i’ve heard a lot of “you can’t” since i moved to the hill country. There was, “You cant get a bank to loan on a tiny house on land.” “You can’t homestead without a husband” “You can’t survive in the wilderness without a man”, “You can’t make enough money homesteading to keep this land” and in turn… “you can’t homestead with a day job”. “You can’t handle two dogs by yourself”. “You can’t all of a sudden learn to train dogs.” “You can’t tar a roof without a man. You’ll fall.” “You cant put chickens in the house.” You can’t coexist with snakes” “You cant coexist with scorpions.” “You cant coexist with coyotes.” “You can’t coexist with wild hogs” “You cant coexist with rabbits.” and “You cant coexist with foxes.” “You cant pull dead deer out of the middle of the road.” “You cant survive without a husband.” “You cant be celibate, you’ll die”… which makes me wonder about the wiring of the male brain. Do they really think that if they don’t get some their heart will stop and their lungs will cease to inflate? So dramatic. “You can’t treat yourself without the opinion of a doctor”. “You cant use plants as medicine. That’s nonsense.” “You cant wear that cross if you’re not catholic. The image of Jesus’ body belongs to them.” You cant lift me…you’re too little. Get a man.” “You can’t clean me up. This involves poop. Get one of the hispanic girls.” I find that one an insult to both of us. Im fully capable of changing a diaper and also there’s no ethnicity you must qualify as to handle poop. Now my latest encounter with one of these self appointed gate keepers was “You cant talk like that. You’re from Austin.”
I’ve spent the last 7 years living in a community where everyone at the bank, the post office, the grocery store, the feed store, my jobs, and even my neighbors speak to me with a certain accent. I’ve sort of adopted that accent through osmosis. The more time i spend amongst people speaking to me in this way, the more i sound like them. The other day was the second time in 7 years that someone told me i was not allowed to speak with this accent because i’m not from here.
On some level, this argument sounds ridiculous to my ears. In my efforts trying to learn russian, german, spanish, and japanese, i have conversed with many people around the world via the internet who laughed at me, told me i said the right word but maybe with a texas accent, and then repeated themselves again and again so i could listen and try to say the word in a more german way, or in a more russian way, or in a more authentic spanish accent. I have never encountered someone that has said, “yes, you’re speaking German, but now do it with a less German accent because you’re not from here so speaking like us native Germans is not allowed.” So what we’re mad about today is that i’ve assimilated too well. If i had called the cow gate a driveway adornment we would have been mad i was too city. Sometimes i think people just need something to be mad about.
I thought about what the latest gate keeper said and i wondered if there was really very much difference between the way i talked and the way i spoke 7 years ago, so i started to pay very close attention to what i was saying. I watched some news clips from austin and tried to pay attention to the way the anchors spoke. I tried to see if there were many differences between the way they pronounced words and the way i pronounced words. I came to the conclusion that there are a few things im doing differently than people speaking in the city. Every word that ends with “ing”, im pronouncing “in”. “Freaking” becomes “freakin” and talking becomes “talkin”…makin…thinkin…feelin…. There’s no “g” sound on the end. Then “for” becomes “fer” and “to” becomes “ta”. Some words are just shortened. “Going” becomes “gon”…pronounced more like “gun”….
I started to realize that there were three options here. Option number 1: the guy was being a jackass. Option number 2: the guy was insecure about being the new guy on the team in my environment and needed to pick at me to call the attention off of him and pump up his own self esteem by picking at others until they seemed beneath him. Option number 3: He was really and truly offended to the core of his being because he thought i was making a conscious effort to imitate something i didnt come by naturally in an effort to make a mockery of what he considered his native tongue. If it was option number 1 or number 2, i didn’t give a hoot. However, if it was indeed option number 3, i could clear up the misunderstanding and give him peace of mind by letting him know that i was high functioning autistic and imitation is something i come by naturally. It’s a huge part of “masking” which is where an autistic person puts away behavior, facial expressions, and body language that come naturally to them in an effort to appear socially appropriate in society, effectively mimicking neurotypicals. It’s something i can maybe do more fluidly than the average person because i’ve had to entertain my entire life that those around me are not wired in the same way and adaptation on my part is required.
I’m not going to try to change my accent back to a city accent while surrounded by people speaking to me with a country accent, watching videos of austin news anchors every night and trying to annunciate my words, then hold those broadcasts in my memory while the people in front of me speak to me in a country accent. This is a waste of time. I’m also not going to tell the latest gatekeeper in my life that im high functioning autistic. Im smart enough to know that if it is option number 1 or option number 2 he will use the information against me, and if it is indeed option number 3, he should try to be a little more tolerant of those around him. Not everything is black and white. If he moved to the city and lost some of his country twang after speaking with people who said “ing” instead of “in” for 7 years, would he love it if a coworker called him out in front of his boss and other coworkers and told him he had to speak more country because he wasn’t from Austin? Probably not. So i will add him to a long list of gate keepers i’ve encountered over the last seven years and i will add my accent to a list of things people have felt are incorrect about me, including my heritage, gender, height, weight, marital status, financial status, career choice, religion, and political stance. I was standing in the kitchen the other day and a thought came to me. People spend their entire lives looking for the work place or the social group in which they are going to be fully accepted for who they are. A little voice in my head chuckled and said, “Stop looking for the place on earth where you will be accepted for exactly who you are and start creating it within yourself.” I am never going to be a stereotypical anything, and no-one should. We are all different and we have ten thousand little pieces of information that shape and make up who we are. All these little pieces of information are part of my story. I am a deeply religious christian and yet i have jewish blood in my veins. I am a woman and yet i dont wear dresses nor do i subscribe to stereotypical gender roles. I have a womb and yet it can’t support life. I love animals and yet i kill grasshoppers, cicadas, scorpions, praying mantises, and one rooster that had to go. I have embraced life in the country but i find every single deer, every fox, every cow, every sheep, every sun rise with no buildings on the horizon…a small miracle to witness. Natives to this area sometimes laugh at me because these are mundane daily sights, and i expose the part of my story where i am not from here when i get so excited about these phenomena. And i dont mind this part of me. If i had been born in the hill country i wouldn’t have the appreciation that comes with not knowing it for 27 years before finding it. I’m never going to fit into a human constructed box. I would argue that it’s a waste of time to try. If you want to aspire to be accepted by somebody, worry about what God thinks of you, because the recipe for failure here on earth is trying to please everyone all at once. For every person who gets upset i no longer tack “ing” on the end of my words there’s somebody who gets upset because i give them directions to my bathroom when they tell me they have to pee. FYI, in the country, if a man says they have to pee they’re just giving you a heads up not to let children or animals run around the other side of the truck for the next two minutes lest they see a willy in mid stream. You just can’t satisfy everyone. You have to wake up every morning and do your best to be a good person and spread kindness and grace while being true to the things you believe in. Never stop entertaining the idea that you could be wrong about things but don’t let other people change your behavior without a sound reason. There will always be at least one of a thousand details about who you are that others dont like. The only one who is going to accept you for all the little fractions of your life that make up who you are in your entirety is God. So know yourself within, do your best, and leave people to their opinions. They’re entitled to them.