Whenever anyone asks me what it was like growing up in a small town, I tell them this story.
In seventh grade I started having a lot of trouble in my pre-Algebra class. I just didn't get Algebra, and it was the first time I had any problem with math, much to my mother's (the mathematician) chagrin. Add to the fact that I was the first-born, and even though I didn't have the typical amount of pressure put on me that most first children receive (because my parents were, sigh, NICE, I guess), there was an understanding that I was to stay on the honor roll for the rest of my school career, and, if it were possible, for the rest of my life.
So pre-Algebra really screwed up that plan. I thought I was smart enough, however, that I could hide the occasional bad grades I received from my parents; as long as I got a B every nine-weeks, they didn't really need to know about the Cs or Ds I got on tests, right? Well, this plan seems to fail when you live in a small town and you happen to get the one math teacher in the middle school who has been teaching there for years, who is married to the man who owns the furniture store where your parents bought all of their major appliances, and happens to take an early evening walk around your neighborhood block every single day. So, of course, Mrs. Sisson, when seeing my dad cutting grass in the evenings, would stop and chat and inevitably say something like, "Tyler (pronounced, mind you, as "Tyyylaaah") got a C on a math test today."
One would think that moving six hundred miles to Chicago would protect my identity a bit, and make me more anonymous. Nearly everyone I went to high school with, at least the ones that I was the closest to, have moved out of the area (albeit mostly to Richmond and Fredericksburg). And my father was indeed a local celebrity, given the numbers at the funeral home visitation and the funeral this week, but I never considered that I knew or was close to many people around here. Sure, being home for an event like this has certainly made me appreciate growing up in a small town, because the emotions expressed by everyone we have encountered have been very comforting instead of overwhelming.
Of course, here's the weird thing, which has shaken me up quite a bit: I've had a few people, people who are friends with my parents, say, "I've read your blog!"
I used to think having potential or current employers finding this site was bad. Imagine the people who came over for dinner, or the parents of people you went to high school. People who aren't extremely close to the family, but close enough that it's, um, weird.
When I said something to my mom, she just rolled her eyes, because ONCE AGAIN we all knew she was right. She refuses to read the blog because she's convinced I'm chronicling my crack cocaine addiction, or she'll read about my patronage of prostitutes, or be embarrassed by my jokes about her. (All of the previous don't happen, of course. Except for when I make fun of my mom. But I'm laughing WITH her!) She said, "Well, if you're going to have a blog, people are going to read it." Well, yeah, but not people from Westmoreland County, Virginia. Didn't we just get the Internet, like, four years ago?
I don't mean to sound like some elitist here, saying that I'm this big city big shot here. I still put my pants on one leg and a time, and I still use Spell Check just like everybody else. I know most people wouldn't read this site if they weren't generally interested in what my life was like, and they wouldn't say anything about it if they didn't enjoy it somehow (I think).
But to put it in perspective, I'd like to quote from Janeane Garofalo's 1997 HBO stand-up special, because, you know, I'm obsessed and it's also been a weird basis for my life's maturation. She had a ruptured ovarian cyst that, she said, was discovered after she passed out and had an "thorough" exam by the gynecologist. "Whilst he's down there," she said, "he peers up from between my knees and said, 'You know, my wife and I LOVE you on The Larry Sanders Show!'"
Janeane says she has a don't-ask-don't-tell policy with her vagina; man, I'd love to have that same policy with my blog.