I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana an hour or so away from New Orleans. It was hot and humid the food and the accents were rich. My parents are still in the house I was raised in and my sister and her husband and children live two doors down. I “attended” Louisiana State University (my freshman year was the two best years of my life) and partied and shacked up and skipped class and eventually dropped out and moved to Chicago. I was in Chicago for two years before moving to New York where I have lived for the last twenty two years.
When I first arrived in the city I was dripping with southern gooeyness. I used the word “ya’ll” religiously and sat propped up on bar stools flipping my golden locks and telling stories about my daddy and growin’ up listenin’ to country music. I would go “home” for way too long in the summer (because that’s really the ideal time to go back south) and hang out with old friends drinking in the LSU bars I used to frequent. I belonged to nobody and I let geography determine what part I would play that day. I was madly in love with New York but there was something I still wanted from Louisiana. It could be that I never felt I really belonged, that since I was such a screw up growing up I still had to rewrite the past. Each time I went to visit I would inevitably end up on the phone with the airline (pre 9/11) extending my stay.
What I loved most about Manhattan was the anonymity. I walked everywhere constantly surrounded by crowds but never had to speak to a soul. Somewhere along the way everyone I knew moved away from the south or lost touch with me and the infrequent high school reunions became a source of social anxiety. I dropped the “ya’lls” and adopted the neutral tone of the north. I became a damn yankee. Somewhere along the way I realized that it didn’t much matter what I was acquiring in my grown up life (house, husband, kids) I still had no clue who I was and without my family of origin and that house in the suburbs of Baton Rouge I was nobody. My identity still wrapped up in being the youngest, the nicest and the least accomplished clashed with being a mother, wife and woman.