I grew up on Cape Cod in the town of Barnstable. In high school, our traditional rival was (and still is) Falmouth High. The Red Raiders against the Clippers. It is one of the oldest football rivalries in the country, and after all these years, we're just about tied in games won and lost.
Decades after high school, I'm still afraid of going into Falmouth. Back in the day, we didn't go there and Falmouth kids didn't come to Barnstable. We stayed out of each other’s territory because we didn't want to get beaten up. I don't actually know anyone who got beaten up for going to Falmouth, and I don't think I ever heard of kids in my town beating up Falmouth kids if they came into our area. That doesn't matter though. We talked about what we would do to them and what they would do to us, and that was good enough to make it a reality as far as we were concerned. To this day, I find myself constantly looking over my shoulder when I'm in Falmouth.
A few years ago, when I got divorced, I joined several online dating applications. I heard from several women who lived in Falmouth, and I turned them all down because I just couldn't bring myself to date someone from that hated town. That is, until I heard from the Lovely Louise.
We met online, and it was great from the very beginning … until she told me that she lived in Falmouth. I informed her that I didn't date women from Falmouth. “I'm not from Falmouth,” she said, “I'm from England, I just live in Falmouth.” I'm not sure why, but that explanation seemed to make it okay for us to date. Besides, she was wicked cute!
Still not over my fear of getting beaten up, I insisted that we meet in the town of Mashpee, which is between Barnstable and Falmouth. Although I'm certain she thought I was completely silly, she met me in the Neutral Zone.
A few years later, when we were looking to buy a house together, I reluctantly looked at houses in Falmouth, where she lived. We saw some nice places, but I knew I couldn't do it. So we bought a house in Barnstable. She began to understand my problem when I would introduce her to my friends in Barnstable and told them she was from Falmouth. Their eyes would grow wide, and almost in a whisper they would ask me how I could possibly date a woman from Falmouth. The horror in their eyes was clear, and they would stare at her until I informed them that she only lived in Falmouth—she was from England. That explanation seemed to work for everyone, and the Lovely Louise is now accepted by my friends from Barnstable … and they rarely make any more comments about Falmouth.
A few years ago, her oldest son gave me a Falmouth Clippers sweatshirt for Christmas. He wasn't really being nice—he knew that I hated the Clippers and he loved getting under my skin. I wanted to acknowledge his thoughtfulness, so I had to wear the sweatshirt. The problem was, I couldn't let anyone see me wearing it. This worked pretty well for a while, as I only wore it around the house, which seemed to satisfy him.
Unexpectedly, one night a friend of mine showed up at the house, and when I went to let him in, he spotted my sweatshirt. Without even coming into the house, he pointed at it and shouted, “Traitor!” He wouldn't even come in until I changed into a Barnstable sweatshirt. I understood this perfectly, but the Lovely Louise thought we were both being juvenile. We weren't. We were simply honoring tradition and friendly rivalry. Well … okay, maybe we were acting like a couple of twelve-year-olds who wouldn't kiss a girl because she had cooties, but we got quite a kick out of ourselves that night and celebrated our cleverness with multiple adult beverages.
Anyway, I still haven't completely gotten over my fear of driving through Falmouth, particularly during football season. It's a shame, because it really is a beautiful town. It's not my fault. It was the way I was raised. But beautiful or not, I still hate Falmouth … and no, I'm not going to just get over it.