A nine year-old child at the dinning table will burp really loud. And then giggle. Usually it’s a boy, or a man who still in nine years old. Then the child will inevitably (in my world anyway) will say that in Arab countries it is considered a compliment to the cook when one belches loudly. Actually my husband will do this from time to time. Can you see my eyes roll?
The whole point of this is what is considered polite in one area of the world can be construed as rude in others. American culture is not so big on bodily functions. Hence the proliferation of air freshening products, organic – herbal – spay – sticks in goo – fake breeze. As a transplant, polite, has been a tricky thing.
My first transplant was at 16 when my parents divorced and I moved with my mother to her home town, Fall River, MA. This was my sophomore year in high school and the town I grew up in was Ridgefield, CT. These two places are polar opposites, by New England standards. Ridgefield was smallish town, woodsy, ran the economic gambit from old money estates to working class (my side of town) with a great public library and good public schools. We didn’t lock our doors. Fall River is a mill town, immigrant population, diversity of foods and I was an outsider. Didn’t matter that both my parents were from there and on my mother’s side, many generations. Good lord I was lost, as I look back, but adapted by hiding in the music room and theatre programs. I also had one thing most of my new friends didn’t: a driver’s license and my mother’s car.
My second major transplant was to Austin, TX. Everything is different. I have bitten my tongue, tripped over my words and insulted people without meaning to. I’m direct which can be considered abrupt or rude. I have walked a fine line wanting to be true to myself and yet not alienating folks either. I learned to say y’all with more ease than I said ‘cah’ in Massachusetts. I learned to smile in a way that is both authentic yet a social tool.
Most recently I learned I don’t care anymore. “What you think of me is none of my business,” a saying I picked up along the way, also, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, don’t be mean when you say it.” This one is great in marital communications while going through rough patches. Like I wrote yesterday, it’s a long hot summer and I’m unemployed. . .so I’m home a lot. And alone a lot as my husband practices during the day and works nights. We have medical debt we pay and so the play money for movies or eating out is limited.
But here’s what I don’t get, wouldn’t it be polite to ask me to join in group activities even if I have to say, no thank you? I used to be included but seem to be invisible now that I am no longer instigating trips to the movies or such. I’m not mad just puzzled. . .when I was in treatment for cancer, there were lots of people showing up. Now that the crisis part is done I’m rather solitary. What most don’t know is it’s not just money but I can’t handle large clumps of people all talking at the same time over a live band. Actually the music part is just a part. . .I can no longer follow multiple threads of conversation. My brain changed.
I’ve waited over two years now to ‘feel like me again’. It’s not happening and I’ve been getting to know my self again. This is me for the time being and I like her. I may not be polite in Texas terms but I’m not rude and I don’t exclude those who’ve changed. And if I didn’t have my friends from grad school these past few years, and newer, yet so dear, poets and writers I’ve met since. . .I’d have been very lonely.
Thank you poets and novelists, artists and felters. Thank you Flash Mob. . .Thank you all, so much.