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sunset beach in Cape Cod
Alyssa Mahoney

What Being The Daughter of a Lobsterman Has Taught Me

Here at UMass Amherst, it’s extremely likely everyone you talk to has been on vacation to Cape Cod. Being a state school, most everyone is from Massachusetts, so the Cape is never too far from anyone, resulting in it being a common vacation spot. Few of these vacationers know what it is actually like. Being the daughter of a lobsterman right out of the very tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown, I have a pretty good grasp of this, as well as the morals and values that come along with it.

My dad always has been, and always will be, my biggest role model. I grew up watching him work seventy-hour weeks during the overpopulated summer months, and not a day goes by where I am not grateful for that. He has shown me what hard work truly is.

This isn’t to say only manual labor is hard work, as even being an ice cream scooper on the Cape in the summer is absolutely a difficult job, too. My point here is to show what it is truly like to be a local. It’s waking up at 5 a.m., hauling traps until 2 p.m., and then working in his restaurant to feed all of the lobster-hungry tourists until he finally leaves the restaurant at 11 p.m. Every single summer growing up, this is how it was for him. Most days, the only times I would see him would be when he would drive the boat right up to the beach that we were at for the day to say a quick hello. 

This way of life provided my family with everything we could have needed. Although much of this changed when my parents separated, this way of life and work never changed. As soon as I was big enough to carry a lobster trap on my own, I was right there on the water with him. From that day forward, I was part of the lobstering community forever. 

My dad set aside 25 traps each for my sister and me in order to teach us responsibility and where money came from. Every Sunday during the summers, the three of us would go out as a family to haul these traps, then go and sell them so we could always have money of our own. Now that I am 20 years old, I am incredibly grateful to have grown up doing this. I am almost completely responsible for my expenses, I am financially responsible, and I know hard work. Just because we were his daughters didn’t mean we were exempt from leaving the house at the crack of dawn and stuffing bait bags.

Being his daughters also meant we were practically the only girls out on the water at any given moment. Many girls my age often speak of their experiences with sexism and men looking down on them. Because of the way my dad raised us, this was something we rarely felt. He never made us feel like we weren’t capable of doing something just because we were girls. He had us do exactly what he would make any of his mates do, who were always men. I believe this has given me a great deal of confidence that I wouldn’t have without these experiences. It also helped that all of the other lobstermen in town treated us with the same respect our dad did because that is the way Provincetown is. Everyone is treated with respect and kindness, and that’s how it should be.

It’s often the assumption and stereotype that laborers, like fishermen or construction workers, are just your average white men who have all of the ignorance and privilege in the world. My father has never once reflected this stereotype. Often after long days on the boat, the three of us would go into town to get ice cream from our favorite places, either Bliss or Lewis Brothers, then sit and people watch in the town square. During one of these many ice cream trips, my dad said something to me that I will never forget. He explained to me that you can see the world from Provincetown, and how that is one of the most important parts of living here. You can see people of every single walk of life, from the top 1% to those in poverty. From the first-time tourists from France, to the family from a Boston suburb that comes every year. From the LGBTQ+ community members who have Provincetown as a safe haven, to those who have never even seen a drag queen in their entire life. He raised us in a way that judging any type of person was unacceptable, and that you must treat everyone with love and respect. Although everything my dad has taught me are important aspects to my morals, I feel this type of kindness is what I strive to bring into the world every day.

I am eternally grateful for the life and the morals my dad has given to me on this little sandbar we call home. From teaching me how to band lobsters and bait lobster traps, to teaching me kindness every day, being the daughter of a lobsterman is something that I wouldn’t change for the world.

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Caroline Townsend

U Mass Amherst '23

Caroline is a junior at UMass Amherst studying Education, specifically Community Education and Social Change. She is from Truro, Cape Cod Massachusetts and a true beach bum. She lives for beach days, homemade ice cream, and her three dogs!
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