Let’s be honest, Princeton can be an intimidating town, and I mean greater Princeton, not just the two square miles or the zip code. I called myself a writer when I lived in Pittsburgh but when I moved here 30 years ago I was so intimidated by Famous Writers (think John McPhee) that I relinquished that claim and lost my ‘writing voice’ for a good long while.
Recently I talked to a former Princeton resident who had just moved back from a stint overseas, and I wasn’t surprised to hear her say that she felt like an outsider, because, in another country, English speakers band together to support one another. If you are used to that camaraderie, you feel rebuked by soccer moms who watch the game in clumps and ignore a stranger’s attempt to say hello. If you come here from another part of the country as a traveling spouse, it takes “a good long while” to get the kids settled — and when it’s time to look for a job you start at square one. You don’t know the turf.
Northerners, I must admit, can be particularly unfriendly. Whatever you might think about the south, Southerners cultivate at least an appearance of friendliness. Because I went to a school in North Carolina, I experienced this first hand, so now when I meet a woman who has just moved to Princeton from the south, I’ll say “how does it feel to be in Cold Unfriendly Yankeeland” and inevitably she’ll burst out with “How-did-you-know-how-lonely-I’ve-been-feeling.)
(I realize I’m stepping on everybody’s toes here — north, south, what’s left? Of course these stereotypes don’t apply to everyone, but I’m trying to make a point.)
Ladies — when you encounter a woman who has recently moved to Princeton, particularly one who is not in the workforce (they’re the lonesomest kind) reach out to her. Realtors — you are doing this all the time. It’s part of your job to get the wives settled in a new community. You often refer them to the Newcomers Club at the YWCA, but may I suggest another resource?
A new friend of mine, Cheryl Mart, offers a weekly study “Moving On after Moving In” for women who are new to the community or just plain in transition. It’s a non-denominational Christian study, based on a Susan Miller book and video, that will be given at Princeton United Methodist Church on Tuesdays, starting September 20, at 7 p.m. Cheryl just moved here from Texas and knows whereof she speaks. For more information click here. or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 609-921-0730. Women do not need to attend church to come to the free study. (Disclosure — I’m a member at PUMC).
Perhaps the “Moving On after Moving In” study is “right” for the newcomer you know. Or maybe another resource is the best one. The Women in Business subset of the Princeton chamber comes to mind. In any case, the very best resource is probably YOU. Make time. Reach out. Have coffee.
PS. If you are a Christian and don’t go to church because Sunday mornings are for the reading New York Times, I hear you. PUMC (the church on the corner of Nassau & Vandeventer) now has a Saturday Evening Worship Gathering at 5 p.m. (609-924-6213, http://www.princetonumc.org). Realtors — if you have to show houses on Sundays, or Soccer Moms and Dads, maybe this is for you.