It's all the little things that we never notice until they change, the assumptions we don't realize we're making. How far apart we stand from each other, how loudly we speak, the way we hold a spoon, what we find attractive, what we find strange, what we find comforting, the temperature of our drinks, how we expect others to behave, what we consider rude, the speed we walk, or talk, our relationship with time. The baseline by which we compare everything to.
When I say that a faculty member is a close talker, which makes me moderately uncomfortable every time we have a conversation, I mean that he stands closer than most Americans do. When I say that Midwesterners are sometimes passive aggressive, I mean in comparison to Californians. If I am describing someone to you, and he is white, I will say "he has short hair." If I am describing someone to you, and he is Asian, I will say, "he is Asian, and has short hair." I didn't live in a town where everyone's parents were strangely lax, I lived in a house where my mother was strangely strict. My baseline for all my expectations was not my own household, it was everyone else's.
I am from pink stucco outdoor shopping malls, and open school plans, I am from He-Man and X-Men and Smurfs and My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake. I am from minivans and after school classes. I am from picnics with my grandparents on Memorial Day and the 4th of July, and turkey and pie on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am from "jello salad" and spaghetti and hamburgers. I am from Girl Scout Camp songs and two horrible seasons of soccer. I am from learning the sign language for "Let There Be Peace on Earth," and "All Good Gifts." I am from Christian Youth Theater and high school drama. I am from Rogers and Hammerstein, and "Alternative rock" radio, and thinking that Tori Amos was the only one who understood me. I am from my first concert at fifteen and my first road trip at nineteen. I am from dirty clapping rhymes and porn hidden in the bathroom of my dad's machine shop. I am from running barefoot from the bus stop to my house, and then, finally, setting my burnt feet in the pool in the backyard. I am from a green velvet off the shoulder dress that was shorter in front than it was in back, that I wore to Prom my sophomore year and then to morP my junior year because I was totally getting into irony. I am from the cool kids doing a performance of "The Wrong Stuff" at our D.A.R.E. graduation to the tune of New Kids on the Block. I am from The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins and Anne McCaffery and Piers Anthony. And this is only the beginning of what I mean.