Living in McMinnville has made me feel like I’m stuck in an alternate universe where people don’t behave the way you expect them to, especially the adults. Hippies aren’t hippies here (peace loving liberal people) they have M16s and 40 children and live on compounds so that they don’t have to be part of the rest of us. Don’t be fooled by beardiness or hippie-style clothes. Having tattoos doesn’t mean you’re a rebel soul up here. In fact, having tattoos says exactly nothing up here except that you were bored and had enough money to get another tattoo. Everyone has tattoos here! Libertarians in California are all for smaller government and their approach isn’t particularly extreme but here in Oregon the Libertarians are a scary group of paranoid people who I’m pretty sure are all in need of anti-psychotic meds but would never get them because medication is part of the government complex BRINGING US ALL DOWN and besides, seeing regular western doctors leaves a paper trail.
Finding people I understand and can really be myself around has been a huge challenge. Then there’s the townspeople in general. Shopping at Winco is like getting my weekly circus entertainment. Everywhere I go I am reminded that the greatest danger of living in a small community is to let it make you smaller in the head and heart.
I am going to list some of the things people have said and/or done to me and things I have observed that I need to place on one big pyre of outrage to be burnt and my hope is that when I’m gone the stars of these stories* will learn to stop being so small in the heart and head.
Stories and anecdotes for the burn pile:
- I was chatting with a bank teller and mentioned that I’d gone to San Diego last year for a conference. She said wistfully that she’d never traveled but would like to some day. I mentioned that my favorite recent trip had been to New York. She told me she’d be scared to go to New York. I asked her why. She said “Because of all the diversity.”
- I was working at a holiday fair a few years ago and naturally got into conversation with the people there. One lady asked me about my relationship with Jesus so I told her I wasn’t religious because I was raised by wolves. The next morning she comes up to me with a very concerned look on her face and says she’s been thinking about my comment that I was raised by wolves and hoped I didn’t mind her asking if I was Native American. Erm-uh-????** Once I disclosed that by “wolves” I really meant “hippies”*** she decided I wasn’t exempt from her proselytizing and proceeded to pound me over the head with her club full of Jesus.
- I was getting my hair cut the other day and mentioned that one of the things I’m going to miss about this area are the u-pick farms because Sonoma County doesn’t have any. She said “You’d think with all those Mexicans in the fields down there that there would be plenty of them.”
- I was told this story by a man who knows I send my child to public school “When my kids and I would drive by the public school I would tell them that that’s where all the children go whose parents don’t love them.” I wanted to punch him for that one but he could snap my neck like a twig so I stuffed my feelings as far down into my body as I could and will probably get stomach cancer because of it.
- Remember the time I had a yelling match WITH A REAL LIVE YOUNG CHAUVINIST? It was when we discovered that we were going to go bankrupt and we told our tenants that the house they were living in was going to be foreclosed on and they could stay as long as they wanted, rent free, until the bank actually took it. And remember how the tenant was someone I considered a friend and her boyfriend called me up and asked to talk to the man of the house? Cause I will never forget that horrible phone call. That young man refused to talk with me, a woman, about my own business because I’m a woman and he didn’t feel comfortable talking business with a woman. I lost my shit with him big time and my “friend” completely defended his behavior calling him “old fashioned”. We ceased to be friends that day. Maybe that’s rash of me but if being friends with someone means having to be exposed to such ass-holery then I won’t do it. She married him and lived happily ever after and I’m happy for her because she’s a good person. You know what’s stupid though? That house took two years to foreclose. Those two people could have lived in a nice house for two years without paying any rent. Too bad they were too angry with us for being financially ruined and making them move to realize we were trying to give them something to make things easier for them. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
- So recently I heard a young person mention an incident involving the night and a black person being stupid for doing something at night because his skin is so dark. Apparently only white people can get away with doing stupid stuff at night. Racism in young people is alive and well!
- Here, just like on Fox News, being a democrat is the same as being a socialist. I was called a socialist by a Libertarian welder. While he was not complimenting me, I thank him for helping me to realize that the form of democracy I believe in really IS socialism. The Nordic Model, as I’ve mentioned before. And I DO take it as a compliment.
- One time I lost “something”**** that belonged to a friend. That friend called me up and yelled at me and was pretty much freaking the fuck out as though I’d actually stolen said “thing” and sold it to the pawn shop for a dollar. I apologized harder than I’ve ever apologized before and explained that I didn’t mean to “lose” this “thing” of hers and pretty much didn’t even realize it was in my possession to lose in the first place. She was having none of it. She said “If _______ doesn’t turn up I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at your face again!” Said thing did turn up again but we happily demoted each other from “friend” to “acquaintance” status from that day forward. I admit that I’m still hurt at her reaction to something that was a genuine mistake that righted itself. It was, however, very revealing of her character.
