Locality is a Subjective Normality

“Are you local?”

Hard to answer that question.  Local like produce?  Do I live where the regional food is grown and eaten?  That would be yes.  I’m not a Child of the Corn, but I can certainly go that way with the right combination of illegal substances.

Am I originally from the area?  No.  That’s certainly obvious by the way I drive.  You can take the girl out of the Northeast, but you can’t take the Northeast out of the girl.

I miss Boston.  Maybe not the traffic though.
I miss Boston. Maybe not the traffic though.

I have a question in return.  How long do we have to live in the Chicago area to be considered locals?  I mean, I have the luxury of blending in more with my voice, but the Boffin will forever be interrogated with “Where are you from?” for the rest of his life.

The stereotypical Englishman and the Boffin's only chance of becoming an Avenger.
The stereotypical Englishman and the Boffin’s only chance of becoming an Avenger.

I mentioned in my last blog post that many people in my town are from the Chicago area and expect their children to settle close by.  I can understand this way of thinking because I grew up the same way.  Pennsylvania, my home state, is like Illinois in that it retains its native sons and daughters.  So Illinois and Pennsylvania’s definition of local is honed.

A great example I can give is the following.  I was at a gathering at our temple and the subject of locality came up with a group of women I was meeting for the first time.  A lovely young mother talked about how she wasn’t local because she grew up in a town 17 miles away.  The other women accepted this as par for the course.  At first, the snarky part of me internally wondered if this far away town had candy-paved roads and unicorn taxis with the way they were speaking.  But I looked at myself honestly, and I realized I would responded the same way too, if I stayed in my indigenous area.

But I didn’t stay.  I needed more, and I left home.  My world got bigger, and my definition of local became expanded in the process.  I married a man who grew up an ocean away from me.  Now we are willing to drive two hours one way for a good meal.  We travel the same distance as a family to pick blueberries to make our super secret special jam to give to our friends and family during the holidays.  What’s up in Wisconsin?  What’s here in Iowa?  What’s going on around us?   We have to know.  We have to investigate.  A 10-mile radius isn’t good enough.

Britons have different ideas about what is local.  First of all, we are talking about deep rooted regional and national differences based upon thousands of years of history and tradition.  An American may think this is just a country the size of an average state, but this is island of factions, and you have to pick one.  And because the island is so compressed, in a journey of a few miles, you could see factions that distinctly hate each other.  Think Yorkshire v. Lancashire.

Secondly, getting from one place to another is not the easiest of tasks, especially if you are driving.  This is not a country with an open highway system, so a trip of 60 miles can feel like an arduous journey with its stops, starts, roundabouts, and narrow roads to motorways back to narrow roads.  And to the Americans, be grateful for the prices you pay for gasoline (petrol).  Today, the average price is $0.77 per liter in the U.S..  In the U.K., it is $1.83.   So train trips, bike rides, and short car trips are the way to go, and it does alter your thinking about what local is.

The hell that is the Magic Roundabout in Swindon.   I wanted a T-shirt after I did this.
The hell that is the Magic Roundabout in Swindon. I wanted a T-shirt after I did this.

Regardless of where you are, the beauty about it is that there is no right or wrong definition.  Local is what you want it to be and what works for you.

Maybe it isn’t a hard question to answer.

Yes, I am local.  And loca.  And I am very happy to be.

I just won’t end up like this.

3 thoughts on “Locality is a Subjective Normality

  1. Born in Brooklyn, where each ethnicity had its local neighborhood separated by a matter of blocks, Karen. Raised on Long Island, where local was measured by which suburban high school you attended. State University of New York tuition put me in a tiny upstate locality that blew my mind with cornfields and a transfer to the gigantic University of Maryland

    Liked by 1 person

    1. … put me miles from our nation’s capital, where they wanted every local yokel to feel welcome, and I mean U.S. state and nation in the world. Then I ended up living in Syracuse, N.Y., mid-sized city where I feel like local things are pretty cool but from the people born here who’ve never left I sense a yearning for more, bordering on somewhat of an inferiority complex.

      Local is such a complex issue, indeed. In your Hybrid household, even more so. Great post today.

      Liked by 1 person

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