Monday, March 12, 2012

Confessions of a Transplanted Texan

I'm a Texan.

Ok, so I may not live in Texas right now. I pray I'll live there again someday, even if it's just my ashes scattered among the bluebonnets. I was born there. My formative years were there. To quote many, "You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl." It's so true. (Just ask BestestHusband. After I've had a few margaritas, my accent makes him occasionally check his GPS to make sure he's where he thinks he is. Phone chats with Mum make the accent come back, too.)

I have a confession to make. I love the new show GCB. In case y'all didn't know, the letters are short for a phrase:  Good Christian (rhymes with witches). Yes, it's a bit scandalous. I find it hysterical.

But I'm a bit conflicted by this. Here's a little back story.

After leaving the Lone Star State at the age of 17 to attend a non-Christian Boston-area liberal arts university with the motto, "Truth unto its innermost parts", I was exposed to a lot that wasn't Texan. Girls didn't wear makeup. Girls didn't get dressed up for class. Girls didn't shave their legs (or their armpits!). OH, that was just the BEGINNING! It was a culture shock.

I was educated in everything a smart, worldly, enlightened girl of the '90's should know and think. Religion was for the weak. Churches were full of hypocrites. Women who wore makeup and spent time on their appearance were enslaved by a misogynistic and archaic ideal of femininity. Biology is not our destiny! Generations of our foremothers are counting on you to reverse gender inequality! Throw away that hairspray! Get out there and build yourself some biceps bigger than the guy living across the hall!!!

Women from Texas were backwards. Enlightened New Englanders were so much more advanced in intellectual and philosophical development. Good thing I had moved to Boston! I now knew the error of my ways, and could be saved.

Nobody actually said those words to me. But the subtext was there. Professors found my commentary less interesting when it was delivered with the remaining vestiges of my Texas accent. When I wiped my speech clean, I suddenly became smarter. So I was able to rationalize rejecting many of the good and bad things I remembered from home.

Now, let me explain, there are things I don't miss from my days in Texas. I don't miss the extreme cattiness of teen-aged girls (although I suspect it's universal...) I don't miss the pressure to always look flawless, even running to pick up a gallon of milk. I don't miss being judged by what you drive, or the size of your front lawn. What you look like describes who you are and how much money you have. I don't miss that about Texas. I don't miss how scripture verses are tossed around like catch phrases. I don't miss how much church attendance could play into your social image. I don't miss all of the emphasis on appearances.

Maybe that's why I love to see it all on TV. Oh, GCB puts on a show. It's the worst of it all, in all its glory. The show does a fantastic job of putting it all on display to laugh at. I love it.

I just hope the rest of the country doesn't take it too seriously and use it as fodder for scorn of my great home state. Because what I learned about Texas being all-wrong? Well, that's not right. Social graces really DO grease the wheels of society. And you know what? People DO judge you by what you look like. Even in an "enlightened" society that's moved beyond a misogynistic and archaic ideal of femininity. So put on that lipstick gals. The "natural" look is ok. The "haggard and sleep-deprived" look is not. It won't help you break through the glass ceiling, that's for sure. And yes, you can find plenty of hypocrisy in churches. But I think I've noticed more insidious and hurtful hypocrisy outside of churches. Some of the "enlightened" people I've met in college and beyond are surprisingly bigoted towards people; not on the basis of race, but on the basis of religious beliefs and political affiliation. Is that really being open-minded and advanced? Unlike in GCB, the church-goers I know don't lob scripture verses like bombs. They use them to encourage, help, and comfort.

So the "transplanted" aspect of my identity loves to laugh at GCB. The "Texan" aspect of my identity fears that people will take it too seriously and think that all Texans are like what they see in the show.

It's entertainment folks, and in my opinion, it's pretty entertaining. 

(Disclaimer:  Not everyone I grew up with was obsessed with image. Not everyone was catty. But there were some overwhelming social trends. Just like bad driving and a cold social veneer are overwhelming trends in Boston. Yes, they're overgeneralizations. But they're still true.)


  1. UT doesn't sound all that different than your non-Christian Boston-area liberal arts university. I think maybe college is like that for a lot of people. Then we come full circle and start wearing lipstick again sometime in our thirties? But now we're doing it for the right reasons hopefully (because we're getting grey hairs and wrinkles and we can't run out looking great without a little help). I think this is a topic best discussed after a few glasses of wine. ;-)
    Also, you should probably clarify that you grew up in a small town in Texas. Although, I've observed a ton of that behaviour among a certain set here in the big city.

    1. Hey Shannon,
      By the time girls at UT hit grad school, they seemed to all be shaving and wearing makeup again. Perhaps that was just my department? I can't say the same for my graduate TAs at Brandeis. Or many of the moms who live in Boston. Shall we schedule that wine discussion about the right reasons for wearing makeup? You bring the viognier, I'll bring the eye shadow!

      And the topic of P-ville being a small town... I think when we both moved there, it was. There were still goats and chickens along the main streets. I biked through an old rice paddy to get to your house. But by the time we left home, I'd argue it was on its way to being an extension of Houston. Which is a very metropolitan and international city, especially compared to where my parents live now (which, incidentally, is much larger than P-ville was). So I'm not sure how I would classify P-ville...

  2. There are many things to which I can relate in this post. (From NC, but not a small town.)