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Vermontsplaining is a relative of Mansplaining and Momsplaining. Vermontsplainers aren’t interested in focusing on their lives, but driven to focus on other people’s lives. They know what’s best for you. They encourage, then insist you change your opinions and ways. Ultimately they expect apologies and repentance for harboring alternate opinions, habits and lifestyles. A group of Vermontsplainers can be more dangerous than a wolf pack. Vermontsplainers view behaviors or opinions outside the favored social, environmental, or political doctrine fair game. Acting like human fly paper, they are on social media waiting and watching for ill-timed or careless comments to snare.

The first person to identify this phenomenon was an old Vermonter. He said, “It seems like everyone is trying to run everyone else’s life.” A Mike Rowe type of person, what he lacked in college degrees he more than made up for in common sense. He was the type of Vermonter who indulged me when I arrived here ignorant about the customs and habits of strange speaking Vermonters.

I worked in Montpelier for years. Groups occasionally gathered quietly, respectfully to protest in front of the post office. We didn’t agree with their views, but would listen politely. We never hectored, argued, or tried to re-educate them. Vermonters I knew and know are tolerant, embracing a “live and let live” motto. Sadly, Vermontsplaining seems to expand as folks become less tolerant towards long-held Vermont ways and dissenting opinions.

Vermontsplaining can be issue specific. Can we appreciate that not everyone is deeply knowledgeable or concerned about the lifecycle of chipmunks? Vermonters are focused on raising children, keeping businesses afloat, the coming car inspection, and paying bills. What gets their dander up is being told on Front Porch Forum how they should “feel” about a chipmunk’s early/unfortunate demise.

Forgetting to walk in another person’s shoes is a sure source of Vermontsplaining. A parent will view plastic straws differently after their child’s paper straw milkshake meltdown. Vermontsplainers accept any level of your personal discomfort to meet their goal of saving the planet one plastic straw at a time. A newly transplanted Vermonter joining the discussion of local bear antics made an understandable but unknowing statement about leaving their bird feeder up. Replies to their posting fell into the Vermontsplaining category. The new Vermonter’s quick mea culpa was tinged with sadness and pain.

Each community has unique subjects that trigger Vermontsplainers. I’ll bet you know the individuals and subjects quite well. As with your visiting eccentric relative, avoidance is a wise defensive strategy.

Unsure if you are exhibiting this emotional ailment? Following your involvement in offering unsolicited advice, ask your spouse, partner, or friend, “Did I go overboard there?” If the answer is yes, you may have Vermontsplained. You might have this dysfunction if you suddenly lose your senses. Vermontsplainers typically lose their sense of humor, sense of proportionality, and sense of fair play.

Thankfully Vermontsplaining can be overcome. Here are five steps to follow:

1. Saying sorry to those you have offended matters.

2. Mom said, “Mind your own business.” Can’t argue with mom’s wisdom.

3. If inclined to give someone a piece of your mind, don’t. Take your mind to rake the lawn, on a walk with your dog, or cleaning the garage.

4. Volunteer to help those less fortunate. It gives your zeal a cold splash of reality.

5. Until you cool off, stay an arm’s length from any device allowing access to social media. Feel compelled to “straighten someone out”? Self-quarantine for 24 hours.

We can control Vermontsplaining. Our relationships, neighborhoods, and communities will benefit.

Matt Krauss of Stowe is a happily retired state employee and former Vermont legislator. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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