Monday, November 6, 2017

A Love/Hate Relationship With One's Town

                                         picture by me

I went to this cultural event with my husband where they ran a program where people write about their towns both good and bad. I don't know if they understand what they are getting into in this place. This is an affluent town, where the divide between the haves and have-nots is immense. One paper asked "What do you think of your town?" We were supposed to fill these out.  We also were supposed to write questions to ask things about our town.

I asked the lady in charge, "Do you want us to be honest"? She said, "Yes, write whatever you want." I wrote "This place has great scenery, beautiful nature, but is socially disconnected and less friendly then any other small town, I have ever lived in. There are great cultural things here like this great art center, and a wonderful library, but the economic divides here are so immense they have created great disconnection". I wrote about our library being a wonderful library on one paper, and went in more detail wanting to stress some of the good too.

I also wrote, "Why is this place so conservative?" Republican politics rule our town with an iron fist probably due to it being so affluent.  There's a few liberals especially since other human beings are out there protesting with us, but we often discuss the influence of these negative Republican politics around here. We then discussed the historical reasons behind the predominant conservatism. Smaller towns are more conservative in general at least in our region of the country.

 I also wrote, "Why are there no young people here? Gen X seems nonexistent and millennials are leaving." Two older ladies were there, and said, they were concerned about young people leaving too, due to the lack of jobs. One man in his 50s piped up and said, "They were bored with smaller town life." Some people brought up the racial and economic divides between the wealthy side of town and the poorer more African American side of town--a point I was eluding to more generally. One of the older ladies, said, she agreed with me about the social disconnection, and unlike other small towns, this place operated socially like bigger cities and it was nothing like Cheers where everyone knows your name. People move a lot in and out for a big corporation that dominates our town.

The group then discussed why the reasons for the social disconnection. The idea was offered was that this is a far more transient place, and people moved a lot. The impact of our heavy tourist here [they come for the beautiful scenery] also was seen as something that impacts a community negatively when it comes to cohesion and so much of the community catering to their needs over local needs. One lady said, "This town changes and becomes almost a different place when the tourists leave." I nodded my head and agreed.

I have a hate/love relationship with the place I live. I know on this blog I talked about moving away. It still gets brought up at times, but I decided to focus on the bloom where you are planted approach, that helped a lot. I am even now figuring out where to find more of a niche. I have involved myself in more community events as health has allowed, this has ranged from a public transit meeting to a cultural meeting like this.  My protesting is a "community" event of sorts too that allowed me to meet a few nice people. I figure if you are living in a place, try and change it for the better.

I do enjoy many activities here. I don't sneeze at having a great art center, library, medical resources and charity that was non-existent in my old town.  The wealth of this area, probably has brought me these resources too.  However, I have wondered why it seems so hard to get to know people here. Sure there are friendly people here, there's one church I go to a book club and charity dinner at and know a few friends, but this is one odd place.

Sometimes the social class chasms get to me, on the other side of the river, there's plenty of people even poorer then me, but what would they think if they were sitting at at various social events, listening to several people all at once talk about their international vacations. This was not at this particular event but one lady was talking about exploring shops, and some were expensive, I thought she was talking about our downtown, but she was talking about Rome. The whole room then burst forward with their tales of going to Greece, India and Germany. I made a joke, I would visit some of those places if I won the Lotto but my comment wasn't heard among the endless travelogues. I don't fit in a lot of places, but these endless class divisions do affect me. One question bounces around in my brain, why are they always bragging so much to each other? How come they never talk about anything real? It's always achievements and showing off.

It really is older here, most places I went most women were 15-20 years older then me and I am already "older" myself. It helped to learn, I wasn't imagining this. Gen X didn't make this level of wealth, or are far fewer in number. Millennials definitely are struggling even worse. I found this discussion interesting in that others were noticing many things I had. My husband said, that knowing the "voter" turn out, being so low, that there is definitely some people who do not support the dominant conservatism and Republicanism. I suppose a small town can be a micro-cosm of America.

The economic and racial divides that are so predominant here are growing in America. The out of touch conservatism among the affluent, definitely is playing a role nationally. Some are charitable of course, but their world is so completely different. My town is a picture of this. I read where Republicans considered a 450,000 dollar a year income to be "middle-class", well maybe on the spectrum with big buck 1 percent people on one end, but it shows how out of touch many are.

