Small Town Life

tweed sign

The Tweed gossip mill has been churning so hard lately I think I see smoke drifting from its wheels. Someone said something and someone else got mad and someone else told someone else and that someone went back to the original someone, but the story changed slightly, so the first someone is pissed at the second someone, and new someones got involved, and now everyone’s all “Oooh… there’s gonna be a beating…”

Just kidding. We don’t beat people all willy nilly up here. But watching it unfold reminds me of all the little things that bother me about this place.

Living in a small town is kind of like living in a bubble. It’s close, tight even, and you can’t help but notice everything that happens. Everyone knows you, or has heard of you, and whatever you say or do can come back to haunt you whenever the universe deems it time to bite you in the ass. Now, I’m not knocking small towns. Not entirely anyway. The air is clean! No traffic! Everyone knows your name… wait, that’s not a “pro.” But you can walk to every destination, and oh my shit, the people are sooooo friendly!

image 1

Most of them are friendly.

Some are friendly.

We have good intentions?

I’ve lived in a small town my whole life. It’s my fault I’m still here. I chose to stay, because as much as I hate it sometimes, I would miss this shit hole. I’d miss the people and the dependability of it all. However, if you don’t understand small town politics, or if you dare to step outside the established social rules, you could dig yourself a hole of awful so deep, you’ll never be able to climb out. Small towns NEVER forget.

Think of small town life like high school. They’re both full of cliques. Sure, city folk deal with this too, but in a small town, you’re in a fish bowl environment, so you can’t avoid these assholes. And social media has made the world of a small town girl even smaller. If you don’t hear about it at the post office or the local coffee shop, you can be sure to read it on Facebook or Twitter.

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Wonderful.

I graduated high school with most of the kids I met on the first day of kindergarten. My children have the same teachers I had in school, and their classmates are the offspring of my classmates. A new person in town is a fucking monumental event. Who are they? Where are they from? Are they on crack? Probably a murderer. All outsiders are fucked up. We know this. Let’s get him before he can get us.

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*meets new person on the street*

“Hi,” big smiles. “So you bought the old Cassidy place.”

“Um… I did?”

“Yeah,” smiles maniacally. “You got kids?”

“Two.”

*probably little fucking criminal assholes*

“Me too.”

“Oh? How old are they?”

Blah, blah, blah.

“Well, have a nice day.”

*Smiling all the way to BFF’s house where you will share your weird meeting with the newb.*

That new family has an advantage over the rest of us. They have a clean slate. However, they also have a huge mountain to climb if they ever want to fit in. First, all the locals are discussing them, but rarely talking TO them. We’re buzzing about, deciding whether or not we’ll talk to them or try to befriend them. We’re making up stories to fill their empty slate, and then we wait to see which one sticks. We watch others. See who they gravitate toward. I mean, if they decide to be friends with the breeders or the barfly who never seems to go to work, well we want no part of that. On the other hand, if they end up pals with that stuck-up bunch at the top of the town hierarchy, well they obviously think they’re too good for us. Fucking pretentious snobs. They’re what’s wrong with everything. Privileged bunch of pricks.

Just kidding. (Or am I?)

image 4

Anyway…

The new family will walk a tightrope they’re not aware they’re on. The choices they make, the people they’re nice to, and even the clothes they wear will determine their place in town for as long as they remain, which is usually forever. Let’s face it: Once in, you usually don’t get out.

Still, the new family has it better than some of the natives do. No one knows their story, so they can make shit up. For the rest of us, your last name can make you, or break you. For example, in school, your older siblings can fuck you over big time. Whatever they did will haunt you. Teacher calls your name, asks if you know so-and-so, you say “Yeah, he’s my brother,” and there you go. Fucked. Your reputation begins where your asshole brother left off. If you don’t have siblings, consider what your mother and father might have done to ruin your good name. Even your loser cousin can leave a stain on your name.

It’s the same when you grow up. Your reputation in a small down depends largely on your family. If they’re dicks, you’re a dick. Nope. No fighting it. It simply is. A small town is like an annoying elephant, never forgetting shit. Ever.

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Don’t know what you’re doing? Someone else does and they’ll tell you. They’ll tell everyone.

