A Day in the Life of a Small Town Woman
When I was about four years old, my mom, dad and I moved from the Bay Area to the smallest town in the world (exaggeration). I remained there for 21 years. I broke away at one point to go to junior college in Chico, but that lasted only about a year. I commuted to CSU Sacramento for a few years but still managed to maintain my small town predicament. Small town living is tough; everyone knows who you are, you cannot (I repeat CANNOT) get away with anything. Everyone is fully aware of who you are dating, sleeping with, who’s on your current list of mortal enemies, whether or not you have worn that same exact outfit before ..etc. When you start dating someone in a small town, you are fully aware of their conquest list. This can be both educational and enlightening, depending on how you look at it. I think a relationship is more successful if you decide to leave the past in the past. So the small town dynamic can be a toughy on a serious relationship, among many other things. Here are a few things that I have learned growing and living in a small town:
–Wear sunglasses and a hat anytime you leave the house. This not only serves as a makeshift disguise, but if you are recognized, the perpetrator won’t be able to tell through sunglass barriers, IF you indeed saw them or not. Leaving you free to ignore their wave and keep walking to then later use the whole “Oh, I didn’t even see you” trickery. Or hell, maybe you’re in a chipper mood and feel like chatting with ten kids you went to high school with and your old little league coach. In that case, disregard; Leave hat and shades at home!
–Plan trips, OFTEN. Napa, Tahoe, Fort Bragg, San Francisco, shit, even Reno will do. These are the places that are closest to my small town, driving distance anyways. Trips out of the small town are healthy. A great reminder that THERE IS LIFE OUT THERE. Exposing yourself to diversity is important, and sharing that with your loved one is even better. Functioning outside of your original habitat is a great exercise for the individual and the ever evolving couple. GO, EXPLORE!
–When out in public, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Whether you’re sitting at a restaurant with your friends, having drinks with a co-worker at your local watering hole or simply perusing the aisles at the only decent grocery store in your small town, THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. You are surrounded, everyone is listening. Before you begin shit talking, determine whether or not your rag session is necessary. If you decide that it’s a must tell, take a look around to make sure the target of your shit talking is not in the venue, then lower your voice and proceed.
-Embrace the small town. My few small town survival guide tips, I realize, are a little shallow and reflect the values of a mean, teenage girl who thinks the world revolves around her and is against facilitating any sort of relationship with her community. However, keep them in mind the next time you’re in the mood to be incognito or when you get that feeling of claustrophobia and need a small town-everyone knows me here-I can’t do anything anonymously-break.
I make the small town out to be the enemy, but let me be clear- It is not. As years are collected and life lessons are learned, the more you come to see the small town as what it is, a lovely place. You learn to let go of the childish insecurities and judgements. The small town becomes a familiar community. So what- everyone knows who you lost your virginity to, when it comes down to it, they have your back. There is something to be said about the small town dynamic, there is closeness, a familial essence that breathes nostalgia, comfort, familiarity, and home all into the small town inhabitant. Love your home, love the people around you, and see the good in everyone and as a result, “shit talking sessions” are brought to a minimum. Appreciate the neighbor that brings you a loaf of pumpkin bread to celebrate the fall season, the drunk friend that shows up at your house Sunday morning (no knock, just walks right in) and wants to tell you the tales of his Saturday night, your 6th grade teacher that approaches you in target and wants to know how your life is. Be open to it, love it, embrace it. And if you need an escape, go for it. May the small town force be with you.
A View from the Small Town: The Sutter Buttes (photo credit Shayla Tapia #photosbyshayla)
Some of my favorite Small Town People