One time at a family gathering, my aunt asked me if she and her family were locals yet. They’ve owned a second house out here in the good old east end for the last two years and I guess by this point, they wanted to be a part of this whole local thing.
Now, at this point suddenly all eyes were on me, and I found myself stuck in tricky predicament. Part of me wanted to say yes only to make her day and to make her feel included, but a good portion wanted to tell her, oh no. Not even close.
I decided that the only way for me to respond was with something absolutely brilliant. That way she would forget she even asked me…So…I just said nothing, smiled, and nodded. That tends to work, like, three out of ten times. Sort of.
As I avoided that disaster, a question began to form in my head. That is, what exactly makes you a local of the Hamptons?
When I went away to college in Connecticut, I rarely specified where I was from. Normally I’d just say Long Island and that would satisfy them enough. However, there were some days where I’d get extremely specific and say East Quogue. Then they wouldn’t know where that was so I’d just say The Hamptons and the lightbulb would go off in their heads.
This would then soon be followed by a bunch of routine questions and comments:
1. Are you rich?
2. Have you ever met a celebrity?
3. Oh I love the Hamptons! Do you know where that beach is, the one with the rocks? And the people?
4. Ooo, fancy.
I guess you could count those as requirements for being a local…for some people. For me, those things never really made me a local. For starters, I’m not rich. I was the child of a middle class family that just happened to live by the water. That didn’t exactly define me; it’s just where I lived. And as for the celebrity thing, I wish. I personally haven’t seen anyone, but I’ve heard various stories. They range from Adam Sandler wandering around Westhampton to Kim Kardashian almost running over a friend with her car. The only time I got close to seeing a famous person was the one time I convinced myself I saw Nicole Kidman when she was filming Margot’s Wedding out here. In reality, I didn’t see her. I just saw someone with blonde hair and deemed her to be Nicole Kidman. FYI, in the movie, she has brown hair.
To me, being a local of the Hamptons means you simply know the area and you get annoyed when people vacation here.
It means you live in a summer hotspot for people from New York City and New Jersey. The usually-barren roads you speed down turn into traffic jams and suddenly you find yourself stuck in the Riverhead traffic circle because people outside of New York don’t realize our laws are different. It’s having a summer job at local restaurants and country clubs, and dealing with snarky remarks from customers who are clearly not from around here. It’s cleaning up the garbage of tourists who litter like it’s nothing. It’s having that one lady tell me and my friend that Westhampton should be called the “First Hampton” because it’s easier. To this day, I still don’t know what her logic was.
Now, being a Hamptonite, or whatever the heck you want call us, isn’t as terrible as I’m probably making it out to be. In fact, growing up here was a great experience. I was lucky. I got to have a quiet small town life. I grew up on the water learning how to fish and how to drive a boat. I was able to go to the beach every summer whenever I wanted and I got to swim in an ocean.
My problem is that sometimes I forget I have a different hometown than a lot of other people in this country. College made me realize that.
It gets weird when someone from my school vacations out here and posts on their Instagram feed or Snapchat story about how they’re livin’ it up in the Hamptons. I guess I never saw it as being something spectacular. To me, the beaches and restaurants they were all partying at are just home. From those fourth of July sunbathing posts at Ponquogue to those artsy pictures of the Montauk Lighthouse, they were all normal, everyday things.
However, this makes you forget how magical it is to some people. This dawned upon me when I was at the beach one day. It was after five o’clock. This is when the usual crowded beaches are desolate. The lifeguards have clocked out, leaving their massive white, wooden perches free to sit upon.
I was seated on top of one with a friend. We were just hanging out when suddenly, a loud family came running onto the beach in a frenzy. They all had to be over the age of thirty. They were letting every piece of clothing they owned fly off their bodies until they were running around only in their bathing suits.
I found it a little odd at first. Their screaming turning into childish squeals and splashing around in the waves like toddlers. Then, after watching them for a few moments and hearing bits of their conversations, I realized this was a family that has never seen the ocean before. These were people who were clearly full-fledged adults, playing in a salty body of water for the first time like they were children getting set loose in an amusement park.
And in that pure, perfect moment I think I learned how special this place can be for the people who don’t live here all year round.
Being a local means being proud of your small town. It’s driving your car at full speed down Dune Road. It’s sitting on the beaches when there’s nowhere else to hang out and watching the sunset. It’s getting irritated by vacation-goers who act like they own the place, but being kind to the ones who see this as a special getaway. It’s the rolling of your eyes at the Hampton stereotypes, but also poking fun at how true they can be. It means recognizing the beauty in everything about the East End during every season. But, most importantly, it’s the people that grew up here.
It’s the people that work here, go to school here, raised a family here – eat, sleep, and play here. It’s the people who’ve watched this place grow into the wonderful home we all know and love today. And I think anyone who’s ever lived in a vacation hotspot can agree that part of us is proud when people recognize our hometowns, because that just means they’re special all around.