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Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm a Brat, Part One

This post is part of a Q&A series. Check it out here.

There seems to be much confusion about where I grew up. That's totally understandable, seeing as how even I'm confused... and I lived through it. I should begin by explaining that my daddy the Colonel was a Marine Aviator. I am what many people term a Military Brat - home was where the Marine Corps sent us. We almost always lived off base, however, instead of within the insular military community, so I did absorb a lot of different regional customs and phrases... like y'all.

The Colonel AKA the Tongginator's Grandfather, 1977

Gail asked, "Where did you grow up? I'm thinking somewhere in the South because of the y'all." Yes. And no. I did live in the the south for a number of years (10 total), specifically my birthplace in the panhandle of Florida (as opposed to the rest of Florida, which is really just Fake Southern), Central Virginia and both Carolinas.

By the way, I'm not including the four years I lived in Northern Virginia because, really, it can't be Southern if it's got Northern in the name... except for North Carolina, of course, since the word North is Totally Different from the word Northern. I'm sure you agree.

My momma's people are also primarily from Tennessee, plus she grew up in Virginia, so her roots are southern even if her accent is not. And I attended college in the south, at two different universities not known for Yankees. I suspect that is where I developed my y'all habit. Embarrassingly enough, I say y'all with a Mid-Atlantic accent. So really I'm kind of a Southern-Wannabe. Or a Yankee Impostor. Take your pick. I would, however, like y'all to remember yesterday's post where a certain fifth grade teacher referenced For All Eternity my authentic southern drawl... in 1985.

staying cool in the South Carolina August heat, 1977

Now here's where it gets confusing. Becky asked, "I'd like to know if you grew up back East or if you moved there." Yes. To both. I spent most of my childhood on the East Coast, but I have also lived out west, in Arizona, plus I spent two summers during high school living with my Aunt P in San Francisco. I also lived in Hawaii during my early teen years. Still, my primary experience with the West Coast is with the husband and his family, since he grew up in Central and Eastern Washington State. (And I totally have to say Washington State, which sounds ridiculous because - really? - how many people do you know walk around saying Alaska State? Or Maine State? Except that we now live near Washington, D.C., so Washington State it is.)

Tonggu Daddy at Priest Lake in Northern Idaho, 1976

Becky also added, "How do you think it differs from the Western U.S.?" The husband and I discuss this all the time. All. The. Time. (Seriously.) And I'll totally tell the truth, but don't hate me for my answers. (Please.) Because I totally adore both coasts and all of the people living there. Plus, I know that I'm spouting off generalizations and stereotypes. For example, I realize that not everyone on the West Coast wears plaid and that not everyone on the East Coast drinks micro-brews. But just go with it and know that I'm striving to poke equal fun at both sides of our great nation.

First off, West Coasters, overall, seem to be much more fun to hang out with. They have a more relaxed, friendly attitude and even dress with a more casual style in comparison with East Coasters. This, of course, also makes them lazy a ton less goal-oriented and possibly more prone to tardiness and forgotten appointments. I know some West Coasters don't believe this about themselves, but they probably do believe it about most of their co-workers. East Coasters, on the other hand, typically seem more stressed, obsessing about work (the Northeast) or what others think about them (the Southeast). Also, East Coasters generally dress more conservatively, but at least they manage to be on time and look uptight professional while doing it. Still, the stress they carry around makes them less prone to think of others as compared with their counterparts on the West Coast. I think Maureen Orth summed it up nicely in a 1977 edition of Newsweek: "If Woody Allen is the archetypal East Coast neurotic, Steve Martin is the ultimate West Coast wacko."

Secondly, Easterners tend to ignore all news west of Chicago, unless it happens to be of Major Importance or it comes out of Hollywood; this fact absolutely and completely shocks Westerners, who can't understand why Easterners are unfamiliar with news from the Portland Observer or the San Francisco Chronicle, even though they themselves don't know much beyond their local hometown happenings. This sort of makes East Coasters seem like Snobs and West Coasters seem Small Town. I'm just saying...

Also, unless one lives in Los Angeles, west-coasters have absolutely no concept of the term "bumper-to-bumper traffic." Enough said.

