It's not Lawn Guyland, it's Long Island
It's not Lawn Guyland, it's Long Island
When most of the new people that come into your life are met over an internet connection, itís a good bet that most of those people will be from somewhere you are not. And itís a good bet that they will have pre-conceived notions about the place you come from. I try not to be guilty of that. Iím not going to assume you spend your day farming potatoes if you are from Idaho. I am not going to assume you are a redneck if you are from Alabama. I wonít automatically think you a vampire if you are from Austria (I once heard that all vampires were from Austria).
So when I say I am from Long Island, please donít assume the worst about me. I know youíve heard the stereotypes. Iíve heard the jokes. Iíve heard the assumptions. Letís take some time to dispel them, shall we?
Long Island is not a series of strip malls and highways. There are farms and museums and aquariums. Amusement parks, glorious beaches, tourist attractions and sports teams. Thereís an enormous park that once hosted the Goodwill games.
Long Island is not a series of small, cliquey communities where the girls all have big hair and Gucci bags. Take my town for instance. After 39 years here, I still donít know all the street names. We have five elementary schools. 2 high schools. Population: 51,000. No, I donít know everyone by name. Never will. As for the girls with the big hair and designer bags, yes they do exist. But not in great numbers. We are not all daddyís little girl driving around in a paid for BMW with a bumper sticker that says yield to the princess. We are not all spoiled, whiny brats who spend our days in malls harassing sales clerks.
The accent? Donít have it. I donít say mawl instead of mall or cawfee instead of coffee. I donít sound like Fran Drescher. No one I know talks like that. If they did, I would smack them daily.
Maybe if I got all my knowledge of the culture of other cities and states and countries from sitcoms and entertainment news, I would be just as ignorant of the real people behind the doors. I would assume that Canadians say nothing but eh and aboot. I would assume that Irish people do nothing but drink and all Scottish people wear kilts. California girls are all dumb and blonde and weigh 98 lbs in soaking wet bikinis. Boys from New Jersey all have mullets and listen to Bon Jovi.
See how ridiculous that is? You would get mad, or at least insulted if I made a generalization about you based upon the place you are from, so why do it to me? I mean, why make only the bad generalizations? Did you know that 88 semifinalists of out of 300 for the Westinghouse Science Competition were from Long Island this year? Go ahead and assume Iím smart and talented in the sciences. Think Iíd be flattered? Guess again. Itís still an assumption based on my place of birth. Iím not saying itís in line with other, more insulting forms of blatant stereotyping, but it still annoys me. It still pisses me off that people think I am a rich, spoiled daddyís girl who can do nothing but shop and talk funny, just because of where I live.
Long Island, like any other place on the map, is a mixture of everything good and bad. It is a place of very poor families, of shelters for battered women and drunk drivers. It is a place with high crime areas and jails full of child abusers and rapists. It is a place where the trees keep disappearing in favor of roadways and Walmarts. It is a place where people are rude and in a hurry and donít know how to be civil to one another.
But it is also a place of culture and riches. It has vineyards and mansions. It has towns I canít enter without previous written permission. It has a shoreline that graces you with the most beautiful sunsets during the summer.
For all its vastness and differences, and despite its prevalence of concrete and Home Depots on every corner, I love it here. I am not defending my choice to live here. I am defending my right to be viewed as something other than a caricature or a combination of behaviors you have seen on television.