Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bumpkinville!

Okay, so that was kind of a dramatic headline. But I want to talk about small town living.

After seven (rough estimate), months of being bedridden, I have finally reached the physical health and stamina that allows me to engage in the world outside my bedroom (sigh of relief, and at last!). Having relocated to my parents, I find myself in Georgetown, a bumpkinesque small town located north of Austin. If you want to understand just how small this town is (and also if you've know Denver well enough to know the reference, sorry for being exclusive), just think of Auraria campus. The Georgetown population is roughly the same (last I checked), in population as the Auraria campus. Boom. Big for a campus, small for a town. So small.

What makes Georgetown especially unique is that half of it is, what I would call, a very picturesque retirement community. That's right... old people. Everywhere. And not that this is a bad thing, but just based on what I see when I go out into the downtown "square," it is probably 3/4, 65+. Upon first returning to Georgetown, I was relieved by this. I didn't go out often, usually just to the doctor's, but being surrounded by old people ( is this politically incorrect to say now?), kind of comforted me. I was relieved by the lack of pressure we so often allow ourselves to feel when immersed in our peer-group (don't act like I'm the only one who feels this way, and also, sorry for all the parens today).

So that being said, I spent several months blissfully living surrounded by everyone else's grandparents. As a teetering, feeble 25 year-old, I sort of fit right in. But then the unexpected happened, and I started to recover... and then I didn't fit in. What you must understand, is that if this small town population is mostly elderly people (there is the term I was looking for!), then the percentage of the population that is my age group is very, very small indeed. This has not stopped me, however, from venturing out into Georgetown, and trying to make friends. Here is what I have discovered:

Living in a small town, nay, living in Georgetown, is kind of like going to that family reunion you have never gone to before.

See, and this is why I, personally, have never gone to one. Let me further expand: I have a rather large extended family, most of whom lived near to each other, while my family lived on the opposite side of the country. Driving out to make visits once every year or two proved awkward; everyone knew each other and had inside jokes, and nothing made any sense. Aside from these somewhat sporadic visits to various family members, there wasn't a lot of contact with the extended family. In fact, we didn't even go to family reunions when I was growing up, and many of the members who did, I had never even met. In early adulthood my mom started taking various siblings of mine to the family reunions, and I always opted out. Awkward (yes, I'm a coward, but I'm certain some of you understand exactly how this feels when you are younger, and the awkwardness established during childhood doesn't exactly wear off when you become an adult. They still have their jokes, and stories, and memories to share, and you have some foreign looking pot-luck dish you can't identify).

If this example doesn't hit home, I'll give you another (back up!). Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY has had this experience when dating at least one person: Think of when you first started dating. Remember when you FIRST met all his/her friends, and how they sat around making a thousand inside jokes and then explaining them to you through chokes of laughter and expecting you to find it equally hilarious. Awkward. You had to sit through them laughing for extended minutes (10-15 at a time), and smile, to show you were engaging everyone, sometimes laugh, but mostly not laugh because everyone knew you didn't know what they were laughing about. It's kind of painful, right?

The point is, this is Georgetown. Unlike the family reunion, everybody has dated everybody else. And like the family reunion, I am the odd one out. Like your BF/GF's friend circle, everyone knows everything about everyone else (because they went to kindergarten together, or babysat each other, or went to school with your parents...etc.). And you enter the scene realizing that there is not a single person who doesn't know everyone else. There is noone you can talk to who doesn't know anyone you would talk about. No bar you can diss, no person you can tease (make fun of  #cough). This is why the south is so polite in speech. Everywhere either is, or started out as a small town, where everyone knew everyone and had to speak ever so kindly or they would be the subject of much gossip (even over nothing).

So what I am discovering is that crass northerners (says the girl born in Mississippi), have no place in southern, small towns, and the only conclusion I can reach is that I have to at least move to the nearest city. Before everyone here knows me, and before I make a silly gossip of myself-- or even worse, make myself the subject of other people's gossip!

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