Finally, and probably most importantly, East Coasters tend to say everything they think and West Coasters say very little of what they think. I don't know how to explain this without including a few @!!#@! words, so please forgive me... but basically, people from the East Coast say "@!!#@! you" and mean "Hi, how are you?" while people from the West Coast say "Hi, how are you?" and mean "@!!#@! you." Now, if you are Southern as well, you need only add a "bless your heart" in front of the "@!!#@! you" to be completely authentic.

Bless your heart. So how are you?

As you can see, I remain confused about my region of residence. So what have I gotten wrong? Or missed? Come out of lurkdom to defend your coast! I can take it.

I think.


Steffie B. said...

I'm totally confused but perhaps that is due to the lack of my coffee intake before I attempted to read this post....lol.....you crack me up girl....seriously!!!

Aunt LoLo said...

Hey, you pegged us Westerners COMPLETELY! I like to call myself "always late, but worth the wait." :-)

Andrea said...

Since I grew up in the area that I currently live in, I can't say anything about either coast. My hubby's day retired from the Air Force, so he can relate to all of the moving. My parents are from the south, so I sometimes have an accent and say y'all or y'ouns.

Mom to 5...Daughter of the King said...

Huh? (just kidding!)

Michelle said...

I'm from the midwest, so I'm remaining neutral. Although I did live in Dallas one summer and find that y'all is hard to drop from ones vocabulary. :)

Cheri said...

Wow, I think you've pegged each coast and the northeast spot on! LOL I can say that because I've lived up and down the east coast and have MANY friends who would agree with the west coast comment. You crack me up!

OH MY #6 said...


I gotta say, that picture of in the sprinkler brings back memories for me. The colour of the car in the back ground. And, you where pretty cute.


McEwens said...

Seriously that is SO true!!! Specially saying what is on your mind! I love in the west, however, most of my friends, like me, grew up in the east! Interesting huh!

Patricia/NYC said...

LOL!!! As a born & raised NYC girl, I have to say you NAILED the East Coast!!!

Still laughing here...

gritandglory.com said...

i was born and raised on long island, but because of our ministry, i spend time in so many different states. you nailed this one on the head!

The Source said...

Never been out west, but I'd have to say you hit the nail on the head with the east coast and southern folks. But I think we tend to loosen up as you get farther south.

Good answers!

Valarie Lea said...

I am right smack dab in the middle of the south. The "Bless your heart" can have two meanings.

Bless your heart - Oh I am so sorry, really truly I mean this, I am so sorry you are in this situation, feel that way, I can't believe that happened to you kind of thing...


Bless her, his, or their heart - Can you believe they did that, wore that, said that, kind of thing

Example - Bless her heart she didn't know any better than to wear those shoes with that outfit. Or Bless His heart he couldn't find his way out of a brown paper bag if he had to.

Becky said...

Great post - funny, informative, and truthful!! :)

Yep, we Westerners are laid back to a fault. And now Adam and I say Washington state because we lived near D.C. for a while.

Gail said...

Great post, you had me laughing.
I'm a native Midwesterner(claim Chicago as my home town), but have lived all over the country. The south(North Carolina),New Jersey for short time, several midwestern states, and California for 7 years. California thinks the universe revolves around it and there is no place else. They are laid back, friendly and casual. Northern California has a fair amount of intellectual snobs and southern...everyone wants to be a movie star.

So really being from the mid section I'll stay neutral.

Briana's Mom said...

My head hurts a little now... ;) This was one FUNNY post!

I was born in Miami, FL and moved to Acworth, GA when I was 13. Talk about culture shock! I went from saying "Hola" (because so many of my friends were Hispanic in Miami) to saying "Hi Y'all". No joke! My friends and relatives from FL laugh at my southern accent now. I did pick it up a little - couldn't help it!

Heather of the EO said...

Okay...what if I'm smack dab in the middle? Am I PERFECT? That's what I thought. Thank you.

Quirky Mom said...

I have no coast to defend because I belong to both of them. I've lived in the West since 2002, but spent all my years before then in the East (with the exception of a few years sort of middleish). So I giggled knowingly through most of your post. I do have to beg to differ on one point:

Also, unless one lives in Los Angeles, west-coasters have absolutely no concept of the term "bumper-to-bumper traffic." Enough said.

