Over the past four years it's become a normal sight, but in the Chicago suburbs, cowboy hats and boots stood out in a crowd. I have actually pointed at someone in the parking lot of a Target and said, “Hey look! That guy has a cowboy hat on.” (Quietly to myself, obviously. I'm not rude.) People were, for the most part, either clean shaven or sporting normal face scruff. No one used southern slang or had an accent (unless you actually were from somewhere else), and a burrito from Chipotle was the closest thing to Mexican food.
Then I moved to Oklahoma, and everything changed.
When I say that, people smile and nod, but I don't think they believe me. And it's true: on the surface, it's not like Illinois is that different. I mean, if you've ever driven through Illinois, you've no doubt seen the cornfields and the tractors and the tiny towns set back seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Insert wheat for corn, and Illinois and Oklahoma aren't all that different, right? My friends probably thought, It's not like you moved from LA. Calm down.
I admit that in general I'm slightly more dramatic about my move south than some people would be. Most likely the biggest factor to making sure I noticed the obvious differences between where I'm from and where I now live was marrying an Okie. A born-and-raised-in-small-town-Oklahoma boy who loves all things Oklahoma and, let's be honest, probably would have fought Confederate back in the day. (Granted, he is insanely patriotic, so don't be thinking he has it out for the Union. When we watch the Olympics, he'll randomly jump up and fist pump the air while shouting, “America is awesome!”) He owns guns, likes fishing, and can list every famous person who was ever born in Oklahoma. (Including his great-uncle, the actor James Garner. I like to throw that out there every once in a while because it makes me feel cooler.)
You Know He's an Okie When...
1: His idea of normal facial hair consists of mutton chops and/or a style akin to something you'd see in the Civil War era.Last summer was the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and in honor, he and a few friends grew “Civil War beards.” Since then, every so often he has the urge to shave something strange. A few months ago his mutton chops were out of control. It wasn't my favorite look (read: I hated it), but I decided I wasn't going to be that girl. I can do what I want with my mustache, and so should he. Amen.
2: I have to explain why wearing cowboy boots and jeans to a Catholic Illinois wedding is inappropriate.
I'm all for wearing a pair of nice jeans and boots to a wedding...in Texas. That's what people do, and it's not weird. But like I said, boots stick out, and when we were packing for our trip to Chicago for my friend's wedding, Jordan acted like I was trying to pretend we were something we weren't when really I was just trying to act like something we were—aka, people who wore wedding-appropriate attire to a wedding.
3: When I leave for a week of vacation, his one request is that I cook a Crock-Pot full of beans and fry up a pound of bacon for him to eat every night for dinner.
This is real life, people. Last month I flew to Saint Louis for a friend's wedding and was gone from Wednesday morning to Monday afternoon. Jordan has proven to be completely untrustworthy when it comes to sticking to an acceptable diet while I'm away. Either he snacks all day and feels sick, or he gets too lazy to cook anything and ends up finally getting around to cooking up a packet of ramen noodles at 11:00 at night. After Easter, his mom had given us the leftover ham bone, which we'd tossed in the freezer. So I fried up some bacon and cooked up 4 cups of pinto beans in a Crock-Pot (with the ham bone), and he ate it for over a week. Beans and bacon. I didn't even leave vegetables. I am an enabler.
4: Even after a year of marriage, I sometimes still ask him to clarify his southern slang.
He's got a gosh darn cute southern accent, and it cracks me up sometimes. (And cute dimples, but that's not the point.) We were talking about his mom once, and he said, “Yeah, she was up there cluckin'.” Umm, what? Yes, “cluckin'.” It means talking with a bunch of women—like hens, apparently. I don't know. Other phrases: “Are you fixin' to go?” “I'm plumb wore out.” Ah yes, and the favorite “y'all.” He also has a funny way of saying his days of the week. It sounds like he's saying “Tuesdee” instead of “Tuesday.” And that, I've discovered, is something a lot of people do down here.
On the flip side to that is my so-called Chicago accent. I've been told that I pronounce words like mom, pasta, Wisconsin, and Chicago with an exaggerated a. But there's no slang involved, I guess unless you count saying “you guys” instead of “y'all.”
Another Oklahoma thing I've picked up on is the use of the word whenever. Grammatically speaking, you should only use whenever when it's a common occurrence. Use when if you're referring to a specific instance.
Example: Whenever we go to my parents' house, my mom cooks really good food.
Meaning we go there a lot, and I'm not thinking of just one time.Example: When we go to my parents' house on Friday, be sure to bring games.
One specific time.
5: His mom made him a birthday dinner consisting of fried pork chops, fried okra, sauteed squash, and rice.
Unless I'm just forgetting, I don't remember my mom frying anything when we lived in Illinois. She cooked in skillets and pan-fried pork chops and whatever else, but using cooking oil and breading to actually fry something was not on our radar. And okra, no less. I don't think I ate okra until I moved to Oklahoma. I didn't even know what it was. It still amazes me to see how much fried crap there is down here. Sometimes I just want a delicious hot dog! And don't get me started on the pizza. Let's just say Domino's has become my friend.
* * * *Now whenever I drive, it's not unusual to pass horses and cows grazing in a field. Mexican restaurants and fried chicken fast-food are never far away. I cook beans and cornbread for dinner and have made my peace with ridiculous facial hair, and I don't even think twice when I see a cowboy hat. These days I'm the one with the accent.
A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post about living a great adventure. She asked about our “what if” dreams. I realized one of mine could have easily been, “What if I lived in Oklahoma?” Well here I am, and at the risk of being terribly cheesy, I think I'm living a pretty great "what if?" adventure.
Chops and all.