Everybody Loves a Main Line Nobody

Without the Main Line Times, who would cover Lower Merion's latest "volunteer of the week"?

One of the things I like most about living on the Main Line is our community newspaper, the Main Line Times. When I first moved here and didn’t have my bearings, I figured where better to help determine what kind of place I had moved to than by reading the local paper? I had no idea how spot-on that decision was at the time. For better or worse, this publication is a great representation of the microcosm that is Lower Merion. And much like the township, it can be pretty far removed from the problems of the real world.

I look forward to Thursday mornings when the MLT comes. I have a ritual. Cup of tea in hand, I read each of the sections in order. This way I get the following information in the first section: the big news (usually stale) that impacts only our township; what streets have had break-ins; if anyone I know has gotten a DUI, or has been arrested for being drunk and disorderly (so far, sadly no); and if our property, sewer or school taxes are going up (sadly, yes). It’s also the place to find out all about local tempests in teacups (not to be confused with my cup of tea). Will the new farmers’ market be allowed in a church parking lot after the zoning brouhaha (or, if you will, brew ha-ha)? Will our township officials be allowed to hold meetings without the public present? Will a charitable organization be granted permission to extend their bathroom? And who is volunteer of the week? Big important stuff like that.

The next section is local history, letters to the editor, etc. Although the history is interesting, I admit to glossing over it so I can get to the section after it—the really juicy stuff: the society pages. When I first saw this section four years ago, I thought there must be a great number of important people and events to merit an entire newspaper section of color photos every week. I’ve since discovered that while there are a few important people and events, they have little to do with the MLT’s “Accent on People.” After a couple of months living here, even I ended up in that section. I made it in there three or four times within a year or two. In essence, it’s full of nobodies. Which is great! Each week I plow through looking for all the other nobodies I know, because I don’t know very many somebodies. It’s a clever way to guarantee sales, since all those people want to buy the paper to see themselves.

The MLT society pages are like a yearbook. I sometimes see my friends and neighbors receiving awards, stuffing envelopes, or all dressed up at parties. I love silently critiquing the fashions and hairstyles of all the people. Most of all I love some of the names. There is no shortage of women with the kind of names that you only see in privileged areas or strip clubs. I suspect that’s because people would have been beaten up in school with these names anywhere else. You can only get away with Bunny, Cookie or Toutou in so many places.

Recently the section even had a page of photos from a party that honored the photographer for that section. I wonder who took the pictures? I’ve met the photographer on several occasions, and she’s a lovely woman. But she’s tiny. Diminutive. Which means unless you’re also diminutive, which I’m not, the pictures are taken from way down low, under your chin. Not the most flattering angle. I’m not photogenic to begin with, so after a few unfortunate photos of me in the paper I thought about buying her a step stool. Instead, when I’m at an event and I see her coming, I just hide behind someone else, which doesn’t always work.

Once I’ve finished spotting my friends, neighbors, funny names, and events I was at, missed or wasn’t invited to, I move on to the school section. This is where the private schools usually get way more space than the public ones—probably because there are so many more of them, which is fine, because it’s all pretty bland stuff anyway. Then I skip the sports, skim the supplements and wrap it up with the real estate. It’s always good to know what we can get for our house in case I ever need to leave town fast. I wonder if you can subscribe to the Main Line Times from South America?