The Little State That Could (or: More Warm Fuzzies for Mass-holes)

I’m re-posting something I wrote last year, about my home state, that seems especially appropriate today. Enjoy. (I hope it goes without saying that I’m not trying to make light of recent events, but I am thinking rather fondly about Massachusetts.)

UnknownEvery time I drive my nephew out to Western MA, I laugh out loud at signs like “Belchertown,” so I thought you’d enjoy this list of mostly fake Massachusetts town names:

Lameham
Methol
Shamesbury
Blight Falls
Mansocket
Whitefolk
Leominsterlingburghamshireton
Scroughton
Unstable (/unst’-a-bull/)
Hamham
Braintree

images-2O, Massachusetts! You get such a bad rap. Taxachusetts. Whitey Bulger. Marshmallow Fluff. The Boston Strangler. The busing riots. That embarrassing Plimouth Rock episode.  It’s all so indefensible, really. The Big Dig. Southie, before it became trendy. Southie, after it became trendy. All those wack-job sports fans. The cheapskates. The laughing-stock accents. The “massholes” mouthing off about their bright “i-dears” and their “potty plattahs” and “spidah monkey cahcasses.” The great white sharks who’ve set up real estate on the Vineyard (because you saved the seals, you idiot conservationists.)

And how about Mitt Romney and his evil scheme to improve people’s health with a plan that has broad bipartisan support? (Honestly, the nerve of that man.)

And you don’t think I’d forget to mention the heartbreaking beauty of our ‘changing seasons’ – all in one day – do you? Or the psycho drivers on the hairpin, moon cratered “turnpikes?” If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, I can recommend the fun family bonding experience of teaching your kid to drive on a highway with on and off ramps a yard apart and drivers who think turning signals are vestigial organs. Good times!

But the thing is, “Mass,” I just can’t quit you. Every time I wonder how I could possibly hate my shitty state more, this inexplicable little glow starts worming its way into my heart, and the rationalizations start piling on.

You’re not exactly bad drivers, just “assertive.” Right? Who doesn’t love Matt Damon and Steve Carrell and peppermint stick ice cream? And the freedom fighters and presidents and whatnot? Of course we’ve also got several respectable institutions of higher learning. Nice hospitals and stuff. Lobsters. (Too bad about the cod, but what can you do?)

O, Massachusetts… I like you just the way you are! I’ll take Mahky Mahk Wahlberg in his boy band/underwear model/criminal phase any day. I’ll keep the ugly CITGO sign – I really believed my dad when he told me it stood for “Come into George’s Office!” — And I’ll always have a smile on my face as I approach Inman Square in Cambridge, knowing I’ll be greeted with this:

Actually, I’ll give you this, too: Massachusetts. A gold star for gay-citizen relations. Not that supporting basic civil rights wasn’t an exceptionally low bar but still… nobody else would do it, and we all thank you. And you’re the top performing state for reading and writing scores of 8th graders. Take a bow. Nobody else could do it. You’re the only state in the country whose public education system can be favorably compared to…the rest of the industrialized world. You actually developed – and use – “standards.” Okay, they’re not perfect but they’re really not half-bad. And, by the way, all you haters: you can thank Massachusetts for dragging America’s sorry ass up into the “25th out of 34” country rankings for education… without Massachusetts, we’d probably be down there with Angola and Yemen. And while we’re bragging, let’s not overlook our low infant mortality stats. And the low teen pregnancies. And the low illiteracy rates. And the low divorce rates, too. (A bit of a shocker what with us being college-educated and such bad people and all, don’t you think?) And sorry to rub it in but we’re all pretty happy being insured, too! 

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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2 Responses to The Little State That Could (or: More Warm Fuzzies for Mass-holes)

  1. I am from Massachusetts. In fact, I was born in Dorchester when it was real nice. Mass residents also have a tendoncy to be racist and hide it. I moved to Maine in th 1981 to get away from it. Things have changed since then, and more and more people think bigotry is wrong, but I still see it is still there when I visited my sisters last year. Nice post. It brings back alot of menmories.

    • Hi, yeah, things have changed a lot in Massachusetts, especially Boston. I remember the busing riots in the 70s. Unbelievable. I used to work as a counselor in Dorchester, Mattapan, Southie, lots of different places around the city in the late ’80s, and I noticed some very distressing attitudes and behaviors, and I’m sure a lot of it still persists (maybe hidden, as you say.) BUT… I think it’s a pretty good place to live. For one thing, violent crime is way, way down (as it is all over the country) — Cambridge MA is at a 50 year low right now, which is easy to forget, and I think that less crime makes people nicer. Maine is great too. I have recently adopted Vermont as my favorite state. :) Thanks for writing.

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