Hailing from the decidedly red state of Texas, I feel a bit like a double agent in blue-blooded Connecticut: I’m a liberal feminist on the streets of New Haven, but a sweet southern belle around daddy’s ranch — just a short horseback ride from the Rio Grande.
Maybe it’s the 85 degree heat or the omnipresence of border patrol hounds, but it can be difficult to feel the holiday spirit in South Texas. That odd conglomerate of Texas and Mexico that I (under oath) call home is not exactly bursting with seasonal charm. Despite the balmy climate however, we make a valiant effort: Santas wear sunglasses, palm trees are bedecked with fairy lights and menorahs are festively sheathed in heat-reflective tape.
Someone unfamiliar with the unique customs of my hometown (tamales on Christmas, anyone?) and my family (Chinese takeout on Christmas, anyone?) would probably be shocked. Perhaps the ceaseless heat fuses neuron pathways together, effectively burning out the option of flexibility. We do things in Texas the way they’ve always been done, and that’s just all there is to it. This applies not only to trimming the Christmas tree, but also bunking with significant others.
End of discussion.
(Funny, since I don’t ever recall the beginning … )
When I decided to invite my boyfriend down to experience the joy of sweaty wrestling … over Christmas presents, I knew that our relationship would require some adjustment. Though we flourish among the bastions of tolerance known as “them Yankees,” finding our place among my native Texans would prove more difficult.
As any person without one of those annoying moral or religious quandaries knows, dating someone in college means that you gain a suitemate or you simply disappear from your room. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve slept in my own bed since I started dating my current significant other.
This is largely pragmatic: his bed is simply bigger than mine. One night of eating the floor after being pushed out of my extra long but decidedly NOT extra wide bed is quite enough to dispel that “two in twin is cozier than one” myth.
Also, I didn’t want to wash my sheets that often.
My parents, originally hailing from the Northeast before embracing their inner Texan, are welcoming to their harridan daughter’s romantic pursuits. They know about our living in sin and are remarkably accepting.
(It’s not exactly my choice to tell my parents these intimate details: despite being a theater major, I have an inability to lie that defies understanding. I may be the only woman on the planet who is honest about her weight. Even on those forms at the dentist where they really don’t need to know. It’s 141.)
But despite my parents’ polite acquiescence over the phone, I felt the tone change when I set foot on Southern ground. The college rules of physical engagement just don’t apply south of the Mason-Dixon line: my boyfriend bunked in the guest room while I spooned with Fribbett (a stuffed frog) in my old high school bedroom.
I know, I know, it’s about respect. We shouldn’t be able to sleep together since we’re not engaged or married. It’s fine if we want to do the deed elsewhere, but not in my parents house. I understand, actually.
These kind of restrictions just bring out the “Mission: Impossible” in me.
By day, my boyfriend and I were the proverbial Joseph and Mary, holding hands and maintaining a polite “room for the Holy Spirit” distance apart.
By night, I was silently dodging large antiques in the dark while sneaking from my room to his room.
After a few days of sleep deprivation, I decided to remain in his room until just before my parents woke up, thus grabbing a few more hours of shut-eye before traversing the antique obstacle course.
Lucky for me, my parents enjoy waking up at the vomit-inducing hour of 5 a.m. Setting my alarm for 4:30 and hitting snooze more times than I’ll admit, I’m proud to say I slipped silently into my bed just as my parents’ door cracked open.
Operation “sweet dreams” successful!
Thinking that I had pulled off the incredible switch without a hitch all week long, I was glowing with pride (and endorphins) on my last day at home. My Mom reminded me that I had to get up early for the flight the next day, and I mentally calculated when I’d have to return to my room in order to be “woken up” in time by my parents.
“You’ll be in the guest room with Mike, right?” Mom said calmly.
Jennifer Garner I’m not.
Susan Posluszny can walk down a wooden hallway in cowboy boots (or stilettos) without waking her daddy.