You don’t like everyone all up in your business. No one does. But for the love of Christ, don’t EVER voice an unpopular opinion. Are you stupid? Your opinion is only valuable if the majority says it is. You will be able to determine this by listening to the local gossip. Figure out which way the vote is swinging. If no one is parroting what you’re thinking, you keep your goddamn mouth closed. You hear me?

And let’s not forget the weird factor. Every small town has a strangeness that is unique to its residents. What is it? Well, it’s not always definable. The combined quirks of the town’s residents often give a small town a sort of “Deliverance” meets “Twilight Zone” meets “Twin Peaks” feel.

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image 8

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Or is that just Tweed?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my small town. I love the community, the reliability (ain’t nobody coming in without us knowing about it), and the way that we all come together like family when tragedy occurs. It’s also full of rich, unique characters and storylines that are valuable to writer types.

So, I guess I don’t hate it. I resent the superficiality of our politics, and the predictability of some of my neighbors is annoying, but I think my small town life has given more than it’s taken from me. I mean without it, I might not have been driven to write, and I know you’re all grateful for that. (winky face)

see waht you did

5 thoughts on “Small Town Life

  1. I just googled small town cliques are real and this article came up. We just moved to a small town from a big city so we’re the newbs. It’s hellish and great all at the same time. Please send help.

  2. Never mind all the rubbish. This crap town I am in has a stupid clique that I can now take and all they can do is sit back and watch, cos now I am above their law. Bring on the games as I have NO LAWS

  3. I hate small towns with a burning passion. I especially hate the boring, regressive, oppressive, horrible and boring small town of Shelby, NC in which I was raised. It is everything that I hate in the world.

    I hate small towns and I hate small town mentality. I 1000% love this article and I agree with most things you mentioned in it. I’m a 27 year old African American woman. Your experience greatly matches my experiences of growing up in a horrible, boring, close minded southern small town in NC where the people have a lot of the same attitudes that you’ve mentioned. My experiences were almost exactly the same as yours. Shelby, NC is full of people who can be stuck in the past and resistant to social change or any new ideas; this is a small town where the older generation especially, but many of the younger people around my age, still have this mentality of settling down right after high school or in their early twenties to have a few kids out of wedlock or within some coupled relationship or marriage just because that’s what their parents or peers expect them to do; they’ve been brainwashed since their earliest years to think that they’re obligated to become parents at a young age and the culture pushes them to have kids just because….that’s the way it’s supposed to be or the way it’s always been done. It’s probably rarely presented as a choice whether they ultimately have kids. They’re just expected to because it’s an obligation or something that’s always been done.

    I have nothing against people who simply value the lifestyle of having children at a young age and those who emphasize family life. Those are their values, but I don’t agree with that kind of lifestyle. I hate that lifestyle. I think that having kids in your early twenties or right after high school is a boring, restrictive, undesirable lifestyle for someone like me who prefers my peace, quiet, solitude and prefers spending time doing my favorite hobbies and interests. I’ve never wanted to have children of my own and I’m not going to have children of my own unless I become a foster care parent and adopt two children from foster care. I’m also happily single and I’ve always enjoyed my choice to not be in a relationship because, again, I prefer my peace, quiet and solitude and time for indulge in my interests. The only time I desired to have a boyfriend was during some of my earlier college years. Someday, it’d be nice to get a husband. But people are commonly stigmatized or at least criticized and thought of as broken, lonely or “something’s wrong with you” if they don’t conform to the norm of getting a partner and some kids by a certain age in this small town area.

    Many of both the older and younger population in Shelby, NC stigmatize any non-traditional, liberal or left-leaning ideas, values or beliefs. It’s a place where most people just listen to Fox News all the time and where only Fox News plays on the channels at certain businesses. I’m a liberal; I have moderate – liberal political values, both Christian and secular values, liberal political views about specific issues but I also believe in some conservative moral values, conservative social values, and some right-wing political views about certain things based on what I’ve found in facts, evidence and my own priorities and values. I fully support LGBT marriage and LGBT adoption of children. I am a happy and proud feminist, because I believe that feminism has improved society as a philosophy and social movement. Shelby, NC is a culturally and politically conservative small town that has always resisted new ideas or different ideas that didn’t conform to the status quo; it also has a long history of allowing white supremacist violence, racial discrimination and lack separatism. The highway called East Dixon Blvd. was named after a very racist writer who was born and raised in Shelby, NC. I was fully indoctrinated into a fundamentalist, evangelical, conservative Christian church called the Seventh-day Adventist church but I drank all the Coolaid because I was expected to believe that without question. But, I went to college and decided to start thinking for myself and live my life according to my preferred values rather than the ones imposed upon me through being indoctrinated into an authoritarian religion and authoritarian culture.

