A reader recently asked me about writing more pieces about what life is like in Maine as a Black person. Totally makes sense, after all this is Black Girl in Maine. It’s also incredibly timely since today is one of those days where like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I want to go home. Like can we pack it up and go now! When I get that feeling, I know I am overdue for a visit.
Next month will mark a decade in Maine, and while the first year or so was culture shock, things eventually settled down. To be honest Southern Maine where I reside has made huge gains in the past decade on the diversity front. When we first landed here back in 2002, I could go days without seeing another person of color and generally that meant going into Portland, Maine’s largest city. Yet the twin communities where I live and work have had a rapid browning, oh don’t get it twisted, it’s still pretty darn white. However to quote my six year old upon seeing that we now have a Black neighbor down the street “It’s good that we aren’t the only black people here now”. Yes, that is true. The community center I run, now has a diverse mix of kids, Black, White, Brown and Tan, all being kids and having fun together. It’s so diverse now that I actually have my daughter come in a few days a week so she can actually make friends with kids like her. She is loving it.
Yet it’s still lonely. This past year has been hard on me, as I have struggled with doing some heavy lifting in my marriage that has resulted in some of the highest highs and lowest lows, I realized that I need a real support system here and that’s where sadly I feel blackness is challenging in a state like Maine. Aside from 1-2 people I know in this state, there are still those awkward moments that arise when people don’t know what to say, when political correctness stands in the way. Most native born Mainers I know unless they have left the state and lived elsewhere tend to have very little experience interacting with real life Black people and at times it shows. As I have shared before, I don’t find much hardcore racism but I do find people who at times are pretty damn awkward.
Let me be clear, it’s not always about race, as a native Midwesterner I think some of it is actually regional differences. Truth be told, I find East Coast Blacks to also be different than what I knew back in the Midwest. For starters many East Coast Black folks have a different background than those of us from the Midwest, more Caribbean roots than those of us with direct Southern roots and it can make things awkward at times. I talked to a sista I know from Texas who spent some time living in Boston and she mentioned a similar experience. I’m a down home bigmouth, sure I am a college educated professional but at the same time when I am relaxing, well shit…I like to kick back, get loud and let my hair down. I have yet to find the Black folks in Maine or anywhere near me with a similar outlook. Difference is good, it’s all valid but sometimes I want to be able to let loose and be me. That’s why I know I need a visit home. Thankfully I put out the bat signal today and it seems my crew back home is going to make that happen…I see a long weekend that will include many whiskey sours, deep dish pizza and closing down this place at least one night.
Another challenge to life in Maine I have noticed and yeah it’s silly and vain of me but this is my space and I write what I like, is that in Maine, I don’t exist as a woman. I never quite realized that until recently when the reality that the Spousal Unit and I may be no more started to look more and more possible. Of course my mind started in on what about dating? The man and I had a great laugh about how we had traded places, prior to life in Maine, he was the invisible man, but like a fine wine he has aged well and women notice him. I on the other hand have become invisible, I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me after all I have single Black women friends in Maine who have told me all about their dating woes or rather lack of dating lives. I had heard them over the years but until recently never noticed it nor thought about it, but in realizing I may be joining their ranks I decided to check out the landscape…oh my! For a cocoa brown sista with short natural hair, there is no love. Thankfully for the moment I don’t have to worry much about this, but I won’t lie it did shake me a little to think that basically my very essence as a woman, a sexual being is not even noticed in this state.
In the end, Maine is a nice place, I like it, I am not sure what our future together will bring but at the moment, I am looking forward to going home where friends and family will nourish my soul on every level.