Jane Green
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My Hometown on Television

May 21st, 2016

Jane Green Westport ConnecticutOur relatively little town of Westport, Connecticut is abuzz with talk of a new television series, now tentatively titled “American Housewife,” but originally titled: “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport.”

The trailer is now on You Tube. Amongst other things, they refer to the children in the town of Westport, Connecticut as “money-obsessed brats,” the town is called “hoity-toity,” and apparently in Westport, Connecticut “you can’t be too rich, too thin…”

As many of you know, I live in Westport, Connecticut. My husband has lived here for most of his life. His graduating class is class of ’81, four years earlier than the producer of this show, a former Westporter. And whilst I recognize some of the stereotypes in the trailer – I have written frequently about some of the less savory Ladies Who Lunch – those are not the only types of women who live here, and I’m deeply concerned about the message this show is sending about my town.

There is an apocryphal story I often tell when I give keynote speeches: A woman pulls into a gas station in Westport, CT and says, “I’m moving to this town next week. Tell me, how will I like it? What are the people like?”

The gas attendant says: “What are the people like in the town where you’re living now? ”

“They’re AWFUL!” she says. “Rude, unfriendly, entitled. We haven’t made any friends.”

“Well,” says he. “I think you’ll find Westport is much the same.”

A week later a different woman pulls in and says to the same gas attendant: “I’m moving here with my family next week. What’s the town like?”

He looks at her and says, “What’s the town like where you’re living now?”

“It’s wonderful,” she says. “We’ve met the most amazing people. Everyone is warm, and friendly, and they care about their community.”

“Well,” says he. “I think you’ll find Westport is much the same.”

The moral of the tale is, of course, that life is where you look.

Everyone living here, who has seen how this town has changed, how the pretty old houses have been torn down for mansions that fill every square inch of the lot, who has experienced rudeness or entitlement, knows that it’s not all good.

But while Westport may have a faction of people who may not represent what we’d like our town to represent, we also know that – thankfully – that’s only a small part of what makes Westport the town it is. And it is a wonderful town.

I write novels, many of which are set in Westport, and at various times in my life I have been less kind about the women of Westport, which is far more reflective of my own state of mind than of the town.

I am still writing about Westport, and while the stereotypical ladies who lunch in Lululemon (how’s THAT for a sentence?) may appear within the pages, so do many others. Stereotypes can be dangerous, particularly when you use them, and only them, to represent the whole. 

I feel very lucky to live here, and I am aware that I have a daily choice. I can choose to focus on what I don’t like, which will only bring more of it into my life. When I choose to focus on the many wonderful people I have found, on the beauty of my town, on how lucky I am to be living here, I bring more of that into my life.

I’m sorry this series is set in the real town of Westport, Connecticut, and that it happens to be my town. I’m sorrier still that although I recognized the characters in the trailer, that was all that was shown. I am crossing my fingers that perhaps it will represent the good as well…

Because there is so much more good than bad.

(This article was first published in The Lady Magazine.)


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