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Prompt 114: Changing Style
114. The 1990s saw the spread of the grunge style. How would your family react if you came in sporting unwashed hair with a thrift shop flannel shirt? What might they want you to wear instead and why?
I put off addressing this prompt because I was considering it way too literally. There was actually a period of time in my life where this was the appearance I aspired to project. Yes, it was the early '90s. I was definitely in the indie-grunge camp when it came to the scene, at least as far as appearances were concerned. In the ensuing 30 years, I've almost grown out of it.
The big picture here is that the prompt is asking me to consider life and how it might change were I to suddenly adopt a completely different style of dress, speech, attitude, and so on. What in life would be different were I to change culture and tribe? How would this affect me, socially?
Based upon my appearance alone, I assume I could fit in well with "traditional Southerners" or even white supremacists. As time has gone on, I've acquired a kind of southern twang or affect to my voice, and I assume I'd do well - at least as far as appearances are concerned - among those southern Redeemer and white supremacists types. The moment I call out one of those degenerates however, I'd be out on my ass. I spent two years in Nashville and really couldn't stomach it.
It wasn't overt in the way it is in places where there's a clash of races. Instead, it's baked-in to the culture. In the South (as in, the south-eastern United States), it's been my experience that all people "know their place," and while white folks take it for granted, black folks seem to just sigh and go along to get along, resigned to their fate. To me, that seems the Great Southern Monolith, and one guy isn't gonna change it. That's not right, and I didn't want to live there even another year.
Meanwhile, what if I embraced hip hop culture and went to visit my family in Pennsylvania? What if I told them my girlfriend was black, or even if I mentioned I went on a date with a former client from the day job who happened to be a woman of colour? I have a dear - and conservative - aunt residing in mid-Ohio, and even with the esteem she and I hold for one another it's doubtful we'd be welcome for a day's visit (staying in a nearby hotel or something).
Actually, that's a bit harsh. Whether it's my aunt or my brother's family, a first visit would be permissible. Further visits, regular visits, though? It's highly doubtful. I'd be welcome on my own, but as a couple it wouldn't be doable. Sure, we'd set plans for a night's stay, or a three-day weekend, but then I'd receive a call a day before the trip: someone's sick, or a sudden occurrence at the church, and: "can't we reschedule?"
My mother seems a bit more sensible, and besides she, "just wants to see me happy." Generally speaking I wouldn't exploit this because I'd rather not have her drawn into a disagreement between me versus my brother and his wife. My sister's opinion would likely be similar however her opinion is immaterial and I don't plan on visiting her any time soon, anyway.
I still remember being in early high school, and my mother prying a bit when I mentioned a girl I had been chatting with. She and I were on the track team together, and somehow when discussing sports and events her name came up and I might have mentioned that she was "cool" or whatever.
"Oh really...?" intoned my mother, in her knowing, motherly way.
"Yeah, but you wouldn't like her anyway," I replied. "She's black."
"Oh," was my mother's reply.
Admittedly, while my father was alive my mother and I had a strained relationship that really hadn't mended until my mid-20s. By then, my father was dead and my wife had left, and my mother and I finally were able to relate to one another on more levels than that of the parent-child relationship. Until then however, she and I butted heads often, and my dad didn't need much of an excuse to barrel down on me to stick up for her. It seemed to me as I grew older that he looked for opportunities. Either he was unhappy with his lot, or he wasn't very fond of me. Either way, it seemed that he and I shared negative vibes often, even until the day he died.
Were he still alive, there would be absolutely -no- dating outside the white race if I still expected to be involved in family events and affairs. Growing up, either I didn't have the courage to confront my parents on the issue, or they didn't have the courage to confront their Pennsylvania hill country relatives. It was all implicit and was simply a subject never breached. That's just the way things were.