Growing Up Okie

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Photo by taliesin on Morguefile.com

Growing up, I realized we were perceived differently. Visitors would joke about our having electricity, and even as a child, I understood that my parents were patronized simply for being Oklahoman.

As I matured, I attempted to separate myself from any semblance of a more rural lifestyle and upbringing. I educated myself and improved my grammar, eliminating much of the slang common in the area. I also refused to wear boots or listen to country music. Yes, I was uppity. I’ll admit it. In an attempt to gain respect from those who looked upon me with disdain, I became ashamed of my own home state.

I realize that others’ impressions of Oklahoma are quite limited. Whether it is the review of Cattleman’s Steakhouse on the Food Channel or the recent devastation brought about by tornadoes throughout the state, people only see wheat and cows and twisters. But Oklahoma is much more.

Unfortunately, it took a talk with my grandmother to realize that. She told me and my brother about the teasing she received growing up and how she grew to be proud of Oklahoma. Although they tried to pin her with what they perceived as a derogatory term–and historically it certainly was that–she took it upon herself to say, “I’m proud to be an Okie.”

Now, it wasn’t until much later that I understood the history behind that term, and it took a trip to California for me to see that those views of Oklahomans still exist. When I introduced myself to a person there in LA, he immediately effected a Beverly Hillbilly type accent and asked, “How you likin’ the big city?” Bristling at the insult, I simply said, “I’m liking it just fine.”

I realize that everyone has to have someone that they feel is beneath them. If people decide to patronize me just because I’m an Okie, that’s just fine. I’m no longer ashamed of having grown up in rural Oklahoma. I’ll gladly listen to country music, but I’ll admit I still don’t have any boots. And as far as accent or vocabulary, I don’t try to hide my twang any longer.

Ya’ll come back now, ya here?

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