We've been in New Orleans all week and I've been really enjoying seeing my in-law family, but this morning I am grateful for some time to be alone - or at least alone with my husband and daughter which is just as relaxing as being alone. Another cousin and her teenage kids (who is in town from Houston) wanted to meet us for breakfast and I was working on convincing my husband I needed to bow out or I would be too drained. Luckily, the teens wanted to sleep in. Don't get me wrong - I adore his family - I just need time alone to recharge. The only folks that stress me out are his parents but part of that is his mother has never liked me because I'm not the girl she envisioned for him (ie: Southern!!! Blond, quiet, demure, skinny as a rail, and without tattoos and without a keen eye for bullshit and a mouth to match).
What's funny is that all the cousins are so much like me that I fit in like I'm a blood relative. I also love his sister and her husband (more than just because I have to because we're related!) At Thanksgiving I spent a good portion of the time with all the women out on the back porch and my husband said he walked by the big window out to the porch and said it looked like I was "holding court". We had so much fun! His cousin, Darra was even telling me I need to have less of a filter and just "say it like it is" which made me laugh because that's a part of me I'm always trying to rein in at family functions!
On Thanksgiving, cousin Don gave me a quick run down on how football is played. He was a little shocked at how much I didn't know. I found it all very interesting and realized it is like a battle and that the two teams are soldiers creating strategies against each other, and I thought that was fascinating. It was of course the LSU game (the Saints). But after awhile I said, "It's so slow though. There's a burst of activity then everyone stands around. I'm used to fast moving and continuous action like basketball. I'm not sure I could handle something so slow." To which I surprised by how defensive Don sounded when he said, "Maybe you should give it more than a few minutes to decide!" Don is one of our most progressive, Metrosexual relatives who long ago moved to WA DC. I thought it was cute that he was so true to the obsessive past-time of N'awlins.
Yesterday I went over to Gina's house to spend time with her family. Her husband is my husband's cousin and they have two daughters about my daughter's age. My husband stayed back at the hotel to try and get some work done (and he was drained too) until I went and picked him up to go to lunch with all of us. Gina is a music teacher, paints and also sews really well, the latter I know nothing about. We get along great, as do the girls and at one point I said, "I really wish we could've moved to Mandeville or Covington when we sold our house." And she said, "That is just weird to hear you say! I've never heard anyone from the West Coast say they wished they lived in Louisiana!" I admit, a part of it is just having family down here I really like. And the sun all year around. And the amazing food and the amazing music. But there's more to it.
People say "I can really be myself on the West Coast. I can be whoever I want to be." Well, if you are a liberal, or gay, yes you can be more yourself than a lot of places. And I do fine because I am liberal (although not as liberal as the average Seattleite ... I never have been *that* liberal even though with my conservative family I thought I was super liberal - my dad was the only liberal one when I was growing up and we never talked). In our old neighborhood there wasn't a lot of room to have conflicting views. I remember one elderly woman put up a McCain sign in her yard on our block in our old neighborhood during the last election and it got torn down and broken within a week. I got a real message over the years that you can "be whoever you want to be as long as it fits the popular agenda" - sounds a lot like people complain about from the Right Wing too.
I don't want to live in Metairie though. It looks very much like suburbs of big cities all of the South but it's too different than what I'm used to. Plus, I need lots of woods and wild animals wandering around my yard. Darra is putting her house up for sale one of these days and I could live there - except that they have an HOA that says you can't own horses on your property. But in reality I don't want to leave all my awesome friends in Woodinville or my daughter's awesome school. I wish I could move them all down here where it's sunny all year long though.
It was validating when I was talking to my sister-in-law though, when I was telling her about the culture in our old downtown neighborhood and the "social rules" among the moms, about how strict and fundie liberal one has to be to fit in. The whole psuedo-science thing came up ... like no matter how many times you present scientific evidence that vaccines are safer than no vaccines the argument comes back as "those scientific studies are backed by big pharmaceutical and the real truth is in bizarre websites you find on the internet and with that scientist who was arrested for falsifying data because he is so much more trustworthy than other scientists because he was framed!" Oh ... and now is a good time to use the word "quantum" again. Anyway, it was validating that my sister-in-law (who has lived all over the East Coast and went to college in NYC so she's not what people would blow-off as "typical Southern") rolled her eyes and said, "That would drive me crazy! I don't know how you live there!" I don't anymore - the rural suburbs is a lot different and a lot easier.
I don't have the same politics as most of in-laws down here (except Gina's family and Don) but they don't seem to care at all which is nice. It frustrates me when my fellow-liberals tell me I'm uneducated or worse "a fascist" when I don't agree with them. It's very Glenn Beck of them. Luckily, down here politics seems less a hot-button topic, at least with the folks we know. And they just tease me and say "Oh, we'll make a conservative out of you, yet" and that's about it.
A lot of me talking so much about this stuff is that I feel like I'm coming out of my own state of being a fundamentalist about my views. I remember ten years ago when even though I didn't have as left-wing of a views as many of my friends, I still thought if you were a Republican you were evil. I also assumed that if you lived in the South you were way less progressive. Even two years ago I was talking to Darra and she was talking about teaching yoga and I said, "You have yoga classes out here in rural Louisiana?" and she said, "Yes, and we have a Vegan restaurant, too." I looked shocked and she said, "You need to get off the West Coast more often. The rest of the world is not totally backward compared to you." That was pretty eye opening for me.
Meanwhile, I totally miss my pets. I keep wanting to call the kennel and find out how the pitbull is doing. And I miss the kittens when I wake up in the morning and there aren't any little bouncing, purring bundles jumping on me. And I miss my horses so much that last night all my dreams were about horses. Only they were about horses running away and people not letting me help catch them and me being kept away from them for various reasons.