Growing up in and around a city, I learned what I knew about small town life from television and books. It always seem so bucolic to me, serene and white picket-fenced, kids rode bikes everywhere and had tree houses. Me, I was mugged three times before I was eight. My entire third grade class was robbed by a teenage gang on our field trip to Grant’s Tomb. I had my bicycle taken, my lunch money, you name it! So to me, those images of quiet rural life always sounded like paradise. That’s one of the reasons I ended up in Vermont. I didn’t want to raise a child as I had been raised, with fear and a prey’s sixth sense. What I had never considered, however, was the more invasive part of small town living.
At one of my first jobs in Stowe — a business that was chock full of ski bums and bunnies, most under the age of 30 (either chronologically or emotionally) — I was shocked one morning to overhear someone ribbing my boss. “Hey Karen (not her real name). I saw Mitch’s car in your driveway this morning… so, you guys seeing each other or what?” It was inconceivable to me; not only did people bother to recognize your car (a skill I still haven’t mastered) but just by driving by, they knew who you were sleeping with! Yuck! The worst was how the news spread like a flame on a late-autumn corn field. I mean, in New York City, if you have a bad date, odds are good you will never have to see that person again, and if Karen chose to sleep with every bartender on the east side probably no one would know. And more to the point, no one would care.
Two years later I had just left the doctor’s office having found out I was pregnant, when I stopped by Bear Pond Books to pick up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. As I waited to pay, I cracked the book, too excited to wait until I got to the car. Within seconds I heard a voice to my left. “Oh Ann, how nice to see you! What are you readi… Oh no! Are you pregnant?” she shrieked. Now this was an acquaintance, mind you, my husband didn’t even know yet!
A good friend of mine who is dating a commitment allergic man had a similar experience, almost in the exact same spot as she read He’s Just Not That Into You and a friend walked by. “It’s for my cousin,” she yelped, knowing the clichéd excuse only made her look guiltier.