- But that just reminds me of the other friendship I lost because I was tired of having my choice to send my child to public school be bashed. Yeah, this is a different home schooler than the one mentioned above. This one called my son cruel for making one of her girls cry and even her husband said she was way off the mark by calling him “cruel” and admitted he’d made a lot of girls cry when he was a kid and it’s called “being a boy”. That’s what he said to me though I doubt he said that to his own wife. This is the home schooling friend who said that sending kids to public school is abusing them, and she also believes being gay is a sin because of the bible. The writing was on the wall very early on but I was lonely and she liked homesteading activities like I do.
- The fallout from the above story is that another mutual friend unfriended me in solidarity. We have since remained chilly acquaintances. That wasn’t exactly surprising and honestly I was going to unfriend her if she didn’t do it first because I had had enough of seeing her and other mutual acquaintances exclude me from their circles out loud and in my face. I felt much better when it was clear that we were really definitely NOT friends. Pretending takes way too much effort.
- Then there was the quietly religious acquaintance who cheated on her husband and then, I guess because he forgave her, she became obnoxiously loudly religious peppering every conversation with “hallelujah”s and “Thank you Jesus”s and Jesus this and Jesus that and the lord does this and that and the other thing until you’re so fucking blue in the face you know you’re going to die and Jesus isn’t going to save you because he’s too busy trying to get people to stop thanking him every two fucking seconds for shit he didn’t do. Amen.
- Max had a friend for a little while whose mom was really his young grandma who had all her teeth removed and fake ones put in because I suppose it was easier than getting the rot fixed. She is one of those leathery women who have lived and partied hard and looks it. So one day she tells me her daughter (a drug addict who keeps sending her children to their grandma to raise) is in surgery and I told her I hoped the surgery would go well. She says “Well, I trust in the lord because he’s the real surgeon.” ????
- So the owner of Third Street books doesn’t like me and said shit to a mutual friend about me. Shit that makes no sense. I’ve never done anything but support her bookstore and what she said makes it sound like I’m a very untrustworthy person. What the hell did I ever do to her? I knew she didn’t like me but until I heard that I didn’t realize she actually saw me as a bad person. I have tried hard not to buy anything from her store since but there have been a couple of gift emergencies.
- At the downtown grocery store (often referred to as the “health food store” for lack of a more appropriate title) I met a person who didn’t know what eggplants are. I also met a person who didn’t recognize basil when she saw it. The eggplants I can maybe understand if I really really tried to imagine a world where people never learn what an eggplant looks like but to not recognize basil is unimaginable. It is one of the most ubiquitous herbs in use in the United States.
- Got stuck in a scary rickety van once for over a half and hour listening to two very conservative republicans tell me all about how much they LOVE Rush Limbaugh and even wrote a limerick to him about how he needs to stop dating that liberal chick he was dating and apparently they managed to get Rush to read it on his show. I’ve never been tempted to jump out of a moving vehicle in my life until that moment. Instead I interrupted them to announce that I’m a liberal democrat because it seems they mistook me for one of their own. The older one broke out in laughter and said “Oh yeah, we’ve got a couple of liberals in our family.” Like we’re lepers or clowns or something.
- It still amazes me that my own kid got bullied in grade school by Christian kids because he doesn’t believe in God. Know how to convert an atheist to the ways of God? I don’t know but I know you can’t do it by BULLYING. And haven’t you heard of that guy named Jesus who was totally against violence and mean behaviors?
- I was hanging out in the lobby of the Kung Fu school I went to for two years and had to listen to a conversation between my Kung Fu teacher and the mom of some kid attending the school. She was talking about all those people out there with “depression” who are popping pills because they’re too lazy to get off their asses and get a little exercise and eat better food. My kung fu teacher could not have agreed with her more and they went on to say how people don’t really have “depression” and dissed everyone taking pills. He knows I am a mentally ill person who takes medication. How are people here so thoughtless of those around them and so fucking self righteous and ignorant? I eventually quit the school because I was tired of paying more money than I could afford to be continually insulted and bludgeoned over the head about my choice to send my kid to public school, the fact that I take medications so I WON’T KILL MYSELF, and hearing Obama and all of government accused of unremitting EVIL. It was so unhealthy for me to be exposed to so much hate and bashing and I took Max out of the school too because he was having huge anxiety issues every day that he had to go to Kung Fu class. The severity of those problems cleared up almost immediately when he stopped going.
