Monday, July 23, 2012

I Might Die Here: An Ethnographic Study on Massachusetts

Spending the summer in Massachusetts has provided me with an interesting view into a previously unseen subculture in America. After moving here a few years back and living and attending school on the east coast, I have been slowing picking up on the unique vernacular and little differences in personalities that persist in the eastern area of the country. However, Massachusetts frankly  kind of has its own thing going on. The state is like that one friend you have who you have a lot in common with and is great, but they have certain things they do on the weekend that you don't really know a lot about or even really talk about because you think they're a little weird.
That metaphor is a little stretched, but I'm going for it.
One of the first things I learned when I was thrown into the company of many born-and-bred Massachusetts residents was the existence of the term "lax bro." A lot of people just threw around this phrase and because I had never heard it before and I couldn't quite hear what they were saying I was totally perplexed about what was happening. Eventually it was explained to me that, obviously, lax is short for lacrosse and the term refers to those guys who sport their lacrosse pennies every day, bond with other bros through man-hugs and comparing college football teams, and have muscles that, in general, take up the space of three average-sized middle school students. Upon reflection, I realized that even though this phrase was new to me, I had known many, many other "lax bros" back home when I was going through school. What's kind of interesting is that the bros I knew years ago I remember not being very pleasant people at all, whereas those I have recently met in Massachusetts are almost ridiculously nice. Now, this could be the result of a number of reasons, but this is an ethnography, not a psychological assessment. And thank goodness for that.
Now, one of my more prevalent personality flaws is my habit of giving a lot of thought to certain things that really have no reason to be thought of for any extended period of time. Because of this, I was doing a sort of personal analysis of the "lax bro" term and realized this description and idea were not exclusive to guys who play lacrosse, by any means. So I came up with my own term of "Mass bro" as a way to further categorize people I see and meet, because nothing bad has every happened from doing that. The "Mass bro" differs from any given jock or fraternity member in subtle but distinctive ways. An absolute resolution to the superiority of the sports teams of Boston is an intrinsic necessity in their personalities, along with perhaps an unknown ignorance of areas of America that did not play key roles in the Revolution.  So basically, every guy my first college roommate has dated.
I learned of the legend and reputation of the Masshole in my early days of living in the east, and spent the past three years gaining experience with them firsthand as I commuted through the area. It is a common belief that all stereotypes are based in at least a tiny amount of truth. However, this stereotype exists because it is based in what is equivalent to the Pacific Ocean of truths. Being a paranoid and defensive, yet incredibly angry driver regardless, my time behind the wheel in Massachusetts has led my to be constantly terrified for my life, and also filled with a near-omnipresent rage at everyone on the road. To make matters worse, the roads here are incredibly twisted and full of curves, and when you take overly-bold drivers into the equation, it's horrifying. For example, there is one intersection nearby where the road curves and the brush is thick so when turning left, you literally cannot see if anyone is coming on the right. You just have to place your bet, spin the wheel, and hope the ball lands on the color that doesn't end up with you dying in twisted metal and fire.
Also, drivers in Massachusetts don't believe in turn signals. I honestly think that's the first lesson they teach in the schools here: "Now kids, what did we learn today? 'Letting other people know which way you are going is quitting.'"
These quirks and various aspects to the psyche of Massachusetts are not limited to a specific gender or age demographic, either. I have seen them exhibited in young boys in elementary school to older women, spending their golden years leading ghost tours around Plymouth. And it is not something I resent or disdain in any way. In fact, I have been hearing "r"'s slowly leaving my words as I speak, and the David Tennant cut-out in my room has a Sox hat on. If anything, I am one of them.
You're welcome for FREEDOM, America.

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