    I’m from a small town in NC (Shelby) where the culture and mentality is full of the hypocritical, cherry-picking, cultural Christians who ignore parts of the Bible that they don’t like and they don’t actually follow its lifestyle teaches when it pertains to their lifestyle. Yet they call themselves conservative and they stigmatize atheists and “the liberals” to some extent. The hypocritical, cherry-picking, closeminded cultural Christians never go to church, don’t read the Bible or obey what it says but church is a glorified social club for them even when they ignore many of the Bible’s teachings. These are the same people who have premarital sex, sleep around with different people and have a few kids out of wedlock by three different people but these same hypocritical people will condemn homosexuality and they condemn gay marriage and they’ll quickly call a man “gay” if he doesn’t seem to conform to some narrow standards of masculinity as defined by the community. You have people who care so much about having kids or acting a certain way just to follow someone else’ expectations for how to live, because they never questioned the values they were taught, or to fit in with their peers or to fit in with the dominant norms and they stigmatize those who are happily single and don’t want a relationship or they stigmatize people who don’t want kids or they stigmatize people who are different in some ways that doesn’t fit in with the dominant norms of talking, thinking and acting in the small town. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, there was probably more stigma against those things.

    Especially during the earlier 90s and 2000s, as I grew up, there was a lot of close mindedness toward people for being different in even the silliest, non-consequential ways. I was picked on and disrespected for being a quiet, reserved black girl; I was picked on because I spoke differently from others; if you were a black person listening to rock, you’d be criticized or teased; I was accused of “talking white” and “acting white”. I say that most other black people around me have been my own worst enemies because it’s true; it’s been my experience that most of the people who harassed or criticized me for being different were other black people who were close minded, immature and misguided black people who learned toxic ideas from their own close minded upbringing. A lot of them followed the expectations to get knocked up with a few kids right after high school or in their early twenties because that’s what they were taught in their hood culture, churches and family backgrounds. I’m thankful for my wonderful mom, who never pressured me to have kids or to be in a relationship just to follow someone else’ expectations or to fit in with boring, traditional and close minded people.

  4. I hate all small towns with a burning passion. I especially hate the boring, regressive, oppressive, horrible and boring small town of Shelby, NC in which I was raised. It is everything that I hate in the world.

    I hate small towns and I hate small town mentality. I 1000% love this article and I agree with most things you mentioned in it. I’m a 27 year old African American woman. Your experience greatly matches my experiences of growing up in a horrible, boring, close minded southern small town in NC where the people have a lot of the same attitudes that you’ve mentioned. My experiences were almost exactly the same as yours. Shelby, NC is full of people who can be stuck in the past and resistant to social change or any new ideas; this is a small town where the older generation especially, but many of the younger people around my age, still have this mentality of settling down right after high school or in their early twenties to have a few kids out of wedlock or within some coupled relationship or marriage just because that’s what their parents or peers expect them to do; they’ve been brainwashed since their earliest years to think that they’re obligated to become parents at a young age and the culture pushes them to have kids just because….that’s the way it’s supposed to be or the way it’s always been done. It’s probably rarely presented as a choice whether they ultimately have kids. They’re just expected to because it’s an obligation or something that’s always been done.

    I have nothing against people who simply value the lifestyle of having children at a young age and those who emphasize family life. Those are their values, but I don’t agree with that kind of lifestyle. I hate that lifestyle. I think that having kids in your early twenties or right after high school is a boring, restrictive, undesirable lifestyle for someone like me who prefers my peace, quiet, solitude and prefers spending time doing my favorite hobbies and interests. I’ve never wanted to have children of my own and I’m not going to have children of my own unless I become a foster care parent and adopt two children from foster care. I’m also happily single and I’ve always enjoyed my choice to not be in a relationship because, again, I prefer my peace, quiet and solitude and time for indulge in my interests. The only time I desired to have a boyfriend was during some of my earlier college years. Someday, it’d be nice to get a husband. But people are commonly stigmatized or at least criticized and thought of as broken, lonely or “something’s wrong with you” if they don’t conform to the norm of getting a partner and some kids by a certain age in this small town area.

