Had you asked me several years ago if I had thought that living in California would be pretty comparable to living in Texas, I would have supposed “yes”. After living in the Lone Star state for these last 4 years, I can now safely say that that would have been the wrong answer. And that answer was solidified by football.
Yes, I went to football games as a teenager. Did I go because I enjoyed watching the sport or because I wanted to be involved in “team spirit”? Um, negative. And it sure as hell wasn’t because I enjoyed or cared to understand the sport! Let’s get this straight–the ONLY reason I attended an occasional football game ( I never had to suffer the droning announcer’s voice or instant replays of professional games at home because my father would have rather sat down with a good book or played the guitar than turn on a TV to watch sports) was to hang out with my friends or check out cute guys. Now, football players have never been my “type”, ( I’ve always preferred awkwardly tall, thin men), but because I attended a high school with 349 students (40 in my graduating class), the SAME BOYS that were on the football team were also on the basketball team and the cross-country team and the golf team and the baseball team. The jocks were ALSO the surfers and the stoners. Pretty much every guy that went to school was at the game. SO, a sporting event just meant you got to see cute boys running around as they tried to figure out what to do with their balls…
Texas, however, seems to be a different story. I have noticed that football is a very big deal in this state. Nearly everyone knows not only names of professional team players, but also of local high school stars. Even GIRLS care about football around here. It is all quite baffling to me.
The first time I actually realized how “hard-core” Texans were about football was when I was invited to my first ever super bowl party. For the 12 years previously leading up to that party, I had worked in retail and always worked on Sundays. I WAS the “Sunday Girl.” Super Bowl happened to be our biggest sale of the year. You might think it odd that a fabric store would have such great success with a sale that day, but the ladies came crawling out of the woodwork! Some of them came in early so they could get back home in time for the game, but I think the majority of them were glad to be out of the house and spending their hard-earned money on new sewing machines. The idea of NOT working on a Sunday was mystifying IN AND OF ITSELF. I was not prepared for what I would encounter on game day.
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The party was held at a couples’ house that we barely knew. But we shared several mutual friends. We pulled up to the house , which was in a cute little neighborhood.
“This place is so cute,” I admired. “Wait-is this couple OUR age?”
Before I go any further, I should explain this seemingly unrelated question. You see, we weren’t used to people “our age” (which would have been late 20’s/early 30’s) living in HOUSES. Or, if they did, they certainly didn’t have one all to themselves. They usually shared it with 4 or 5 or 12 (if they lived in Isla Vista anyway) other people. From the outside, this house, in our eyes, belonged to a middle-aged couple on the verge of retirement.
“I think they are close in age to us,” my husband replied.
“Really!?” I squeaked in disbelief. “Hmm.”
We left out minivan covered in bumper stickers and made our way up to the front door and into the home. The minute I walked inside, I was sure we had found our way into Martha Stewart’s secret “Texas Retreat Home” that would be featured in her magazine the following month alongside a list of “hot spots” in the panhandle. Warm neutral tones on the walls invited us in, while dark wood and tastefully distressed furniture solidified my hunch.
We were greeted warmly by new and familiar faces, and urged to set down our potluck dish. (I cannot for the life of me remember what food we took.) The kitchen island was cluttered with a kaleidoscope of foods. Buffalo wings with the brilliant glaze of a sunset (or were they hot wings? And is there a difference? And why are they called “buffalo wings”? Last time I checked, buffalo were roaming, not flying…); the milky-cheesy, volcano-bubbling mound of macaroni; the endless bowls of pretzels and ruffled potato chips; other savory meats presented on plastic trays in unrecognizable mounds. And then there was the ice chest of ice cream sandwiches that someone had brought. I thought that was pretty rad.
I DO remember that we had taken Guiness. I also remember hurriedly opening one so that I could partake in a familiar comfort in the foreign land. I liken it to being at an amusement park: so many exciting rides, but the good old ferris wheel won’t let you down.
Although I don’t specifically remember every detail of what ensued, I can bet money on it going something like this:
“Amber-grab a plate and help yourself. Such and such place makes the best wings in town.”
“Oh,” I say, disenchanted. I put a small pile of food on a plate that I don’t really have any interest in eating.
“No wings?” says someone who is paying way too close attention to the food I am choosing.
“Oh, thanks, but I’m a vegetarian,” I explain with great anxiety. I know what’s coming. And it’s the only reason I HATE being a vegetarian. I try to avoid the conversation at all costs.
“A vegetarian? Hmm. Why?”
This is the mother of all questions for a vegetarian. I don’t think anyone really WANTS to go into the details as to why they’ve chosen not to eat meat. I mean, it’s like asking a gay guy, “why are you gay?” BECAUSE he likes men, idiot! I have no interest in trying to convince someone they should be a vegetarian. I would rather not discuss it.
My usual response usually goes something like, “Oh, I’ve just never cared for meat.” And that is completely true. I haven’t. But it’s here where I hold my tongue. It is not appropriate to respond with, “Because I think it’s totally disgusting to eat an animal that has been wading around, day in and day out, in its own feces. Oh yeah–I also think it’s just plain mean.”
Some people won’t shut up though.
“Really?! I can’t imagine not eating meat.”
I say nothing but think, “More parasitic flesh for you to grill over an open fire then!”
Or there is the famous rebuttal of, “How do you get enough protein? That’s probably why you’re so skinny.”
Diplomatic answer: ” I eat lots of beans and lentils.”
Undiplomatic thoughts: “Proteins are made from amino acids, NOT from meat. Did you know the average American walks around with a THREE MONTH SUPPLY of “protein” at any given time because we severely over-consume it? I am ‘skinny‘ because my father is Asian and I don’t eat crap.” (footnote here: I had never even heard the word “bariatric” until I came to Texas. My husband and I gave it our best by guessing it was some kind of surgery to do with geriatric. This was only after we had dismissed our initial hypothesis that all the billboards in town had accidentally misspelled “geriatric”. Learn more by going here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bariatrics ).
“Hmmm. You must eat a lot of beans…” They think to themselves, “How could she not want to eat this spongy, goose-bumpy pink skin with all those little hair follicles covering stringy flesh?”
I suppose it will have to remain a mystery.
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By the end of the night ( I was SO past all those questions because I was nursing my 4th Guiness by then. And let me make a clear disclaimer here: Not all vegetarians are drunks as they may appear. It is only that every time they get themselves into a social situation involving “potlucks” , that they are forced to drink by default. They can’t very well eat the one entire bowl of salad there without at least letting others try it…) everyone was gathered in the living room around the TV because, apparently, the game had gotten pretty exciting. And if I do recall, there was some tiny part of me that enjoyed all the commotion about a bunch of guys throwing a ball.
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Well, seeing how the super bowl is this weekend, I think I’ll go make myself a salad and peruse my cookbooks for the perfect potluck dish…