Thursday, June 18, 2009

"They don't know that we know they know we know"

Whenever someone hears I'm from the other side of the country, they always ask me, "Do you like it here?" So for all those folks, here's what I wish I could say (but of course do not):

My day-to-day life is great! I love living with my wonderful husband, and while I completely, wholeheartedly, miss my family every day that I'm here, still I have no regrets. Making a life with my husband is pure joy. "Abso-bloomin'-lutely" loverly.

But there's a catch, of course. Summed up into two little words that I had no idea would impact me to the extent to which they have: culture shock. Who knew?

I was naive, I know. I basically grew up on The Wonder Years' street. I very much lived in a bubble my entire life. So ya gotta cut me a bit of slack--I had absolutely no preparation for another culture.

That being said, even though I knew I was sheltered, I thought I was open-minded enough, or easy-going enough, or something-enough, that whatever I encountered 3,000 miles away from home wouldn't phase me.

Chalk one up for naivety.

Still, I'm amazed by what did end up phasing me.

Food, first and foremost. I've always been such a picky eater that it was beyond naive and into just plain dumb for me to not realize I'd have food issues on the other side of the country. But I assumed, "Hey, it's still the United States. It's not like I'm moving to China or India or somewhere where they really have different food. I know they won't have my favorite Mexicali Express restaurant, but it can't be that different." Famous last words.

"What a fool I was, what an addlepated fool, what a mutton-headed dolt was I!"

(In the spirit of "abso-bloomin'-lutely" I figured I'd continue the My Fair Lady lines).

Anyway, yes I was a fool to think I wouldn't be handed a whole new slew of food issues by moving across the country. What I didn't realize was the extent to which Hungarian, Polish, et cetera, ad infinitum, has influenced Ohio food.

Anecdote: We went to the fair and I was expecting what I normally get at the fair: yakisoba noodles, teriyaki chicken on a stick, you know. Instead, there was sausage, sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage and pierogies. Not a yakisoba noodle in sight! "What treason is this?" (Agamemnon, Troy)

Turns out I do like pierogies though. But they're a far cry from my beloved yakisoba. Or yoki-sloppy as I used to say when I was little.

At any rate, this is rambling on and I've lost my point. My point was supposed to be about what I'd like to say to people who ask me if I like living in Ohio. And while I think I've been abundantly clear about loving my life, the biggest, most horrendous shock of all has been moving to a small town.

Small town mentality. It exists.

I have thoroughly and unabashedly explained that I am not worldly. I do not claim to be. I've said it before! And yet, freakishly, in Ohio somehow I am worldly. Compared to the folk here, I'm well-traveled. This is me being dead serious here, and I know, I know, I know. Even I think that statement was a joke. I am so sheltered; it must have been. But . . . it wasn't.

Ugh. The gossiping. The meddling. The concern over what people are wearing. I'm shocked and appalled. Horrified.

My mama raised me right: unless you're saying, "You look nice," (or some minor variation) then SHUT THE HELL UP. Don't comment on someone's appearance (negatively)! (For my sake, when you read the last sentence, say "Don't" and "appearance" in your head in an indignant, squeaky-high tone of voice. And really enunciate the T of don't).

I just realized that I made it sound that everyone is always making negative comments about my appearance, and that's not true at all. We're not talking about blatant meanness here; it's passive aggressive.

Case in point: We had a casual Friday at work--everyone wore jeans and a matching company T-shirt. With our logo. Obviously, we had coordinated as an office, with the knowledge and blessing of relevant superiors. But, strangely enough, it wasn't obvious to the small-town folk that make up our patient base. I have to repeat that for emphasis: it wasn't obvious to the small-town folk that make up our patient base.

We had to scramble last minute to make signs that explained why we were all wearing casual attire. It was simple enough to make signs because there actually was a reason, which was not "Leave Me Alone; I'll wear whatever I want, Jerkwad." No, unfortunately, it was National Cancer Survivors Day. Technically the holiday wasn't until that Sunday, so we wore our jeans and T-shirts Friday. We couldn't wear our jeans and T-shirts on the actual holiday, because the holiday fell on a non-working day. The holiday was over the weekend, so we wore jeans and T-shirts on the closest, most applicable day that we could. Although Monday was closer to the actual holiday, we chose to wear jeans and T-shirts on that Friday because everyone has heard of casual Friday, right? It definitely seemed more appropriate to wear jeans and matching T-shirts on Friday, not Monday.

In case it wasn't acutely obvious, I was intentionally giving an exorbitant, nauseating amount of detail because I wanted you to be thinking, "Who the hell cares?" As I was making the signs, I couldn't get over how stunned I was. What do you mean, patients are commenting about our attire? What do you mean, they need an explanation? The only time they are owed an explanation is when it's National Boob Day and we're all topless. I just shook my head in disbelief as I grudgingly made the signs as requested. The patients honestly had nothing better to do then to go to their doctor and complain about casual Friday. I'd say I was speechless, but as evidenced by this post, I am not. I am dumbfounded.

Second case in point: The Day I Wore A Skirt To Work. "Wow, you look so nice. Are you having your picture taken?" "What a cute skirt! You must be going somewhere fun later." Why can't they just stop after the first sentence? And they may not "mean it" meanly, but . . . I am completely offended and, well, dumbfounded. I would never make a comment like that to anyone. It's so bizarre to me. Because this is what I hear when someone makes that comment: "Wow, you look so nice. Are you having your picture taken? You usually look really crappy." And, "What a cute skirt! You must be going somewhere fun later. You must be going somewhere fun later, because otherwise you'd never bother. I know because you always look like crap. Well done on the effort that you never put in otherwise."

Am I melodramatic? I really don't think so. If I was in Oregon, then yes. But in Ohio, that passive-aggressive attitude really seems to be the underlying theme. Luckily, it's not everyone. I'm just focusing on the bad for the moment because . . . well, it's kind of the point of this post.


The gossiping is bad too; maybe even the worst part. I miss the days when I didn't care. It's like mob-mentality; really easy to get caught up in it. I have to forcibly stop my brain and mouth from jumping on the gossip train, and when I do start gossiping without realizing it, I'm disgusted with myself for being weak. Here gossiping is not just a form of entertainment, but for most it appears to be the only form of entertainment. It's an art? Apparently they think so; I just think it's plain mean. But that's the problem with living in the sticks; there really isn't anything else to do. Not gossiping with people is like going to a party and refusing a drink--if you don't partake, you're a snob. I mean, everyone always says, "Good for you! 'Just say No!' Well done, be strong!" But you know what they're really thinking: "What, is my booze not good enough for you? It's just one drink--get over it. How rude."

The meddling. That's not really accurate, but my brain is mulling over what it is I'm trying to say. Dictionary to the rescue: "meddle means to intrude or interfere in other people's affairs or business." Good, so it does mean what I mean it to mean, you know what I mean? Ha. For serious though, I didn't know it meant intrude or interfere, I just thought it meant interfere. But intrude is what I was grasping for: that is to say, "intruding in other people's affairs or business" --most notedly, other people's business. Everyone knows everything about everyone, and it drives me BATTY.

Meddling and gossiping really go hand-in-hand, but they're not quite the same. You can meddle without gossiping, you can gossip without meddling. Gossiping is about other people, meddling is about me.

Gossping: Talkin' smack; something mean about someone you wouldn't say to their face. Mean, mean, mean.

Meddling: "They don't know that we know they know we know." You know? Perhaps talking about someone, but necessarily negatively. Just spreadin' the news, but the meanness is the intrusion, not the content of what is being said.

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