Socially what people focus on in different classes is quite different. I have felt like a fish out of water, because achievement and status is so important to the upper middle class here. I have my family baggage affecting things and admit it. I don't relate to them. I want to talk about other things. Some of them like my art, but I feel nervous around them. It feels like everything I talk about is "wrong" and Aspergers only makes it harder.

Technically I and my husband could lay claim to an alternative form of the "creative class" since he is a published author though we are very low income, but I notice even my brain seems to just work different. I don't want to hate on the rich, but sometimes when trying to talk to them, there seems to be an immense wall between me and them.  I also look at the poorer side of our town,  the few poor on this side of town, and their troubles and oppressions with growing alarm. So many are struggling just to survive, and that seems to be getting worse. What do these other folks really learn as they travel the world?


  1. I know exactly what you mean about feeling like I'm always saying the "wrong" thing - or talking about the wrong subject or just having a wrong idea. It's very disconcerting when you say something that just seems straightforward and people look at you like what is wrong with you?? And I'm also usually incredibly bored when people talk. I don't feel like what they're talking about is wrong or bad , but I usually just feel like who cares? Like I can barely pay attentionb ecause the small talk is so boring. Once in a while I enjoy saying things that are straightforward to me that I know will freak other people out but mostly it just makes me feel lonely. I used to think that maybe other people connected with each other deeply in a diferent way that I was missing out on, but my current theory is that most people are a little repelled by deep connection or scared by it or overwhelmed by it. And their comfort level is in keeping things light.

    1. Thanks for saying you relate, yeah, I feel like I always say the "wrong" thing and even "light" opening up is too much. Yeah I get the "What is wrong with you looks all the time. LOL I get bored and feel guilty while doing so but it's true. I am not judging what they talk about as good or bad either except if the bragging goes overboard like with the vacations, but feel blase about it all. Its not that I am uninterested in people, they are just skimming the surface and I am barely learning anything.

      Yeah when I was young I used to be "direct" but around here it doesn't work. When you are younger people accept more quirkiness, about the time my hair started going gray, I felt like their annoyance was far higher, and that I was supposed to "conform" more. I may write an article about what it means to be an old ASPIE. It's not like when you are young.

      It's like when I got old, I wasn't supposed to be "arty" or care about protests, hope you know what I mean, I was supposed to have my suburban house and grandkids, and be interested in what everyone else was. As an Aspie I definitely got that wrong thinking everyone was connecting with each other in a deep way and I was being left out. I imagined people being much closer then they were. I think most people are repelled by deep connection and scared or burdened by it too just like you and yes their comfort level is keeping things light. Someone on a friendship board on Facebook told me when you get older, people don't "do" the "best friend" thing anymore like when they were younger. That made me sad. Sure old people are slowing down or retired or too sick--I can't keep up with friends now--and know that is on me, and/or having to work or take care of grandchildren, spouses etc. Domestic crap overwhelms most. It must be even more of a nightmare for single people who do they have around to have a deep conversation with?

      I made errors desiring some closeness, and it wasn't like I was clingy, but I wanted to "know" people and not be a stranger if that makes sense. Sometimes I asked where did I get these ideas from, I am not sure. The old small town with old time community may have spoiled me a bit but even that broke down with the economy and years.

      I feel like as people got older too the walls grow thicker as well. It's like if you don't have your friendships and family relationships established by a certain age you are screwed. Don't move in middle age like I did either, bad idea, but enough moved away from me on my end [or died] that is something we can't really control anymore either. I am unsure what to talk to people about. I do keep things "light", may talk about art, etc but then at times I'm boring myself. One thing I want to warn of, is sometimes a person will speak "deep" with you and be a bad idea for your life. That can happen, in a love-bombing set up situation. [catfish,and others]

      One good thing for this town is small enough to keep the big city rudeness down. I also a few years ago decided not to pursue making friends, I just got too tired, don't have the energy. I make them all the time online. What is odd about me is I have a LOT of acquaintances, but maybe that is more normal then I think. :/ Life without a family obviously is strange, but then many older people are in that boat naturally.