I do not come from anywhere special, just a little town in the Maine woods. My parents both grew up poor, although my father did pretty well for himself. He was incredibly intelligent and hard working and made a name for himself in construction, a blue collar trade. This meant that my parents ended up very comfortable, especially relative to their neighbors.
But when you stepped away from Maine, even when you went to Southern Maine — where people had more money and resources — we were very humble people.
I can remember taking trips to Boston and suddenly feeling very self-conscious about my clothes. They had seemed fine when I was living my everyday life in Bangor, Maine. But in Boston, I had a way of sticking out — and not in a good way.
I looked like a hick. I felt like a hick. Everyone around me walked fast and had a look on their face that showed me that they identified me as something lesser and couldn’t hide their disdain.
But I loved to travel. And I took every opportunity I could (there were fewer than I would have liked), most of them made possible via music. Those early trips to Boston told me that I needed to prepare for these vacations, however. Get special clothes for the trip. Get my hair done before setting out. Put some makeup on my face.
Basically leaving Maine required a costume. What worked in Maine didn’t work other places.
Just a Series of Costumes
Shortly after my 30th birthday, I moved to Cleveland. It was a strange time in my life, a time of many transitions, of endings and beginnings. People in Cleveland were less snooty than those in Boston — but I still felt the need to dress up. Conveniently, I was also exploring the kink community upon moving to Cleveland (one of the beginnings), so I was dressing up more anyway. In costume a lot. I was strategic in finding pieces that would work in both capacities — in kink and as a city dweller.
And then later when I got my first professional big city job, I studied my colleagues, did some research, and found yet another costume.
I returned to Maine to visit less and less. And each time I did, I found that I stuck out there. I was dressed like a city person. I was walking quickly everywhere. Was I looking at other people like they were lesser? I sure hoped not.
But maybe that’s how they viewed me. Just like how I viewed the slick people I’d seen in Boston the first time I visited.
When I moved to Dallas, the effect was even more dramatic. Because Cleveland is a fairly unpretentious, welcoming city. In Dallas, people are competitive, wear their money. They like to show off.
Seeing this, I sighed and put on a slightly different costume.
People Who Come From Nowhere & Wear a Series of Costumes
In my travels, I’ve started to meet more people who come from big places. Who are connected to illustrious legacies that predated them.
They tend to assume other people all have something similar. That I’m like them. But I don’t. And I’m not.
To them I do come from nowhere, but it is a good nowhere to be from. The word “Maine” conjures romantic imagery for those born well off. They imagine celebrity homes on the coast, private islands with mansions. Lobster, waves, mild summers. They think of vacations, not survival. They do not think of devastating winters, isolation, and a horrible job market.
I’ve worked hard just to have the chance to be in the place that they started from. And I don’t have the sort of safety net they do. Not by a long shot.
There are more of them here — people with legacies, people who come from places — than there are of us — people who came from nowhere and wear a series of costumes and take a series of risks for a chance to even be here. Because most of the people we knew never left home. Most of the people we grew up with are still back there, happy to be comfortable and accepted, if nigh-invisible in that corner of the world.