The Guest Blog: Small Town Hygiene By Ashleigh Beyer

A friend of mine recently had a job interview. Clearly, it went well, the company she interviewed with asked her to create a mock media campaign for an upcoming movie they’re releasing. She did a bang up job with it, I know cuz she let me look at it.

She never heard back from the company, and a week after she sent in her mock campaign, she looked at their website and they had re-posted the job; she didn’t get it.

When we were talking about it the other day, I got kinda pissed. I don’t think it’s cool that they never contacted her. A simple “Thank you for applying,” at least, would have been courteous. Even though I felt disgruntled, I know that’s the way it works. As my friend said, “It’s New York, they don’t care about little old me.”

I’ve only been out of New York for three years, but I’ve gotten used to the way things are here. In a small town like Taos, if you don’t want to go to therapy anymore, you tell your therapist, you don’t just skip your next appointment and then never show up again. And you’d better tell your landlord if your rent is going to be late; and dissolve your affairs kindly. Your therapist, landlord and ex-lover all shop at the same grocery store you do and ya’ll are going to run into each other. My friend, Mike, calls this small-town-inspired honesty “Small Town Hygiene.” And I’ve come to believe Small Town Hygiene is the way to live, even in big cities. It’s good for all of us to give our hairdresser another chance after they screw-up royally on our color. And if they bungle it the next time, then it’s good for us to be honest and kind when we tell them we’re going to try another colorist. Allowing people the change is part of Small Town Hygiene. Sometimes the guy who used to be a jerk to his wife quits drinking, or your hairdresser gets their shit together. Forgive, do your best, and keep your relationships clean, the small town way.

Ashleigh lives in Taos, New Mexico, where she’s a writer, a B.E.S.T. practitioner and a yoga teacher trainer. Ashleigh is vegan, totally in love with her dog Smokey, and grateful for the teacher in everything.┬áTo read more of Ashleigh’s work, click here.

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3 comments

  1. Sheilagh Falcigno · · Reply

    I lived in ‘small-town’ New Mexico though I was born in big bad New York. I applied for plenty of jobs in NM without getting any kind of reply. Where do you look for jobs? Happy rainbow unicorn land? That’s not the NM I remember. There are plenty of rude people living in small towns. I witnessed enough of ‘small-town hygiene’ racism, homophobia and misogyny to want to leave there, magnificent sunsets and all. I often find that urban dwellers have the most open hearts; living with so many people who are so ‘different’ from them makes them have open minds. Try forgiving ‘big-towners’ for moving a little faster and speaking a bit more gruffly – it’s just our way. We do know how to treat people with kindness and love. ALL people. Even the small towners. We just not might make a big show of showing it.

  2. Ashleigh Beyer · · Reply

    Thanks so much for your comment Sheilagh. I agree that ‘big towners’ can have open hearts, open minds and know how to treat people with kindness and love. And I agree that this is not the way all people in small towns live. It’s the way my friend Mike, who coined the term tries to live, the way I try to live, and the way a lot of people in my circle try to live too. Namaste.

  3. I felt that the point of this essay was not to say “small towns are better than big towns!” Rather, that in a smaller scale community, a person is more naturally accountable to others. Opportunities for feedback to be given and received are simply more possible. People in large cities create smaller
    Communities within, I reckon. Maybe they have the best of both worlds!
    In a small community, there are all of the same sorts of people with the same sets of prejudices as in a metropolitan area., however, a public reputation is built upon a persons record of actions (not intentions, or how they “say” they are). This reputation follows a person in a small community, so, the racist person is generally known to be such. The other folks can make informed personal decisions regarding how to interact with that person. That is a consequence that’s just not possible,on a larger scale.
    i think that in a big city, a person can “get away” with more acts of dishonesty, because it’s less practical for there to be a collective memory of a persons pattern of behavior.
    There’s a downside to everything, though, and sometimes in small communities, people who are different or maybe just ahead of their time, are not always given the space to express themselves. Sometimes the guy who gets sober has to move to a new place, bc although he’s changed, his neighbors can’t forgive or let go of the memory. That’s a restricting part of the collective memory.
    I think it’s indisputable though, that people do behave more considerately in an environment where their identity is known to those around them, the social contract is more effective. If you don’t pay rent to a guy I used to work for, I get to hear both sides of the story, and I get to decide if you are a good gamble, as a friend, employee or tenant.
    If you disagree, then I think airports are a good place to observe. You’ll see some acts of kindness, and also a whole lot of people not giving a shit about anything but themselves.
    I want to cop to an example of my own behavior: I am guilty of treating phone customer service people with less patience and more hostility than I ever would treat a bank teller live, and in person. Especially bc I know I may see the bank teller at school pickups in 2 hours, and our kids will end up on the same soccer team. If I’m tuned in I may even recognize that she’s new at the Bank, and still learning the computer system. I shouldn’t need this context to treat her well, but it does help me to remember that this is not the only moment in life that I will encounter this person.
    Not everyone participates. It’s not required.

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