WE HAVE A FUNNY THING in Vermont that I like to call the soft “T.” When we pronounce our home state, the hard “T” is replaced with a delicate yet guttural puff of air from the bottom of the throat, which can only be written out as accurately as: “Vermon(gh).”
It’s not pretty, but it’s pure. It’s spoken the same whether you’re a suburbanite in Chittenden County, or a dairy farmer in the North Country. It’s one of the many things Vermonters share, and we tend to care a lot about the things we share as a community. Treading heavily on those things just might piss us off.
1. Tell us you heard we have more cows than people.
Just don’t. It’s not true. We love our cows, though, and we’re very proud of our farmers, thank you very much.
2. Mistake us for New Hampshire.
See How to piss off someone from New Hampshire. Our legislature debates how to deliver universal healthcare, while theirs argues about whether to finally make driving without a seatbelt illegal. We still love our neighbor, though.
3. Tell us how much you love Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked.
We remember when Ben & Jerry’s was actually a local company, before it was bought by a behemoth that also makes soap and mayonnaise. We remember when the carton looked like this and the only flavors were chocolate, vanilla, and Cherry Garcia.
Okay, fine. That’s silly nostalgia. We still adore Ben & Jerry’s, even if neither Ben nor Jerry are involved anymore. To its credit, the company manages to preserve their core quality, brand, and most importantly, their social mission that’s deeply rooted in progressive Vermonter ideology. And Half Baked is amazing. We just don’t need a bunch of you telling us how good the ice cream is. We’ve known for years.
4. Tell us how much you love Magic Hat #9.
When it comes to local craft beer, Vermont is a state that stands with the best. Most people mention Magic Hat when they talk about Vermont beers. Look, I get it. They have cool labels, unique names, and vaguely intriguing messages on their bottle caps. They make great beer. They really do.
But there’s so much more than #9. We all drank so much of it in high school that we can barely stand to smell it, let alone take another sip. My suggestion? Ease into some new VT brews starting with Long Trail, Switchback, and Otter Creek. There are plenty more after that. Just please don’t say your favorite Vermont beer is #9.
5. Ask for Aunt Jemima.
I have a friend who still reminds me that he likes Aunt Jemima more than maple syrup. After I’m done throwing up my breakfast, I kindly inform him that he’s free to have his own tastes and opinions.
But seriously. I don’t care where you come from and what you grew up on. You are comparing a product that is exquisitely extracted from a tree and laboriously produced to create a full-bodied flavor with…basic corn syrup. You have the right to your (incorrect) opinion, but if you wanna put down maple syrup, don’t say it to our faces.
6. Ask us if we’re Phish fans.
I am, in fact, a big Phish fan. I also understand that I fit a dated stereotype. Most of the friends I grew up with didn’t listen to Phish, and probably didn’t like them. Having said that, we’re proud of anything that makes it out of our state. That doesn’t mean we all smoke weed every day and take months off to travel with the band every tour.
7. Laugh about Howard Dean’s “meltdown.”
This one cuts deep. Dean was our larger-than-life governor for 12 years. Here are some of the great things he did for our state:
- Balanced the budget
- Lowered taxes twice
- Instated a universal healthcare system for children and pregnant women
- Steered the state through gnarly and ultimately trailblazing legislation to give homosexuals civil-union rights (in the year 2000!)
Did I also mention he was responsible for the plan that helped President Obama win the election in 2008? And all we hear about is how crazy he is because he happened to do something completely human like express how passionate he was. He’s doing just fine now, but in Vermont we’d rather not reduce our political heroes to bite-sized punchlines, so please show some respect.
8. Assume we’re a bunch of socialist liberal yuppies.
Most Vermonters are proud of their history of progressivism. We were the first to grant civil unions, the first to legislate legal same sex marriage, and now we’re trying to label GMOs and create our own single-payer healthcare system. We have a self-described democratic socialist senator (and most of us love him). We have a national reputation for being bold before the rest of the country grows a spine, and I’m very proud of that.
But the truth is it’s pretty darn split here too. The debate over civil unions tore the state apart for years, and it took a lot of hard work just to get to that point, let alone deal with the aftermath of the “Take Back Vermont” campaign. The universal healthcare bill will also be a struggle, I’m sure.
In other words, this isn’t just an “anything goes” leftist hippie legislation fiesta. Most Vermonters are deeply connected to the state through family, idealism, and community. What drives progress is knowing that Vermont can be continually improved upon without eroding its humbler traditions.
Where else would you get someone who supports same-sex marriage and also owns several guns (for hunting)? Quick fun fact: We have weak gun laws and extremely low rates of gun violence. You can’t find that anywhere else.