Mystery woman

December 3, 2011

I love reading the rural community entries in the paper. Where else but in a small town is someone’s recent dental work news? Or family visiting from out of town?

This is news in a small town because there are so few shootings, muggings, and shady politicians.

Those of us who live in a small town willingly trade our privacy for that familiar sense of community.

It can be a bit of an adjustment for a city folks, when they first move to a small town. They might have the following conversation with someone they just met in line at the post office:

“I saw you downtown this weekend. What were you doing?”

“Uh… shopping…”

“For what?”


“Yes, I see you’ve done some painting! That’s a great color you chose! Boy, that really changes the whole neighborhood.”

“Um, how do you know where I live?…”

And so it goes in a small town.

Even for a seasoned small town veteran, it takes some getting used to when you return after a few years away.

When I lived in the city, my life wasn’t too exciting. I woke up, went to work, went home again, ate dinner, watched some TV, read a book, and went to bed.

My idea of a wild weekend was catching a double feature at the cinema complex. I might try a new restaurant, or grab dinner with a friend. When I was feeling like really mixing it up, I’d take in a local festival or drive to the beach to read a book in the sun.

Aside from my close friends, nobody else really noticed or cared about my comings and goings.

Life in my small town isn’t all that different. Trips to the lake are replaced with trips to the mountains. I have a kid now, so insert daycare, play dates, and bath time into the daily routine.  

And yet, other people are interested in what I’m doing.

I tend to keep to myself, inadvertently creating an aura of mystery. In a small town, if you don’t share the intimate details of your life, people write your story for you.

I imagine this may be disconcerting for a newcomer. Like anywhere else, a few people might be nasty. This isn’t utopia, after all.  

But most of the time, the nosiness is coming from a caring place.

After a while you learn that it’s okay to quietly do your own thing. Just because people ask about every detail of your life doesn’t mean you have to tell them.

Yes, they will talk. And suddenly, your boring, ordinary life becomes infinitely more interesting.  

If you want to spice up your life, you don’t have to take up sky diving or have a mid-life crisis and buy a pair of leather pants.

All you have to do is move to a small town. You can do exactly the same thing you were doing before – get up, go to work, go home, watch TV…

Give it two weeks, and you’ll have all kinds of exciting stories, and you don’t even need to leave your house.

In fact, it’s really better if you don’t.              

“Lord only knows what she does in there all day!”

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on December 3, 2011.