A Glass of Chianti

Saturday, August 20, 2005

This is probably going to be a long post

So I apologize in advance. I do have an outline in my head which will keep things on track. And, yes, it's all an art post. No Latin, no Night Court, no "I swoon for Benedict XVI" (though I *heart* them all!)... All this post will do is clear up for you is why I like being from Texas but also why I've been crying every night for the past few weeks. If you're down with that, here we go...

A short biography
I, quite by accident, was born in New Mexico. It's hard for a Texan to admit that they were actually born somewhere else, but I justify it by saying that I was born within the real Texas borders and that U.S. cartographers have just been mistaken for the last few years. Also, I was baptized in Texas and thus have claim to the Texan label that way. If anyone wants to argue with my Texan credentials, I suppose we'll have to settle the question with a family recipe cook-off. You choose: salsa or chili. After moving to Texas when I was six months old, my family moved around a lot until I was in sixth grade. My sisters and brother were all born in different Texas cities and we've lived most everywhere in the state except for Houston and the Valley. On the one hand, it's pretty cool but on the other, it's kind of hard to say where I grew up other than the rather nebulous "Texas" answer. (My brother can definitely say he grew up in Fort Worth. I think my sisters probably don't remember any other city but Fort Worth, so they would probably say the same thing.) We didn't have much extended family around, but the six of us were pretty close and there was always something to do. It was a very wholesome experience. Even now, I realize that I lead a very wholesome life in comparison to many others my age. It's not by design, it's just a habit. It's a product of all the things that make small-town and Red State America the fodder for ridicule by certain others: Right and wrong are real. Consequences are real. Your family is watching you. Your neighbors are watching you. God is watching you. Your family, neighbors and God love you. Duty. Honor... I'm not saying that everything was perfect (oh, what I would give for a decent Catholic church...) or that those things are absent outside of Red America. I also know that there is this expectation of hypocrisy in a lot of circles. There's no seedy undercurrent here. I really was a happy girl. My parents did love me. I really did grow up in a place where the local bartender's wife made us kids sandwiches to eat while our dads had an after work beer (a hazy memory of mine recently confirmed).

So, then, why am I crying?

The "s" word
I was never, ever discouraged from learning about any subject. Even though my parents are self-admitted music illiterates, they quite encouraged me to pick up the clarinet and practice as much as I could. They aren't big "science people" but they always were enthusiastic toward my studies. Even though I passed both my parents' knowledge in math fairly early in middle school, they wanted to make sure that I continued to study it, as long as it made me happy. (I did keep my autodidact Latin studies to myself because I do think that they would have started to worry about me if they realized that the big book I was carrying around in high school wasn't my biology book after all, but it was a volume of the Summa. That possibly would have sent them over the edge. ;)) My sisters didn't have the broad interests that I did but did have a more active social life - with boyfriends *sigh* and birthday parties *sigh*. Still, though, it was never a question that we could do whatever we wanted to do with our studies. In many ways, it was a very humanist place to grow up.

None of this encouragement, however, means that anyone will share your interests. There's a certain type of place where the worst thing you can call someone is "snob."

Most of the girls I went to high school with got married a year or two after graduation. The ones who didn't marry their high school sweetheart, found someone in college and married them. They started wholesome families in the wholesome city and had happy children. Is there anything wrong with this? No. Wholesome is great, but it wasn't what God had for me right off the bat, so I kept studying and trying to discern my vocation. (I probably won't reference this much more here in the blog. I doubt anyone wants to read about my spiritual struggle. It doesn't seem interesting to anyone but me.)

And so it goes. I survived the high school experience unscathed and pretty popular (but not with any really close friends) and went off to college where I thought I'd find a bunch of people passionate about art and music and eager to learn everything there was to learn. I know I harbored some hope of eventually starting a little humanist school staffed with all of the most wonderful people I'd meet at the very well-respected music school I eventually chose.

I didn't find my humanist enclave in college. The musicians at music school central didn't care about the art majors. The artists didn't care about the wind symphony. Nobody but me cared when Lech Walesa came to speak... This is why I'm crying.

There's nothing wrong with going to the opera, just don't try to take me with you
So, here I am. A Red American (young!) adult with (some, but not solely) Blue American tastes. And it's been difficult. Nobody tells me that there's anything wrong with liking Dan Flavin, but nobody wants to go with me to the retrospective. One of my blogger heroes was incredibly generous with his time and wrote me an e-mail that resonated very strongly with me. This was the point that just summed it all up (I hope he doesn't mind the quote!)
That's the trouble with the red-blue split--I have no doubt
that Red America is fundamentally right about the things that matter most, but that doesn't help when you want to see a French movie....

And that is exactly it. I wanted to call and talk with somebody and tell them that I finally saw what was causing the discontent. But then I remembered - I don't have anyone who would listen to me talk about that - which is why the sentence is so right and so painful all at the same time.

Why do I feel isolated in a place where I have so much in common with everyone? If I had felt stifled, I probably would have lashed out and run off to New York or Chicago or Kansas City or New Orleans... would that have been better? Did my parents hurt me, ultimately, by not being the overprotective, close-minded, philistine artphobes they were supposed to be?! (Only joking!)

Seriously, though, I don't know exactly what to do about any of this. Blogging will certainly pick up. I hope crying will slow down. (It doesn't do me any good, so why do I do it... other than the estrogen?). If you're interested, I suggest you keep reading. I can't promise that the blog won't be occasionally derailed by some Haugen-bashing and periodic silly jokes. I've been itching to put up one of my Catullus translations, but haven't found the right time to do so...

In any case, Virgil (for the first time in a while) is calling and I can't resist that. First, though, I have to set the mood for this section and put on some Merle Haggard. Thanks for reading! I promise to get better at writing if you keep reading. How's that for a deal?