I’m writing this from Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, an annual event that moves from the west coast, to the middle of the country, to the east in a three-year cycle. This year, it’s taking place in Albany, NY, a scant 165 miles south of where I was born (Plattsburgh) and only 45 miles away from the Washington County town my ancestors settled in 1720. Being back in what is arguably my home turf got me thinking about what makes a New Yorker – and, by extension, what makes a person a Mainer.
How do you know when to call yourself a Mainer? Can you lose your Mainer status? Let’s find out by taking some questions from totally imaginary people.
1. I moved to Maine four years ago. I volunteer at the local clam festival and I know the location of the secret Sheepscot bypass, which gets you past the Route one bottleneck in Wiscasset. Am I a Mainer?
No. And don’t blab about the bypass, you’ll alert the tourists and ruin it for the rest of us.
2. I married a Mainer, and have lived here for twenty-six years. I can spell ‘Damariscotta’ without looking it up and am a selectman on my town board. I’m a Mainer, right? You got elected as a selectman?
After only twenty-six years? That’s impressive. But no, you’re not a Mainer.
3. My parents aren’t Mainers, but I was born and raised in Portland. I’m a Mainer, right?
Only in coastal southern Maine between Camden and Kittery. North of Augusta and east of Bucksport it’s best to simply say, “I’m from Portland.” However, when out-of-state, you can claim your Mainehood all you want, especially if you’re wearing a flannel shirt and scuffed-up Bean boots.
4. I love Maine! I’ve come here every summer since I was a kid. A few years back, I made a killing on Wall Street and bought an ocean-view house to enjoy with my own kids. I like to hang out at the local lunch counter and swap stories with my fellow Mainers.
We’re pretty polite here, so no one’s going to contradict you when you refer to yourself as a Mainer (especially if you own a place that’s pumping major bucks into the town’s property tax fund.) But honestly, we sometimes laugh about it when you’re not around.
5. I’m from Massachusetts and–
6. I was born and bred in Rumford, and my family goes back over a hundred years. I’m moving out-of-state, however. Will I still be a Mainer?
Living away from Maine does erode your Mainehood. The pace of de-Mainification depends on where you’re relocating. In rural New Hampshire, for instance, you can remain a Mainer in good standing for years. On the other hand, you can lose it within a week if you’re living in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. (However, if you become famous, we’ll gladly claim you as one of our own again.)
7. I come from Machias, and my last name is Beale/Eaton/Skillin. I went to high school with thirteen of my cousins and I lost my virginity out by the old quarry.
Yep, you’re a Mainer. Pour yourself a glass of Allen’s Coffee Brandy, kick back in the La-Z-Boy and tune into the Red Sox game to celebrate.
And remember, folks – we can’t all be Mainers, but we can all enjoy The Way Life Should Be.