Yeah, the bumper-to-bumper I've dealt with in two California cities/metro areas (neither one L.A.) is every bit as gnarly as what I dealt with back east. You might also say that Easterners don't know what 'bumper-to-bumper traffic' is like unless they are in NYC or DC.

Here's what I've noticed: stuff in the East is close together, and the definition of "far away" is relatively small. On the West coast, stuff is more spread out and people drive long distances to buy toilet paper. Ironically, however, East Coast suburbs have large lots while lots in the Wide West are relatively teeny.

And how do we define east vs. west? Well, in California anything east of the Rockies is definitely "east" and anything east of California itself is another country. If you live at the beach, you might define "east" as everything on the other side of I-5 (or "the 5" depending on what part of the state you're in). In the East, most people seem to divide the country by the Mississippi River, or if you're a coastal person, perhaps by the "mountains" (known as "hills" in the west) that run along the western edge of what used to be the original colonies.

And now I've got a song stuck in my head. Just great.

Fifty nifty United States, from thirteen original colonies...

Kristin said...

I'm a military brat also....Navy. So when people ask me where I'm from, I have no answer! Or, when people try to peg my accent, they can't do it.

It's a cross between PA and GA. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

My kids say when I get mad, I am very southern. :-)

Colleen said...

LOL I'm a CA girl....we don't honk in CA like here in Chicago...but we do use the finger : )
You are so funny!!!!

Meredith Teagarden said...

You aid it well! Except the y'all with the east coast accent, that is :)

happygeek said...

I agree with Heather of the EO. THose of us from the middle, well we are perfection.

prechrswife said...

I'm southern through and through--born and raised in north Louisiana (not Cajun country or New Orleans) and lived much of my married life in Georgia. Now having moved to Florida, I can vouch for that statement that all of Florida except the panhandle is "fake southern." Should I admit that hubby and I are actually teaching our daughter to say "y'all" after we heard her ask us "Whatcha doin' guys?" just a little too often. The only thing southern about where we live right now is geography. :-)

I can't get into the east coast/west coast thing, as I really don't know too much about it. From my limited experience, though, your observations seem to be pretty accurate.

Scribbit said...

My husband grew up all over the place too while I lived in the same house nearly my whole time growing up.

Sharie said...

I've lived in the same town in the MIDwest my entire life - except for 2 years in college when I lived an hour away and 7 years when I lived in the town adjacent where I go to work every day...so basically - I have NO concept of living anywhere but my little town - after reading your post, I'm glad I haven't moved much, it seems VERY confusing:)

discombobulated said...

Well, my husband (a world traveler)says that there really is no worse traffic than D.C. traffic because in L.A. you can get anywhere before 6am. That has to do with the laid back attitude of the West Coasters who may sleep in. However, in D.C. the traffic starts at 4am and You Will Sit In It Forever.

It once took me 3 hours to get from Fredericksburg, VA to Potomoc Mills outlets (about 30 miles). You bet I was saying some bad words. Also, I've never experienced road rage anywhere but D.C. Yes, I could have gotten myself shot a few times with the hand gestures. And I am usually a nice person.

CC said...

"West Coasters, overall, seem to be much more fun to hang out with"

Oh. yeah.

I've been an East Coaster and a West Coaster.

but deep down... I'll always be a Western girl ;)

Liene said...

DH is a brat and so is our son. Although Eriks will be done with the brat phase in 2 yrs when said brat husband retires and we move North!

We have spent most of DH's military career in the south - Texas, Mississippi, D.C., Southern Cali, Arkansas and now Georgia! I'm ready to be out. It's not a good sign when your son turns a 1 syllable word like "that" into "thayut" or the word "there" becomes "thayer". Sends shivers up my spine.

I'm ready to go back to being a Midwestern girl because everyone can tell by my speech that I'm from that part of the country.

Quirky Mom said...

Hey Liene,

My daughter's spent all her life (minus less than a month of scattered travel) in California, and turns some one-syllable word into two- or three-syllable words. I wouldn't worry. Yet. ;)