Secret Subject Swap is hosted by Baking in a Tornado. She lets bloggers submit writing prompts then divides them between us. We all post our responses on the same day at the same time and try to generate discussions between ourselves. It’s a challenge and a great way to promote one another. This is my first time. I’m a total Secret Subject Swap virgin. I hope it is as good for you as it was for me.
My subject was submitted by the always lovely Hot Ash from More Than Cheese and Beer.
"St Patrick's Day is coming up soon! They say everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's day...but what heritage are you really and what do you feel are the most notable traits of the people? Are there stereotypes, and are they true?"
Given my pale skin, freckles, and the red hairs that always grew in my dad’s burly beard, I am inclined to believe there is some Irish in my family somewhere along the line. My maiden name (I never changed it back after getting divorced) is Smith which does have roots in both England and Ireland, so it’s quite possibly the truth.
This is something that has never really been a big issue for me. I’ve never researched it nor has anyone in my family (not to my knowledge anyway). I think it’s probably like that for a lot of people who grew up the way I did—poor. We weren’t poor in a shanty kind of way. We had a roof over our heads that was a sound structure my father built with his own hands. We didn’t go without food or clothes, but life wasn’t comfortable most of the time especially given how much money my dad spent on drugs and alcohol. There were plenty of family fights over the lack of money and second mortgages and addictions. There were probation fees and attorneys’ fees for the times my dad got himself into trouble for possession and distribution. There were times when money had to be borrowed from my grandparents who would give it just to hold it over my family's head that they had done so. We weren't so poor that I went to bed starving at night, but we weren't better off than that by very much.
I never really understood the whole big deal about it until I was old enough for kids at school to make fun of my clothes…kids I had been friends with in my earlier years of school suddenly couldn’t be my friend. And the only friends I had were other poor kids. No one ever really cared what my heritage was. I was just a poor white kid living in the South. That’s all anyone ever saw.
By the time I was old enough to get past that, I had bigger things going on in my life. A lot of other things. I was raped at 13. I had leftover anxiety issues from parents and grandparents always putting me down. I was angry over my mom moving on so fast after leaving my dad and from my dad bringing in woman after woman that made it her mission in life to compete with me for his attention even though he never gave me any positive attention in the first fucking place. I was tired of never being seen or heard. I was beaten down, hurt, and confused. I alienated myself socially. And, I numbed the pain with alcohol and drugs. Anything was better than the way I felt. There was nothing in my life that honestly made me give a shit where my family came from by that point. I didn’t and still don’t even talk to most of them.
The more salient cultural perspective that remained a concern for me was socioeconomic status. It’s hard to escape being poor when you grew up that way. My lineage was one of low class, white trash and that’s what stuck. That comes with a highly negative stigma much in the way my accent does. I don’t know that people who didn’t grow up in poor families will understand how hard it is to break away from it...how it pervades every aspect of your life and constantly threatens to pull you under the water you're barely treading like a weighted backpack caught around your throat. The stereotypes that we’re lazy, that we expect handouts, that we’re nasty and ignorant and uncultured are not, even in general, true. There are so many people who have walked in shoes so similar to mine that struggle hard, who work hard, who are wickedly intelligent and who strive to break free of the mold placed upon us by way of our parents’ then our own earnings. None of those things define us despite how often those labels get placed upon our persons.
The most notable traits of my people, the people of all races, genders, and ethnicities that I feel so much closer to because we get it…we really get it, is that we have a passion for life that cannot be denied and keep on trucking no matter how tall the obstacles our government and the wealthy put in our paths. We may no longer believe in the American Dream, but you will not find us laying down and giving up on living our lives to the very fucking fullest.
Give me your tired and poor any day of the week, America…my people.