A deep appreciation for New Hampshire style
Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick
On this year's winter vacation in Florida, I picked up the Miami Herald and one headline immediately caught my eye: "We're so vain: we probably think this story is about us."
The article was about a recent LivingSocial poll in which Miami ranked as America's vainest city. In the poll, residents in cities across the nation were asked to rate their looks on a scale of one to 10, and more than half of Miami residents consider themselves an eight, nine or 10. Results also showed that Miami tops the nation in laser hair removal, tummy tucks, liposuction and collagen injections.
Of course, when I got home I couldn't wait to see how Manchester, Concord or Lebanon had fared. But it turns out the research firm didn't think to ask residents of New Hampshire, a place known for its polls, for our opinion.
Somehow, I'm not surprised.
Don't get me wrong - New Hampshirites have a certain understated elegance, but we're nothing like the luxury car-driving, plastic surgery-obsessed, bikini-clad people of Miami.
Most of my friends in New Hampshire can get ready for work in five minutes.
They buy their wardrobes second-hand at the Listen Thrift Store, and when they really want to splurge they head across the border to Vermont to shop at Farm-Way ("Complete Outfitters for Man and Beast").
So it's always a little jarring to leave the Granite State and get a dose of superficiality.
As I drove around South Beach this winter, radio ads announced: "Browlifts only 5K; lipo, 6K; botox, $300 per month! Talk to us about financing!" I looked in my rearview mirror, studied a frown line and noted that in New Hampshire we only advertise cars this way.
I've encountered extreme vanity even farther afield in my husband's native Lebanon (the country on the Mediterranean - not the city on Rte. 120). Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East and on my visits there my L.L. Bean, Title Nine and SmartWool couture didn't pass muster. Other women sized me up in public, giving my long straight hair and corduroy trousers a disparaging once-over. "This never happens in my Lebanon," I thought to myself.
My husband's country also ranks high in plastic surgery statistics. When I paid a visit to an aunt, she greeted me at the front door, held a photo of her original face next to her new one and asked which nose I preferred. Now, how do you respond to a question like that? "They both look great," I said.
Vanity exists closer to home too. When I caught up with a high school pal in Hartford, Conn., she had her new double-Ds on display. Since I was training for the Keene Marathon at the time, all I could think of was what a nuisance they'd be.
So it's always a relief to return to New Hampshire where I'm free from the pressure to get into debt for Botox, to wear tight, uncomfortable clothes or to carry silicone baggage when I run. I like to think that in New Hampshire we have other things on our minds: our communities, our politics, our beautiful mountain scenery. We're as deep as Lake Winnipesaukee.
Or maybe it's just that our winter coats conveniently hide the belly fat that liposuction would remove. Maybe we'd rather not risk a fall on the ice in Manolo Blahniks. Maybe we cruise around in Subarus because Maseratis don't have four-wheel drive.