- One time I was riding my bicycle and some teens shouted “Sexy” derisively from their car. I know I’m fat and pretty ugly these days but that was just mean.
- I’d like to say the yelling has been from teens only and only once but the truth is that I have been yelled at from passing cars in this town whether I’m walking, riding my bicycle, or riding my scooter more times than I can count on my two hands and it has been from adults more than from teens. WTFF?! I guess you can’t teach your teens manners if you don’t have any yourself. I haven’t been yelled at from passing cars since I was a death rocker teen.
What I want to know is how I can meet so many people in one small town who have so little respect for the feelings and beliefs of other people around them? I disagree with so many people’s beliefs that I’ve met here but I have endeavored not to shit on their choices, to listen to what they have to say and consider it. Even if you know you’re not going to change your mind – don’t other people deserve a little space to make their own choices about things and to disagree with you? Yes, it can be hard to do, but never more so when that respect and space is not mutual. Not everyone in McMinnville is this way, not everyone here has guns or is conservative or religious. Not everyone here is mean or ignorant or racist. But unfortunately I was not welcomed into the inner circles of the more liberal crowd. I just didn’t fit in with anyone but the recluses and the outsiders and most of them moved away because THEY HATED IT HERE.
The few who have let me into their lives and LIKED me and wish I wasn’t moving are the only reason I stayed as long as I did and hoped endlessly to see the lighter side of McMinnvillains. And to those few good friends I am deeply thankful because they made it possible for me to deal with all the above stories without going postal. Those good friends here gave me a safe haven where I could be myself and not be bashed for it.
Now I have collected all the stories in one place that have been burning holes in my heart and head – let them burn to the ground and become something better. I don’t know if I brought anything good to this town but I know that living here in an environment that is so hostile to my beliefs has made me a better person in ways I didn’t know I needed to improve. I was shown my own darker side and have been forced to address it.
How weak my religious tolerance was before I moved here! It’s so easy to be open minded when your mind isn’t challenged to remain open by people who believe differently than you and are loud about it. Now every time I am chafed by some religious person’s fervor and want to scream I remind myself how many religious people there are out there who are open minded enough to not care that I’m an atheist.
For every home schooling parent out there who thinks sending my child to public school is proof that I don’t love him enough there’s a home schooling parent who respects that our kids are all different and no educational choice is right for everyone.
I used to say I wasn’t much of a feminist. I mean, I have never seen the world from the man-versus-woman perspective. We’re in it together and I have been lucky enough to know mostly awesome men who see the women in their lives as equals and, where appropriate, partners. Before I moved here I thought most chauvinism was only in the 50 year old and older crowd. Encountering my first ever young chauvinist and being in a situation where I was refused as an equal I discovered, to my surprise, that I’m a raging feminist. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually had a screaming match with another adult. I don’t scream at adults when I’m angry. Unless they are refusing to discuss my own business with me because I’m a woman, apparently that wakes the beast. I’m not proud that I screamed at this man but it did show me that I am as much of a feminist as I need to be depending on how I’m being treated. And now that a whole set of politicians and their fans are attacking women’s rights all over again – I’ve never been more ready to fight this stupid shit.
Time to light a match to this pyre full of ugly. Excuse me while I go look for some matches.
*If you recognize yourself in any of these stories and become flaming mad – I can’t help that. I can’t undo your behaviors or change our interactions. I can only go forward and to do that I have to let go and to let go I have to express my own anger and hurt. If you need to “unfriend” me on facebook (if you haven’t already) I won’t mind at all. That’s your dealio. If you decide to retaliate by saying more mean and disrespectful shit about me to other people you will only be dirtying yourself. Whatever you do, don’t bother talking to me personally about any of this because the time for that is past. If I was mutually hurtful in our exchanges (as I definitely was in two instances for which I was genuinely ashamed of myself) I have already apologized to you for my unnecessary meanness. Ask yourself this: have you apologized to me? (Here’s a hint: the answer is NO.) The end.
**Seriously? I couldn’t look more white even if I wanted to. Someone maybe needs stronger glasses?
***The real kind, not the fake Oregon kind.
****The details are being smudged in hopes that I don’t start a war with this story. But it really hurt me and bothered me so much I had to put it on the fire with the rest of these stories.