By Sarah Tate Chambers
Over the past four years, I’ve learned that coming back home is rarely as romantic as a Norman Rockwell piece. Instead, it’s messy, hilarious, sobering and charming. It’s more akin to a Bloodkin tract.
When I headed back to my hometown in central Illinois for the Thanksgiving weekend, the first thing I noticed was the new LCD community bulletin board. While it seems insignificant, it was a reminder that my town, and the people in it, had changed since I had been there last. Upon return to an old home, all relationships need to be renegotiated. This is exhausting in and of itself. Add the complications of expected gender roles, and you’re in for quite a visit.
My return to cornfields was filled with laughter and tension. I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years and met a good number of new and wonderful people. There were stiff conversations with old friends and long nights with some of my dearest. Still, there were relatives who were more concerned with the size of my ass than my scholastic achievements (who dished out subsequent glares when I shoveled extra pie into my belly). Inevitably, I was asked about my relationship status and why I couldn’t keep a relationship together for longer than a week. Thanks, folks! Overall, it was both wonderful and frustrating.
Holidays are ripe with gender complications. For starters, there are numerous questions about relationships and none about friendships, and plethora of remarks about attire and appearance. The ground gets shakier when the conversation moves to sexuality. The Frisky has a great piece about how a conversation about Roman Polanski shaped Amelia McDonell-Parry’s holiday dinner.
I know that we’re all in the midst of prepping for our Grand Finish to the semester, which takes every ounce of energy we’ve got. Nevertheless, I’d like to make some space in the midst of this to discuss how to go back home. How do you deal with your relatives remarks? Your friend’s jokes? How do you renegotiate that space in little ways? In larger ways, like Amelia dealt with? I think she gives a good jumping off point, and I’d love to hear more from you all about your own experiences. So, lay it on the table: What has coming home been like for you and how do you do it with grace?