    Many of both the older and younger population in Shelby, NC stigmatize any non-traditional, liberal or left-leaning ideas, values or beliefs. It’s a place where most people just listen to Fox News all the time and where only Fox News plays on the channels at certain businesses. I’m a liberal; I have moderate – liberal political values, both Christian and secular values, liberal political views about specific issues but I also believe in some conservative moral values, conservative social values, and some right-wing political views about certain things based on what I’ve found in facts, evidence and my own priorities and values. I fully support LGBT marriage and LGBT adoption of children. I am a happy and proud feminist, because I believe that feminism has improved society as a philosophy and social movement. Shelby, NC is a culturally and politically conservative small town that has always resisted new ideas or different ideas that didn’t conform to the status quo; it also has a long history of allowing white supremacist violence, racial discrimination and lack separatism. The highway called East Dixon Blvd. was named after a very racist writer who was born and raised in Shelby, NC. I was fully indoctrinated into a fundamentalist, evangelical, conservative Christian church called the Seventh-day Adventist church but I drank all the Coolaid because I was expected to believe that without question. But, I went to college and decided to start thinking for myself and live my life according to my preferred values rather than the ones imposed upon me through being indoctrinated into an authoritarian religion and authoritarian culture.

    I’m from a small town in NC (Shelby) where the culture and mentality is full of the hypocritical, cherry-picking, cultural Christians who ignore parts of the Bible that they don’t like and they don’t actually follow its lifestyle teaches when it pertains to their lifestyle. Yet they call themselves conservative and they stigmatize atheists and “the liberals” to some extent. The hypocritical, cherry-picking, closeminded cultural Christians never go to church, don’t read the Bible or obey what it says but church is a glorified social club for them even when they ignore many of the Bible’s teachings. These are the same people who have premarital sex, sleep around with different people and have a few kids out of wedlock by three different people but these same hypocritical people will condemn homosexuality and they condemn gay marriage and they’ll quickly call a man “gay” if he doesn’t seem to conform to some narrow standards of masculinity as defined by the community. You have people who care so much about having kids or acting a certain way just to follow someone else’ expectations for how to live, because they never questioned the values they were taught, or to fit in with their peers or to fit in with the dominant norms and they stigmatize those who are happily single and don’t want a relationship or they stigmatize people who don’t want kids or they stigmatize people who are different in some ways that doesn’t fit in with the dominant norms of talking, thinking and acting in the small town. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, there was probably more stigma against those things.

    Especially during the earlier 90s and 2000s, as I grew up, there was a lot of close mindedness toward people for being different in even the silliest, non-consequential ways. I was picked on and disrespected for being a quiet, reserved black girl; I was picked on because I spoke differently from others; if you were a black person listening to rock, you’d be criticized or teased; I was accused of “talking white” and “acting white”. I say that most other black people around me have been my own worst enemies because it’s true; it’s been my experience that most of the people who harassed or criticized me for being different were other black people who were close minded, immature and misguided black people who learned toxic ideas from their own close minded upbringing. A lot of them followed the expectations to get knocked up with a few kids right after high school or in their early twenties because that’s what they were taught in their hood culture, churches and family backgrounds. I’m thankful for my wonderful mom, who never pressured me to have kids or to be in a relationship just to follow someone else’ expectations or to fit in with boring, traditional and close minded people.

    1. Funny you mention the kids at twenty thing. I was married and pregnant by the time I was 20. Then a single mom at 21. And no one blinked an eye at any of it. I never regret having my kids, but I agree that having them in my twenties (early twenties at least) was not the best decision.

      My town is changing in terms of its narrow-minded views. Sadly, it’s not changing fast enough. I see young people adopting the outdated and backward beliefs and ideologies of their parents and it makes me sad for the future. Hopefully, they’ll get away as adults and learn a thing or two about real life and people, and maybe choose a different path.

      Thanks for commenting. (And we also have a lot of those hypocritical, cherry-picking Christians who never go to Church but are quick to point how God-fearing and righteous they are, even though they follow NONE of the teachings of their so-called faith. Most annoying people I’ve ever met. 😉 )

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