I went home to Kentucky last week.
Yes, I am a down home country girl, born and bred in the blue-grassland. But not the hat-wearing, julep-sipping east Kentucky. The mine-stripped, dying, backwoods west Kentucky.
The town I am from has one stop light. One convenience store that also serves as restaurant and tanning salon. A tiny post office, one lonely baseball diamond.
I attended the elementary school, but by the time my youngest sister was old enough to attend, the community had to close it down. The kids were bussed to a neighboring town.
My street…destitute is the only word to describe it. Our house was one passed down through my dad’s family, old and creaky, but large and solid. You couldn’t say the same for our neighbors. They were living in literal shacks: 3 small rooms made of flimsy wood covered in tar paper. Skinny, mangy dogs roamed the streets; skinny, dirty children did as well.
My parents kept us clean and fed and mannered. I know it wasn’t easy.
We moved to Canada when I was a teen, and the majority of my pre-adult years were spent in a pleasant, middle class suburb in lovely Alberta. I received a great education in a bright, cared-for, well-respected school. There was very little White Trash in my years succeeding that move.
But I always feared that White Trash is what I truly am. I would become the woman with the bleached hair and stale cigarette in a tar paper shack. I wondered if that was my true destiny, if it would one day catch up to me. If my heart and soul didn’t belong in rundown, beat-up western Kentucky.
My trip has assured me I have nothing to worry about. I am not that person.
Because that person isn’t about not having money, about living in a poorer part of town. What really makes someone White Trash is attitude.
Being racist. Telling my sister that you mourn her future hard life with her black boyfriend. Complaining about those adopted black cousins while they are in earshot.
Believing every email forward you get about President Obama being an Islamic non-American who burns flags and eats babies.
Holding grudges. Believing you are a better person than everyone around you, and never forgetting any mistakes they made.
Believing you are the absolute Right, and never entertaining the notion that you may not have all the answers.
I am not that person.
I may wear too much eye-liner. I may have only have clothes that are second-hand. I may make a joke that seems racy or off-center.
But I believe everyone is equal. That if you are going to preach respect for authority, that includes our awesome President, no matter what Rush Limbaugh says. That a mistake is in the past, and it forms who you are in the future. I don’t need to be asked four times in three days if my ‘wild steak is over.‘ Because if I hadn’t run off to Alaska and gotten knocked up, there would be no Violet Lynn, and consequently, no Carli Jay.
I am a left-wing, garage-rock-loving, Sunday School teaching, tattoo adoring, punk rock wannabe hippie, and I am proud.
I may be from a dinky little poor town in Kentucky, but it does not define me as White Trash.
Also, Kentucky makes my allergies act up.