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Six Women I Know in Every New England Town

Six Women I Know in Every New England Town
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Welcome to the March 2009 edition of “Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, published since 1935 in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Six Women I Know in Every New England Town

No doubt you know them, too. Everybody does.

Stereotyping people is “out” these days, and rightly so. But sometimes I can’t help doing it. For instance, here’s how I’d describe six particular women I’ve known all my life. I’ll label them: 1) The Force, 2) The Do-Gooder, 3) The Good Cook, 4) The Gossip, 5) The Voice, and 6) That Woman.

THE FORCE — always a woman and always a native. Her blessing is absolutely crucial to the success of most any church, school, or town organization project. She never speaks out at meetings, and in private, speaks out only to her most intimate friends. Since the opinions she expresses, even privately, are always in the negative, any project about which she has failed to utter a single word is considered to have her heartfelt support. How her considerable power in the community is derived has always been a mystery to me.

THE DO-GOODER — a wealthy elderly woman who has waged a lifelong crusade against cruelty to animals, once suggested back in the ’60s that an African American be invited to speak on integration as part of the Thursday afternoon lecture series at “The Club,” and occasionally holds a seminar at her mansion for the purpose of “breaking down the silly barriers between summer people and townspeople.” The seminars, incidentally, always result in stimulating and lively discourses among the summer people present. There are, of course, no townspeople there.

THE GOOD COOK — always a native and usually a woman. At church suppers, people take pieces of her lemon meringue pies from the serving tables before the main-course dishes, just to be sure. She can cook and manage a baked-bean-roast-beef-and-hot-rolls supper for 200 people — served exactly at the announced time, every dish piping hot, and with bottomless cups of incredibly good coffee. In marked contrast to The Good Cook, The Good Cook’s husband is quite skinny.

THE GOSSIP — usually a native and always, owing probably to stereotyped attitudes, a woman. Of course, every man and woman in town is, in varying degrees, a gossip. As Thornton Wilder once said, “In our town we like to know the facts about everybody.” But The Gossip, either the general store owner’s wife, the postmaster, the librarian, or at least someone with ready access to people on a day-to-day basis, is counted upon by everyone in town to either confirm or deny the latest rumors. She always confirms them. And adds to them. Also, she’s an unwitting tool for a few wily residents who use her to spread their version of certain common information.

THE VOICE — either a townsperson or a summer person. The Voice is usually a woman but may be a man, too. The Voice sings at every town occasion in which solo singing is called for. During the singing of hymns in church, The Voice sings more loudly than everyone else and holds her notes a split second longer than everyone else. The Voice is a soprano (or, depending on sex, a tenor) and is quick to lead singalongs at parties, beginning with “Moonlight Bay.” The Voice once choked during a church Christmas solo, and no one has ever mentioned the incident from that day to this.

THAT WOMAN — she may not be pretty in the classic sense, but there’s something vaguely exotic — and cheap — about her appearance. She wears her hair long, she uses elaborate facial makeup, and she elicits from each and every woman in town, summer person and townsperson alike, an instant and irrevocable hate. On sight.

Maybe next month I’ll describe a few of the men in town we all know…

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Six Women I Know in Every New England Town

Updated Sunday, March 1st, 2009

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