“How To” Vermont

July 21, 2011, by Prudence Baird

Hollywood’s loss is Vermont’s gain, as Prudence celebrates her fourth anniversary and lessons learned in the Green Mountain State

For those of you who think that sparsely populated, Yankee-pure Vermont is the antidote to the ills of urban life, here is a quick set-up guide that will acquaint you with “how to Vermont.”

1. You kahnt get thay-yer from hee-yaw.
You can live full-time, own property and pay taxes in the Green Mountain State, but becoming a bona fide, card-carrying Vermonter is earned the old-fashioned way—you must be born here. Furthermore, your parents must have been born here; your grand-parents (both sides) must have been born here—and so on back for four generations. Seriously. Otherwise, you are considered a “flatlander,” even if you come from Machu Pichu or Boulder, Colorado.

2. “Massholes” are from Massachusetts.
Although Massholes come from the eponymous state to our south, you can also use this label whenever encountering an attitudinous anyone who is making an ostentatious show of wealth and power. Example: “That tailgater must be a Masshole.” (See “flatlander” above.)

3. Why the cold shoulder (and blank stare).
There is a waiting period of up to four years before a local shopkeeper, waitress or merchant will acknowledge that s/he has ever seen you before—even if you stop in every day to pick up your New York Times and latté. (See “don’t order a latté” below.)

4. Don’t order a latté, a “grandé” or a “skinny” anything.
In Vermont, you kahnt find a national caffeine-dispensing chain. So don’t use Starbucks-style language unless you want to identify yourself as a flatlander (or worse, a Masshole) worthy of an automatic five-minute delay for your order at any of our homegrown joints.

5. They’re called highways, routes and roads, not freeways and streets.
Using the term “freeway” will earn you ten flatlander points. There are only two major arteries in Vermont: 91, which goes north and south on the “east coast” of Vermont, and 89, which crosses over from New Hampshire and leads all the way to Canada, via our largest city, Burlington, population 43,000. With no more than four or five cars seen in a ten mile stretch, no in-your-face billboards (they’re against the law) and no annoying toll booths, the two lanes each way are undisputedly “free ways;” just don’t call them that.

6. No, this is not a statewide convention of Lesbians.
Eighty percent of all cars in Vermont are Subaru Outbacks, with a few Foresters thrown in for good measure. Never mind that the NY Times-owned “Top 10 Gay Cars” list regularly names the so-called “Lesbaru” as the number one car for Lesbians; about half of Outbacks in Vermont are driven by men. The other half are driven by women, some of whom may or may not be Lesbians. We are, after all, the first state to recognize same-sex marriage, so why wouldn’t you come here if you are LGBT? Just sayin’.

7. Throw out your gaydar.
Welcome to Vermont, where almost every woman over 25 will trigger a false alarm on your gaydar. For one, most women here look like a librarians, gym teachers, storybook witches (you know the type I’m talking about—with long, grey hair) or ski instructors. Chances are, if the woman is employed, she IS a librarian, a gym teacher or a ski instructor. There aren’t that many jobs in Vermont. There’s also a goodly chance she’s a witch, but more like the Wiccan type, not the Broomhilda type. But if you thought all physically fit women who walk and talk with confidence, who run Big Important Organizations, who farm, drive tractors, compete in marathons and don’t indulge in tortures like Botox, make-up, Spanx and stilettos—and, most importantly, appear as the great goddess intended them to—are Lesbians, you’re wrong. To paraphrase Gloria Steinem, this is what women look like. Which is why I’m staying here.

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23 Responses to ““How To” Vermont”

  1. Proinsias Faulkner Says:

    As one of your ardent fans, Pru, I want to say I enjoy your insight into Vermont life since I have spent a lot of time there.

    Guess I can now announce proudly to friends in Ireland that I am a “recovering Masshole.”

  2. Conz Says:

    Lee bought the “Biscovich” house in El Portal, CA. It remained the “Biscovich” house even after we knocked it down and rebuilt the sucker. After living there for 12 years, we sold it to the the lovely Eliza who now has lived in “Stetson” house for eleven years. And we all wear red plaid flannel and sensible shoes. Eh-yah. Small town livin’ for yah….

  3. christie Says:

    The best guidebook to Vermont I have ever read. Prudence, you should work for the State tourist board.

  4. dearpru Says:

    Proinsias, only if you want to do so. The limited space here didn’t allow me to list the other essential characteristics of Massholism. (Being from a place is only a step-one qualifier). A Masshole must necessarily drive up the tailpipe of any and all cars in front of him; a Masshole must slam on the brakes when a parking spot opens up suddenly in front of a Starbucks; a Masshole must drive a gas-guzzling, late model SUV or overpriced designer car; a Masshole must talk loudly on her cellphone about how quaint Vermont and Vermonters are while shopping for artisan cheeses at the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market…the list goes on and I don’t think you are guilty of any further qualifiers, my friend.

  5. Mellimel Says:

    Needed. Flashcards…seems many mountainous places
    with two main roads have their unique language
    and rites of passage. This was certainly true of Northern
    New Mexico where Subarus run amok, the jobs are
    few, coffee houses are home grown and sadly for the views
    billboards are legal.

  6. Maria Says:

    Love it, Pru! My daughter is dating a young man from Maine and they use the same expression for people from Massachusetts. Hahahahah.

