while I muse on this, let me get back to grading papers.



  1. Speaking as a Bostonian/Massachusetts person, I caution against lumping all the New England states together, because Connecticut and Massachusetts see strong differences between themselves. I think there’s really a north/south division within the New England region – once you get south of Boston you start shading closer to New York. Remember the “gentlemen from Providence” in The Departed? Outliers of the NY mafia.

    My boss is from New Hampshire, and our colleagues think we speak with the same accent. And he and I exchange a look of shock because of course Boston and New Hampshire are TOTALLY DIFFERENT. But they sound the same to New Yorkers.

    I love reading your impressions of all this.

    Comment by Emily — October 24, 2007 @ 6:08 pm |Reply

  2. Well, I do hear the differences in the accents, and I know that there are vast differences between the NE states. Each is a sovereign state, eh? Maine is a place unto itself. But NE shares a unity the way NY-NJ-PA share a unity.

    But it seems to me that CT and NY have less in common than MA and CT. But this is said from an outsider’s perspective, of course.

    Comment by maggiec — October 25, 2007 @ 6:50 pm |Reply

  3. I’m better with the name “World Series” now if you think of the multiple nationalities of the players. The Red Sox is always a big thing there. Even a professor told us about her superstition of watching the games.

    When James Taylor was interviewed before he sang the anthenem at Game 2, he said, “As New Englanders, we identify ourselves by a number of things: maple sugar, lobsters, the leaves turning, the Boston Tea Party and the Sox… It’s part of our blood.”

    My own memories about New England turn me into a Red Sox fan. 🙂

    Comment by Winnie — October 26, 2007 @ 7:19 am |Reply

  4. Nice to see that you are finally writing something. Not that I would believe that you are idle when not publishing stuff online (that’s only true for me), but anyway.

    How is it going with that book you were talking about, the one about understanding Americans? I have yet to experience America first hand, but reading about it is probably better than nothing.


    Comment by Olle Linge — October 30, 2007 @ 4:01 pm |Reply

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