I'm becoming a hick.
Or so I'm being told more and more lately.
I'm not alone. I know other people, online and in real life, who came to Maine from large urban centers and have shared with me how their family and friends back in the cities and sprawling suburbs cannot grasp why we live in places like Saco-Biddeford, Lewiston-Auburn, Sanford, or Bangor. Or even Portland.
But in the final analysis, are we really missing anything? Or do we add to the diversity of Maine and at the same time learn a lot from living here?
Aside from a serious dearth of Mexican restaurants, a paucity of all-day breakfasts at diners, and a lack of 24-hour dining options, I have no complaints in terms of cuisine choices. And while museums may not abound, we have a thriving arts community and I can readily visit nature in its real form instead of seeing it mounted and stuffed in dioramas. There may not be the plethora of exotic ingredients in stores to which I was once accustomed, but I can get locally produced vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy simply by driving 10 miles out of the city I live in.
Still, I and the other urban transplants I know are pitied. Our friends and family ask "When are you moving back to civilization?" or "You must really be pining for theaters and concerts and real culture?" or "How do you keep from getting bored out of your skull?"
This attitude of bewilderment that we would choose to live in Maine strikes me as classism, which I've always found at least as detrimental to diversity as racism. It's an attitude that says "The less frenetic the place you live, and the less dense the population, the less cool you are." Its perpetrators seem to want to shame us into moving back into the big cities.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with liking big-city life. But neither is leaving it a bad choice. Some people live in dense urban areas all their lives, some people live in rural areas all their lives, and some leave one for the other.
But rather than seeing the decision to live in Maine or someplace like it as a valid and willing choice — as an expression of diversity, even — our critics see it as tragic that we would willingly live outside Chicago, New York, Atlanta, or wherever.
Instead of seeing us as people who have found the space that best fits us, many of the loyal city dwellers we know instead see us as people who "couldn't hack city life" or wonder why we are "shutting ourselves off from the real world."
Never mind that much of the "real world" actually lives in rural or semi-rural America. Never mind that Netflix delivers movies to me just as effectively as they do to my Chicago brethren. Never mind that we have libraries here, too, with past and modern classics of literature. Never mind that we have NPR radio stations, too, and all the same cable channels and Internet access that keep us connected, whether urban or rural.
Somehow, people in a more rural state are seen as shut down and cut off.