Okay, so it has been made clear to me a million times over that I will never pass for a crunchy Vermonter. I will admit that though I have lived here over fifteen years now, as a displaced New York Latina I find it hard to give up some of my old, urban ways. I love make-up, high heels, and wearing lots of black clothing. I talk as fast as a Vermont summer season passes. And when I get together with my New York buddies, we could light Williston with the amount of energy we generate. Though I accept that I am different, I am still surprised at how often I am judged by my appearance. And by people who claim to be progressive. My penchant for New York fashion does not dictate my politics, or my lifestyle.
I remember an incident during my second winter in Vermont. It was one of the coldest days of the year, and I was shopping in Burlington. I was wearing red lipstick, Gucci-knock-off sunglasses, and a full-length faux fur that I bought myself for my 30th birthday. Besides being fabulous, the coat is also incredibly warm, kind of like wearing a really big bathroom rug. I stopped in to a health food store to stock up on a few things. As I walked through the aisles, I noticed an angry-looking middle-aged woman glaring at me across the organic fruits. I thought nothing of it—being so fresh from New York City I was accustomed to such things—and continued my shopping. She seemed to follow me around the store, and I began to get agitated. Finally, as we neared the check out she spat out, "Murderer! Fur-coat-wearing murderer!" I stopped, dumbfounded. Then I started to feel something rising to the surface inside my gut...yes, it was the girl from the upper west side. I hadn't needed her for over a year, so she had been sound asleep, but as my blood pressure rose, she reared her well-coiffed head. "Funny, I didn't realize that nylon pile was an endangered species!" I yelled back, adding, "If you are gonna criticize strangers honey, you damn well better learn to tell the difference between real and fake fur!" She skulked off with her animal rights-protected tail between her legs, and I worked hard to regain my New England inspired composure and let the inner New Yorker go back to her long winter's nap.
Now though I don't condone the behavior of the militant, nylon-pile activist, with age and mellowing I do recognize that I am an anomaly. I still get stared at when I walk into the Hunger Mountain Co-op with my suit, styled hair and spike heels. But truth be told, the post-hippie culture is the environment in which I feel most at home. Underneath my overly polished exterior, I am certain that these are my people. That is why I had to invent a new term to define myself. To give a name to the nameless. I am a "Lipstick Crunchy." No, this doesn't mean I wear high-heeled Birkenstocks, it means that though I may look and talk like an urban diva, in my depths I am as left-wing and crunchy as the best of them. I love tofu and brown rice. I am an anti-bias scholar who believes that all Vermont families should be treated with respect and kindness. I drive cars with no thought to their appearance, but only their gas mileage. I am a product of progressive education. I knit with natural fibers, hike every Sunday (I give up the high heels for this activity), eat granola and care about the environment.
I figure that if I haven't adapted my look or type-A personality to the comfort-oriented and laid back culture of this beautiful state by now, I probably never will. But that's okay. Perhaps there are others like me out there. Who, for whatever reason, maintain a look that is contrary to their secret lifestyles, but in their chests beat hearts of pure granola.