Thursday, July 17, 2014
Today as I was traveling back into town after a visit to the Target in the little village north of Birmingham known as Trussville (one of those tiny towns that opens a handful of strip malls and becomes a monstrosity, but still tries to coast on the notion of being "quaint"; Never mind that the chain of stores where Target is the main attraction happens to be across from a giant cemetery - nothing says quaint like honking your horn at a grieving family lowering their loved one into the ground... totally happened today), I turned off of the road that is home to the dog track - yep, that's legal here, but a lottery? No thanks, sin bucket! - and onto highway 78, when out of the corner of my eye, I see Jesus. After I double take, I realize it is just a road crew member bearing a cardboard covered cross, with the help of a dolly, down the road to yet another strip mall being re-purposed into... a church? A christian themed non-profit/clinic/totally for profit chain of business? Who knows? But that sight of that lone man in a hard hat, bearing his cross down highway 78 really left me with, not a bad taste, but a tired one.
Having been born and raised in the south, it is not odd to run into bits of religious iconography in the most random of places. It is also not unusual to come across it up north either - Christianity is big business and, sorry my self-pitying believers, is still a big wheel down at the cracker factory - but it is a more common part of the scenery down here in the south. That bible belt is not coming off for no one! By now, after going a few rounds with my problems with having faith vs selling faith, I can enjoy the sight of a giant chevron tote bag embellished with five different crosses and a monogrammed personal ID that is comprised of a first name with "Ann" attached to it, one middle name and one last, with a potential suffix or prefix. It is a comfort in it's familiarity, much like a whole host of other southern staples that don't suit my personal tastes (Sweet Tea and Pork Ribs, I'm looking at you, honey). Christianity is HUGE part of the Southern Experience, so much so that I don't blame any visitor for having their doubts about the sincerity of it. Like any major belief, religious or other, some practices are sincere, some are auto pilot, and some are all show. Much like the farmer's market down the street from my apartment; I like the idea of it and knowing that fresh fruits and vegetables are just minutes away from my doorstep every Saturday morning, but man I am tired of walking into a den of fauxhemian corporate chicks who are all cloaked in their Anthropologie best and instagramming this totally carefree experience they are having with this organic heirloom tomato, you guys!
I can't imagine what it must be like to live here as a non Christian and know that a major part of what defines your hometown does not include you at all. Even practicing Christians who don't define their Southern-ness by their faith, it can be rather confusing and irritating. But hey, let's not open up a can of specified criticisms of how southern culture handles religion, because that is not the discussion I want to have. God knows (puns, anyone?) having an open discussion of what is right and wrong about faith on the interwebs usually leads to an mass invitation for the devolution of all humanity.
So what does this mean, Corky? I can appreciate some bible thumpin' imagery, but I don't always enjoy being constantly awash in other people's view of faith. Like, I don't need a giant blocks of cheddar printed on all of my attire, dangling from my wrists and rear view mirror, and popping up as apps on my smart phone to know that I have worshiped at the alter of cheese for as long as I have been conscious of the glory of food.
That being said, I am not trying to have a piss parade on what might be a genuine comfort to a person's soul and their daily life. Some things make you feel like you are in the house that you built, and other things make you feel like you are never going to escape your grandparent's Cracker Barrel catalog home. I just am a little tired of feeling like a visitor no matter where I go.
Here is what's what in Social Anxiety Land: I am in love my apartment. Everything that makes me feel comfortable with myself is there. But I can't take it with me, and that knowledge makes me a little socially awkward wherever I go. I know this is by no means a unique experience - such feelings have attributed to many cases of agoraphobics all over the world. But you have to get out into your larger home every now and then, or you'll go *Marge Simpson Melting Sidewalk Crazy.
Mike and I recently went to Georgia for a little birthday getaway, and we are headed to Indiana in a few weeks for a B film festival. We will be 5 hours from Chicago. Perhaps we are due a break from the suburban jungle and state park circuit, and could use a minute with the concrete wasteland. It is going to drive Mike up the wall, but he is going to be pestered and poked until I weasel an agreement out of him to allow me one day in the windy city. It isn't an attempt to try and move back there - but there were elements of the city (of any big city) that I loved, and miss. Plus y'all, my friend there has a baby that I have to meet, and I have to meet him while he is still young enough to believe I am good people.
I have been back in Birmingham for 5 years now, and I don't regret it, but I also am feeling the need really give the whole "home is where my heart is the most comfortable with my thighs" search another shot - in the least Eat Pray Love Myself way possible. There has to be somewhere out there where I don't feel like I have to put up that jello shield just to get through a trip outside of my apartment.** I know there is nothing is more obnoxious than those who move through life, believing it is all there just so you can figure out how to love yourself. But I envy the people who know where it is in this world that they are 100 % themselves, whether it is in a cow pasture, a baptismal pool, a blogger convention, a couples crafting class, a cubicle, a street corner, a cat friendly coffee shop, a truck stop, a large office, a stage, a hole, a break room, a time share, a county road hauling a giant cross, a street fair, an independent candy store, a crack in their sofa cushions, in a cabin with no electricity and no plumbing and no bug spray, a pseudo poor person's home, a real poor person's home, a McMansion, lost in a museum after hours, on the roof of an obscenely tall building, an empty dressing room, a crowded audience, a blue meth lab, a radio station housed in an old lighthouse with zombie sailors surrounding it, or a Starbucks. Or, you know, somewhere else. Wherever it is that one feels like the biggest wheel at the cracker factory, that is where I want to be.
* I may appear to be burning through my Rolodex of random Simpsons references, but that is just how things roll around here. Welcome.
**I am not talking about a literal shield made of jello, just a feeling in general, but I would fully support the concept of a delicious bit of jello mold armor.