Are you kidding me?
Prior to moving to rural Kentucky I am pretty sure I never uttered the phrase, “are you kidding me?” Since moving here, however, it seems to be a daily part of my vocabulary. For example, earlier in the week the weather forecast on my phone had a symbol I did not recognize. It was a fuzzy gray symbol that kind of looked like fog, but I later found out was the iphone weather symbol for wind. The picture should have been of a cyclone. We went to bed to the sound of howling gusts, and when I went to get in my car at 6:40 the next morning I was nearly blown off the porch. As I floated through the air, Toto style, the phrase “are you kidding me?” shot from my lips. Which, by the way, is a huge improvement over the f-bomb, my former go-to indicator of incredulity and disbelief.
Today at work the ladies tried to describe to me something called pickle-dog. Obviously I thought they were making it up, like they had all gotten together before lunch and said, “Okay ladies here’s the game plan, we got a great reaction with slaw-burger, so let’s see how far we can take this. I think we can pull off pickle-dog!” What other reaction could I have to the description of a three foot rope of processed meet submerged in the same kind of jar that holds pickled eggs and pickled pig’s feet–“are you kidding me?” Turns out my friends were earnest describers of a real Kentucky phenomenon. In fact when I googled pickle dog (ever the fact checker) I found the blog of a woman who lives in Chicago and is a total locavore and slow food enthusiast who says she grew up in KY and loves, loves, loves pickle-dog. I pulled this pic from her blog.
As you can see, it’s a brave new world.
While most of my “are you kidding me?” moments (soon to be trademarked like Oprah’s “ah-ha”s) are comical or end in me covered in weather or poo, today I had a not so fun “are you kidding me?” One of the things I have had trouble adjusting to about small-town, rural life is sometimes I find myself in these time warp situations where I am having a conversation with someone that the rest of the world had thirty years ago. For example, I was working with my yearbook students and we were talking about the upcoming prom and who was going and who wasn’t. We got on to the topic of parents making their kids go to prom because it is one of those rite of passage moments that some parents believe (including my own) that you should take part in even if you are not really that interested in it. That’s cool. I’m down with that. But then we got on to the topic of parents not letting their kids go to prom. One of my students said her parents would not let her go because she (a white student) wanted to go with an African American student. Hmm I thought. Well, maybe I don’t have the whole story. Maybe there is more to that situation than just race. Then another one of my students chimed in and said, “Oh yeah, my parents wouldn’t let me go with a black guy.” Then another one quoted her father as saying something like, “over my dead body.” Seriously. Are you kidding me? I know for a fact there was an episode of Family Ties that dealt with this issue in like 1985. I thought we resolved this back then. Where am I? These discussions basically broke my heart. Coming from two very diverse, multicultural, multi-racial, cities like Houston and San Antonio, this kind of talk is really hard for me to swallow. People are people. The color of your skin has about as much to do with whether or not you should be permitted to escort someone to a dance as the color of your hair does. I am not trying to get preachy and re-enact 1983 after school specials here, but seriously, when am I?
To keep from jumping off a bridge (hyperbole) I polled my lunch buddies to determine if skin color would play a role in who they would let their children date. Fortunately, they all said that they were concerned with the character and integrity of their kids suitors and not the skin color. That made me feel better, but not 100%. Trust me, I am not being naive. I know racism exists everywhere. I know we are a long way from it ceasing to be a problem. And, I now that overt statements of racism and ignorance are actually much easier to affect than are the hidden, institutional, and systemic forms of racism that continue to exist in our society. But, racism in any form is still a shock to my 21st century system.
At my old school I sponsored a club called Peace Jam which gave students the opportunity to address important issues in their local community through service projects influenced by the life and work of former Nobel Peace Prize Winners. It might be a club some of my current students would be interested in participating in. Every community has its own unique issues to confront. Every community can be more loving and more accepting. I guess the challenge is in finding the courage to have the difficult conversations about how we can all be better and love more. That’s quite a pickle (or pickle-dog if you prefer).