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.
You went through some hell to get to where you are today. I think about cultural phenomenon of "reality TV", specifically thinking of Honey Boo Boo where a show is literally about making fun of poor Americans while making them rich(er). I think it's such a disservice to what real people go through, how they honestly and quietly rise to be the people they were meant to be. I'm glad you took your post in this direction, it's a story that needs to be told and pride we need to see.ReplyDelete
Honey Boo Boo makes me cringe especially considering that family is also from Georgia. That's the last thing people need to see and associate with poor people from the South. People in general already have that image of Southerners, and all that show does is perpetuate a pretty rotten stereotype. Thanks for the comments. I wasn't sure how anyone would feel about the direction I took this in, but it's what felt right to me.Delete
I know you do not want sympathy, so just know that when I say "I'm sorry" I mean it. I am sorry you had it rough and I do understand. A lot of what you shared, I experienced.ReplyDelete
Learn from others mistakes but don't be afraid to love and allow others close to you, just be smart. I think you are.
Thank you for reading! I've dealt pretty well with the things that happened to me in life partly because I am so open and vocal about them. When I was younger, things were a lot different. I kept everything inside and stayed ashamed of things that weren't my fault and that were out of my control. It took a long time to figure out the mistakes I was making by doing that.Delete
Jenniy, this is a really good post. It's an important one. I never knew we were poor until middle school. My whole world was the little block I lived on. I understand the stereotypes that go along with it. I hated those years and those experiences with broken parents and judgmental people. On the other hand, those make you stronger than many, many people. You can read people better, you can feel their truths. You value things that can't be bought in a store. You get up every damn time you fall. I live in a different world now than I did when I was young, but those trust issues never leave. I hate parts of my past, but I'm proud of what I learned from them.ReplyDelete
I'm glad I found your blog :)
You're so right. It does teach you to be stronger than many people or may it just show you that you're stronger than you ever dreamed possible. You do learn to keep getting back up and you learn to find happiness in the little things in life. I think growing up the way we did makes us see beauty where other people fail to and appreciate things other people take for granted. I struggle still, but those lessons I have learned from the struggle are invaluable. Thanks for reading!Delete
Thank you for sharing your story. It's so important for people to see things from every point of view instead of just their own. Yours was/is a struggle that many go through and it's not fair. But you have the courage not to shy away from your past or let it control you. For that, I applaud you.ReplyDelete
Just recently I said "I understand that life is no walk in the park, but does it have to be so hard on certain people?"ReplyDelete
Passion for life! I like that so much better than resignation.
Resigning ourselves to the hand we were dealt with no ability to hope or appreciate what we do have is a type of death. I appreciate you reading and thank you!Delete
You've been through hell, chick. But you are so amazingly strong. I think I honestly just fell in love with you! Welcome to the swap!ReplyDelete
Jenniy.... You are really and truly one of my favorite people to give prompts to for this reason. I wasn't sure what I was expecting from this post, but I'm always amazed at you. Great post. Thank youReplyDelete
Glad you enjoyed it! I was hoping it wouldn't be a disappointing answer to the question. And as always thanks for reading and all the encouragement you've given me.Delete