  7. carine Says:

    Vermont sounds just like Paris! Rules are rules. Try ordering a martini. Even if they know what you mean, you will get that Martini & Rossi vermouth stuff. Don’t expect a smile from a shopkeeper unless you greet them in proper fashion, otherwise they will be out of everything you ask for. All the women look like they’ve subjected themselves to botox, etc., except they haven’t–they’re just born that way and stay that way. And if you ask for some kind of latte anything, they will look at you as if you are crazy and just bring you an espresso. Love this blog, Pru. And, where can I get a red vehicle like your fellow Vermonter?

  8. dearpru Says:

    Carine, I remember chuckling nonstop through your hilarious first “novel,” Sex, Cheese and French Fries when you recounted the shopkeeper who wouldn’t wait on you because you had failed–failed!–to greet her in the approved Parisian mode. Gawd.

    As for the tractor, every June there is a parade called the Strolling of the Heifers down Main Street in Brattleboro. One portion of the parade features fabulous farmers driving their vintage tractors. This wonderful woman is clearly on top of her game, isn’t she? I would love to know how to manage such a machine…she probably knows how to fix it, too.

  9. tim Says:

    you left out the cardinal rule of driving in vermont: ten car lengths behind, no matter if the driver is going 20 in a 50mph zone. if you get any closer, a vermonter will start hitting their brakes to teach you that lesson. also many, but not all, vermonters have at least ten bumper stickers on their subaru, including the one with the symbols of all the major religions on it.

  10. dearpru Says:

    Gawd, the ubiquitous bumper sticker, COEXIST. I think of it as sort of a Craig’s list advertisement for the driver, seeking what I’m not quite sure.

  11. breon Says:

    You always make me laugh–but the part about women looking as the great goddess intended them to makes me want to live there. Imagine having that as the norm. Love reading you.

  12. Sadhvi Says:

    Enjoyed reading your take on Vermont, Prudence! And love the picture with you on the tractor.
    I didn’t know Vermont was like this! We traveled and looked for about 6 months to find a place here in the States where we could settle, and one of the requirements was that the “local” folks would accept me and my partner. And both agreeing on a place, which turned out to be impossible!
    Asheville turned out to be good enough, and here we stay.
    Look forward to reading more from your parts!

  13. rosemary Says:

    If that’s you on the tractor, I will personally finance an all-expense paid trip to Italy, including but not limited to Milan, where you are getting a make-over. I’m sure there are rules in Italy but so far, all I can think of is that you need to eat 10-course meals at lunch and dinner, with wine, begins at around 9:00 p.m.

  14. rosemary Says:

    I mean dinner begins at 9:00 p.m. Lunch begins at noon and lasts till 3:00.

  15. dearpru Says:

    I’ll keep you guessing, Rosemary! (Does that mean I get the trip?)

  16. Julie Lineberger Says:

    Soooo glad you are staying with us goddesses here in Vermont! You are definitely one of us!!!

  17. Cathy Says:

    So hilarious and true. Reminds me of my move to Portland, where the motto was “Don’t Californicate Oregon!” and the first thing one did was register their cars and change their plates. The coffee culture was strong, as caffeine seems to be the answer to grey days, but like Vermont, one had to be many generations Oregonian to be legit. Small towns, gotta love ‘em. Pru and Tim, they’re lucky to have you there and thanks for the cheese, really. Oh and I’m a Suburu-drivin’ straight gal (but it’s a sedan, not a wagon).

  18. dearpru Says:

    Ahhh, thanks Julie and Cathy! (Cathy did you know that I lived in Eugene, OR, for almost 4 years? But I was in school, so was automatically a foreigner. There were a lot of us. In fact, the university went by the moniker “UC Eugene.”)

  19. Kathy Says:

    Loved the part about the the VT women. 24 years ago I went to VT for the first time driving my 4wd and found a state where everyone else had the same car as me & all looked like me (for the record, I was there with my husband and baby daughter) A lovely place where chapstick & dermatone are all the makeup you need, and jeans and a fleece are appropriate for almost any occasion.

    Years later, that baby daughter went to college in VT. I was horrified to see Starbucks at Killington and told them that if they don’t support VT products, who the heck will? My family credits me with their switch the next year to Green Mountain Coffee.

  20. dearpru Says:

    Wonderful memories, Kathy! That’s the second Starbucks I’ve heard of in VT…there’s one on the outskirts of Burlington. We’re Mocha Joe territory here in Brattleboro.

  21. alison Says:

    1 – that’s not Pru on the tractor :)
    b – There are at least four Starbucks in the Burlington area, but as far as I know, none in any other VT towns. Sadly, Mocha Joe’s couldn’t make a chai to save its life, but the Bratt Co-op sure can!
    ii – Cell phone reception at the Farmer’s Market? Incroyable!
    D – Living here really is the best. I know there’s a world where makeup and heels and hose and dressing up for work are expected, but my memory of it is fading, for which I’m very grateful. Here’s to Vermont! This is, indeed, how women really look. Although I have to admit that last weekend I was in Minnesota, where there were so many handsome men without beards that I considered moving back there…..the facial hair can be a bit much.

  22. dearpru Says:

    Hahaha, Alison! There was only SO much I could cover in my allotted space. You nailed it! I have had the urge to reach over & remove basmati rice (and other edibles) from the beard of furry friends, most of them men! If you did move back to Minnesota, Vermont would lose a dynamic, positive tour de force. Please stay!

  23. Deidre Suullivan Says:


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