-By Andrew Abrams
I’ve noticed a peculiar trend in our corner of the internet; the way in which writers portray New England to be a bastion of all that is right, and the antithesis of all that is wrong. White, rustic Congregational churches surrounded by a sea of red, yellow, orange, and green leaves flood the internet this time of year, and wax poetic on the beauty of Yankeeland.
To my brothers and sisters in arms battling through, or healing the wounds of, collegiate careers in the social sciences, you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with the concept of ‘habitus’. For the rest of you future McDonald’s employees, habitus is merely the collection of experiences and learned behaviors that you and I internalize to be normal. Now that your refresher, or indoctrination, into the world of liberal arts studies is complete, I wish to talk a bit about my own habitus.
Apart from odd family vacation, I’ve spent my entire life in New England. I was born in Cambridge, raised on the north shore, and currently attend college in New Hampshire. Summer bottlenecks at the Sagamore Bridge, rows and rows of bright colorful leaves lining the Boston beltways from September to November, and knowing to avoid skiing at Ragged are all within my sphere of ‘normal’. Yet when I see my beautiful New England clay represented online, I can’t help but feel like something is missing. Right there with skiing the White Mountains, summer trips to the Cape, and fall foliage is something else, something just as New England. The Yankees—don’t think for a minute I’m talking about those pinstriped pretty boys in New York. It’s the people who are up at 4 a.m. to go clamming, the families who have traded states or countries to live here, and it’s the next door neighbors who may range in wealth by a factor far greater than I wish to guess. New England is not New England because of puritanical churches or types of trees, New England is what New Englanders make of it, their habitus. The barber in Lawrence, MA is no more or no less a New Englander than the 7th generation Brahim living in the Back Bay. Sure, their experiences are vastly different. However it is the combination of their’s and of many other’s that have defined New England.
That’s what I’ve come to love about New England. Everyone has a different experience, a different conception of what is normal, and yet everyone is a New Englander in his or her own right.
Yes, I get it. At the end of the day these writers are choosing images that are pretty and will get clicks. I’m not saying that we need to all drive to Keene, NH and start photographing the Mobil station off Rt.9 , but if all we ever talk about is a lily white New England, we’ve completely misunderstood and misrepresented what this place really is. There’s more to life in New England than what we are shown online We should celebrate New England, and New Englanders, in its totality.