In Maine, where they are (for lack of a better term) place-proud, I went to graduate school with a young woman who was constantly remarking that her family had lived in the Brunswick/Freeport area for 13 generations ~ as if she’d lived them all herself.
There’s something about Mainers that makes longevity in Maine not only a point of pride but of identity, and perhaps even self worth. I’m not sure where the cut off is, but if you’ve only moved to Maine, or if you’re only a 1st or 2nd generation (or, one assumes, somewhat less than a 13th generation) resident, then you’re “from away,” maybe even a “flatlander.” After all, just because kittens are born in an oven doesn’t make them biscuits, right? (Another Maine-ism; I’ve collected several over the years ~ they tickle me, regional expressions ~ like Texans, upon hearing an unlikely but amusing tale, remarking: “he’s pissin’ on my boot, but I like it!”)
Question is: where do people pick these things up ~ and why? The young woman I mentioned clearly had an emotional investment in being a “true” Mainer ~ someone of influence and trustworthiness in her life had indoctrinated her in the belief that at least part of her value and identity were predicated on her 13-generations-here ancestry.
But what if she had been adopted? would that negate her 13-generations cred? would that make her a different person or any less valuable? would it have changed the story those influential people told her about herself?
Because that’s where the stories we tell ourselves originate ~ with our parents and family and others whose good opinions we value ~ or whose censure we fear. It doesn’t matter if, later, we come to realize that these people really don’t walk on water or shoot fire out of their eyes ~ it was what we believed when it mattered, and what we internalized along with the stories. Parents are especially influential, whether they mean to be or not ~
In the movie Pretty Woman (which is just a contemporary retelling of the Cinderella story, by the way ~ see what I mean about stories?), there is a scene during which Edward (is that a handsome prince’s name or what?) and Vivian are talking about how she ended up there, and she says: “The first guy I’ve ever loved was a total nothing. The second was worse. My mom called me a bum magnet. If there was a bum in a fifty mile radius, I was completely attracted to him.”
Edward tells her that she has a number of special gifts, that she could be so much more ~ and Vivian’s reply is a truism: “The bad things are easier to believe.”
Why is that? What is it in us that won’t believe a miracle we see with our own eyes, that won’t take stock of all the good and wonderful things we create and accomplish, but will believe ~ and even dismantle ourselves with ~ every “bad thing” we are told about ourselves?
We weren’t born dissing ourselves, surely. So when and how did that change? and how can we change it back?
Until next time ~
next time: oh yeah? well . . .