By Michelle Riddell
When you first move to the country after living in the city your whole life, you stick out like a perfectly manicured thumb. You don’t know the rules, the customs, or the subtle societal mores dictating behavior. You have misgivings about fitting in: Why doesn’t anyone else wear bangs? Am I supposed to dry clean this Carhartt coat? Will I lose my chopstick dexterity without a Korean barbeque within walking distance? To your rural neighbors—most of whom belong to one of three familial factions— you are an outsider, an interloper, a passing transient who won’t last through the harvest.
But you do.
You make it through that harvest and the next, and before you know it, ten years have passed since you moved to the sticks. Your initial reservations dried up long ago like the spring mud that evaporates into filthy summer dust and covers everything. Now, you feel like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 with a chiseled resilience to endure any hardship thrown your way: Fifteen snow days in one month due to impassable roads? Meh. Local grocery store doesn’t carry Sriracha sauce? Whatever. Neighbors who fly both a Hooters and a Confederate flag? Handled like a Boss (and by handled, you mean ignored).
But be honest, City Girl: You are still a socially-driven creature with a hardwired need for acceptance. A fleeting doubt escapes: Do I pass? Am I one of them? If you’re still not sure whether your transition from City Slick to Country Hick is complete, here are eighteen ways to tell:
1. You’ve conceded that it takes thirty minutes to drive anywhere, but you have zero tolerance for traffic. If you can’t go 65 mph the whole way without stopping, you fly into road rage—UNLESS you spot a turtle moseying across the highway, in which case you slam on the brakes and help the little feller to safety.
2. When your friend’s baby registry includes a camouflage crib set, not only do you not snicker, but you also buy it for her.
3. You’ve synched your kids’ vaccination schedule to match your septic tank evacuations so you don’t fall too far behind on either. Let’s see, the last time we had the septic tank pumped, little Janey got her MMRI…and now the toilets are overflowing, so she must be due for her booster shot!
4. When you say, “My hood has some rough places,” you literally mean, “The triangular amenity attached to my coat that covers my head in a storm has some places where the material is not smooth.”
5. You’ve witnessed at least one squirrel/possum/rabbit giving birth, then Googled: What do I feed newborn squirrels/possums/rabbits? Followed by: How to raise baby squirrels/possums/rabbits? And finally: How to dispose of dead, possibly diseased, baby squirrels/possums/rabbits?
6. The Lands End catalog makes you feel frumpy and out of style.
7. What you find most offensive about the show Naked and Afraid isn’t its derogatory depiction of women, its cheesy dialogue, or the ridiculous premise; no, you’re most offended by the phony way they split firewood. An axe? Please.
8. You’ve attended a donkey basketball game and knew most of the players.
9. You don’t object to your husband’s decision to mow giant crop circles in the yard with the tractor in order to “add a little mystery to summer.”
10. In the winter, you don’t drive anywhere without chains, a winch, blankets, boots, road flares, and a spare “dish to pass,” because country folk are known for their flash-mob-stuck-in-a-ditch potlucks.
11. Your kids have spent more time in hunting blinds than in a shopping mall.
12. You are proficient in vehicle mud spatter. By the subtle variation in color and texture of the muck dried onto someone’s car, you can tell the exact road they live on.
13. Homegrown tomatoes have absolutely ruined you for the pale, mealy ones in the grocery store, and even though you spend a small fortune growing your own, every spring you feel compelled to plant a vegetable garden.
14. You schedule all your kids’ appointments on the opening day of rifle season because you know there won’t be any school.
15. You couldn’t care less about wearing white after Labor Day, but you wouldn’t be caught dead without the snowplow on your tractor after Halloween.
16. When your husband gives you a diamond bracelet for your birthday, you smile politely and thank him, but deep down you’re disappointed because what you really wanted was that set of Water Hog floor mats.
17. You’ve become a venison snob; if it’s not a bow kill, you want no part of it.
18. You completely understand the marital benefits of separate pole barns.
Obviously, “You can take the girl out of the city, but you’ll never take the city out of the girl,” is just a meaningless adage intended to keep the blood lines pure. Rest easy, sister; you’re killing it in the country.
By Michelle Riddell
Michelle Riddell lives with her family on a muddy dirt road far away from any Target, where she writes, edits, and substitute teaches. Her work has appeared on Mamalode, Club Mid, The Good Mother Project, Hello Dearest and others. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.