The hubs is from California. I am from Texas. He thinks I had a mortifying childhood. I think his sounds like a tragedy penned by Eggers. (No death, just lots of sub-nutritional food, hand-me-downs, and horrors beyond my comprehension.) I’ve vowed to never live in California for a multitude of reasons, namely the people and the weather. And because I don’t feel good about the land mass after watching Discovery earth and taking my one and only post pre-med science class: history of natural disasters. (For an entire semester, I was required to gather twice a week and watch video, review facts, and discuss the ways in which the earth has either almost been destroyed or will be destroyed shortly. It was, for me, like being asked to take a conference call in a morgue. I dry heaved at least twice a class and introduced myself to Xanex.)
The hubs has refused to move to Texas for similar reasons. Only different. To me, California represents a country whereby people are not actually people at all, but golden coastal beings who are not at all panicked that an entire year passed with less than a ten degree deviation in temperature. They choose activities like surfing and abalone diving at the risk of being eaten by sharks (because what is a missing limb when you can experience mastery of the sea, dude?) and love the earth by driving everywhere to eat imported wheat grass and sushi flown in from one of the oceans that doesn’t actually touch their shores. I know that California is vast, and I know that there are parts of California that I’m being cruel to, but I’ve been to a lot of those parts, and there is still a lot of sunshine and tank tops. And strip malls with “bistros” in them. To the hubs, Texas is a mine field of poison-tongued beasties disguised as sweet old ladies, and racists who lure you into their theater of white supremacy by pretending to be liberal and open minded. He doesn’t trust people who feel like it’s okay to be nice to someone you don’t know (what if they’re a rapist?) and he truly, truly believes that we’re all running around with weapons, a hare trigger away from accidentally killing ourselves or someone around us.
I feel the same way about Californians. They’re just trying to get me to step into the sunshine to be warm and caressed by vitamin D in hopes that I’ll forget all about my phobia of looking like a purse when I am older. I will not wear sparkly sandals that go betwixt my toes! I will not wear white capri pants! And I will not adorn myself with a chunky turquoise necklace! Now get your children with gender-confused names and your husband in a penis-compensating H3 away from me so that I can buy a hat and some SPF 75 and enjoy my winter years!
At any rate, the hubs takes particular offense at the cunningly-Texas “Bless Your Heart.” While on the surface it seems genuine and sincere, a statement of mild pity, but also understanding that the world has not done right by you, beneath that shell is a silent bullet. Loosely translated, “Bless You Heart” means something closer to “Oh! You mentally deficient and intellectually grating fuckerface. I’m so sorry that your life is so overwhelming to you, but not nearly as sorry as I am that you decided to share your woes with me. You obviously lack the mental fortitude to do anything for yourself and feel it necessary to blame the universe rather than take a moment to reflect on your pattern of stupidity and incompetence.” Again, loose translation. But close.
For all the defending that I do of my home state– there are democrats there! Austin is nothing like the rest of Texas! There are lakes and trees and jobs!– it only takes one “Bless Your Heart” and the hubs is ready head back East. And I don’t blame him.
For me, dissecting the truth behind this commonplace phrase led me to understand how much of the culture of my childhood was rooted in commentary about others. Gossip and coffee talk are the fiber of many relationships. If you’re not sitting around talking about the emotional implications of Libya’s liberation on the children, or discussing the deeply philosophical questions that challenge your marriage, the next best thing is how fat your neighbor got. One of the most interesting commentaries about my time spent abroad centers around the lack of vicious gossip. People talk, and certainly old ladies do as old ladies will, but the desire to make oneself feel better by highlighting the physical or mental deficiencies of others is not acceptable.
Unfortunately, making fun of people can be really, really funny.
With this in mind, I began to take stock of my own behavior towards others. Invent my own form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Rather than see something and immediately take it to my usual place, I tried (when possible) to take a step back and try to understand people’s appearances and behaviors. If you’d ever like to challenge yourself to test the limits of your humanity, I suggest you try this very thing.
This summer has been the Summer of the Hungry Butt. It seems like everywhere I look, someones shorts are being eaten by their crack. In it’s hasty starvation, the crack has paid no mind to the exposing of cheek, cellulite, or crack sweat. I walk the streets, bombarded by Hungry Butts, trying my best to stop, think, rationalize and accept. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt: she doesn’t realize how hungry her crack is, he doesn’t know that his shirt makes him look like a member of Menudo, that woman loves pirates and I’m glad she’s found a way to express herself, that man keeps his pants that length so that he doesn’t have trouble accessing his shoelaces… and on and on and on.
My pasttime of staring at half naked twenty year olds in whorish makeup and stripper shoes and commenting to Hailey about their futures as “Directors of First Impressions” at hair salons, has been replaced by a creepy 27 year old staring lovingly at these young women remembering how fun it is to be young and slutty and not know that you’re probably going to get taken advantage of in a bathroom.
As you can see, I’m working really hard. I’m trying to change myself. I’m trying to love the people of the world and give people the latitude to express themselves. But here’s the thing: everything comes full circle. I’ve found myself resorting to a very simple phrase to keep myself from making content out of other people’s misfortunes, “good for _____.” (Insert you, them, her, him, etc.) When loosely translated, means “I’m so glad that you were able to put that on and feel good about yourself knowing that every person you run into thinks you have a serious mental illness and is afraid to be alone with you. The fact that you squeezed yourself into those pants and allowed your ample body to pour from the waistband like a mighty rushing river is something that few women could do with such confidence, never mind being able to get a deep breath when your lungs are constricted like that. You have confidence, a style of your own, and an exuberance that many people can only hope for.”
And when you think about it, it’s just a Easterly way of saying what Texans have been saying this whole time.
Bless Your Heart.