YES, it’s true: I was born in Montgomery, Alabama back before the state was using calendars. Entered the world in a double-wide trailer while my daddy waited on the front porch and my momma screamed Holy Jesus. Three hours later Preacher Jimmy stopped by and christened me–I was a weak baby so they wanted to make sure I got baptized so I wouldn’t go to hell in case I caught diabetes and died.
Just kidding. I was born in a hospital like everyone else.
But sometimes, given people’s reactions when I tell them I was born in Alabama, it seems like they expect to hear a birth story like the one above.
1). But you don’t have an accent!
That’s right! I’m amazed you managed to deduce that. I know this is a big surprise, but not everyone in Alabama sounds like the folks on “Duck Dynasty,” just like not everyone who lives in New Jersey sounds like the cast of “Jersey Shore.” Not that there’s anything wrong with talking that way. I mean, Matthew McConaughey is one sexy man, am I right?
2). Well that’s embarrassing.
To some extent, yeah. It is embarrassing. Because Alabama has made a name for itself due to racist stunts like Governor George Wallace’s Stand in the Schoolhouse Door and the nastiness of the Jim Crow laws and oh let’s not forget the horrible Birmingham church bombing in 1963. But I hate to tell you that racism is rife in all 50 states. People think Chicago is cool, but the city is more or less de facto segregated, as the South Side of Chicago is overwhelmingly populated by people of color and the wealthy North Shore is mostly white. Let me link to that illustrated map of segregation that the Huffington Post published last year. This is not to excuse Alabama’s past or reputation — not at all. But it is important to think about it in context.
3). Do you own a gun?
Funny you should ask. Yeah, I “inherited” a shotgun from my grandfather. It sits in the back of the closet at my parent’s home in Texas, unloaded and unoiled. And no, I have no desire to ever use it.
4). That explains why you say weird stuff sometimes.
What do you mean? What do I say?
That thing–that thing you say when you’re upset.
Yeah. That. And the horrible thing you say whenever it’s raining and the sun is shining.
The devil’s beating his wife!
5). Have you ever been to a megachurch?
Yes, I have, but I should clarify something. Megachurches are really more of a Texas thing (and Florida and Tennessee and Arkansas…). In Alabama, churches tend to be smaller and closer to the community. Not that there isn’t a lot of homophobic, sexist hate speech being hurled over the pulpit every Sunday morning in Alabama’s countless churches. Unfortunately, my first megachurch experience was in Texas… and I wouldn’t go back if they paid me.
6). Oh…. so did your family own slaves?
Wow. Way to uh… wow. Um, yeah, they probably did. No one in my family ever ran a plantation, but yes, historically my family does have a rather squalid stake in that socially, culturally, and economically evil institution. I think it’s good that I’m able to acknowledge that, but I’m not sure talking about it any further helps anyone very much.
7). Does your family live on a farm?
Struck gold! Yes, my mom’s side of the family owns a piece of land by a creek that used to be an active farm. Now the only person who lives there is my spry 80-something aunt, who I once watched kill a snake with a garden hoe.
8). Are you really conservative or something?
Quite the opposite. I’m almost embarrassingly liberal, at least according to my grandparents. There is usually one major
fight disagreement every time I go home. They should have known better–they sent me to a liberal university in Chicago! (Actually, I insisted on going there).
9). Heck yeah! Tigers or Crimson Tide?
By that I presume you mean: Do I support the football team of the University of Alabama or am I an Auburn fan? Neither. I don’t give two licks about football. No, strike that. I actively despise that skull-bashing, concussion-causing glorification of virile masculinity and gladiatorial spectatorship.
10). Really? I thought you were from New York or something.
You know what? It’s ok. I’m comfortable with the fact that I’m originally from Alabama. As nice as it is of you to leave me room for plausible deniability, I’ve learned that I can do more to change people’s perceptions when I’m honest about where I’m from.
So why write this post? Well, it’s a bit of fun, and I’ve gotten asked these questions countless times over the years. Alabama has a reputation of being a hot, humid, and backward place, and while the humidity accusations are 100% true, I always find it ironic how backward other people’s reactions are when they hear where I’m from and make a snap judgement about me. There’s lots of types of folks living everywhere, people.
Bless your hearts and thanks for reading. Do yourself a favor and try grits sometime.