Missouri: Where people are most different from me

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Caption: Drive-through tropical mixed drinks are popular in Missouri.

I apologize if you are from Missouri.  This is hyperbole, obviously.  The truth is I had a swell summer there.

One summer I spent in Missouri, working at a nuclear reactor.  This wasn’t a punishment like when my brother had to work at the sledge-hammer factory in Monongahela, PA (a pretty standard punishment for teens of Pittsburgh).  The Missouri gig was a coveted internship in nuclear chemistry and archaeometry! (and the number of people who actually know what archaeometry is, is probably indicative of how coveted this internship was).

I didn’t know about Missouri before I arrived.  Fortunately my taxi driver from the airport did.  His name was Kevin, but I could call him Special K.  He was “kind of a big deal” and could get me tickets.  What kind of tickets was not specified.

By the end of the summer, I did knew about Missouri too.  Here are things I learned about Missouri and Missourians.

1) Missouri is not on the Gulf Coast.  Didn’t you always think it was on the Gulf, right next to Mississippi?  It’s not, but who cares.  And because of comments like that…

2) I am a Coastist.  This is a term that Missourians have for people like me who have never been to the Central Time Zone and would only consider living on the East or West Coast, or Chicago in theory, but not practice.

3) Everyone in Missouri above the age of 20 has an ex-fiance.

4) Missourians really like fast food, particularly ethnic stuff like Taco Bell.  My best Missouri friend sometimes had Taco Bell for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while I sat outside and moped.  She was perplexed as to why she had persistent “stomach issues” and why I sat outside and moped.  The answer is the same.

5) When not dining out at Taco Bell, Missourians subsist on groceries from Walmart.  They don’t like buying local produce, sold at vibrant, joy-affirming farmers’ markets.  That stuff’s dirty with local dirt.  They prefer apples wrapped in plastic that have been bleached-cleaned of South American dirt and genetically-engineered-fortified to taste better and give your unborn children bigger boobs.  Plus you can buy a tire and a blouse at the same time.

Of all the places I have been, Missouri is where people were the most different from me.

I flew to Missouri the day after my college commencement.  Cap, gown, heartfelt goodbyes one day.  Standing in the lobby of a dormitory in Missouri the next.

My internship provided housing in a dorm that was mostly full of freshmen who didn’t exactly get in and needed to prove themselves in the summer term.  Pre-frosh, they were called.  Post-bach, I was.  The day after my college commencement I attended a floor meeting in which we discussed pizza study breaks and the alcohol policy.  The policy was “no,” because everyone was way below 21, except me.

Fortunately my suitemates, Kristin and Brit, were not Pre-frosh.  They were sophomores and really funnnnn.  Kristin got kicked out for excessive partying, but was back on academic probation.  Brit’s ring tone was Soulja Boy.  They were the silliest hoes I’ve ever known.  In other words, adorable.

And they thought I was adorable too!  Adorably incapable at being popular, just like the new girl in Clueless.  They made me their altruistic cause, just like Cher and Dee in Clueless.  They would do my make up and tell me what to wear, just like in Clueless.

“Can I pleaseeee play with your face?”

This meant Kristin wanted to do my makeup.  She spent the next 20 minutes playing with my face before dinner at the dining hall.

“You’re wearing that?”

I was wearing a sundress.

“You can’t wear that.  It looks like you’re trying too hard.”

After 20 minutes of make-up—more make-up than I wore to prom, college formals, black tie weddings, and a stage performance of Grease COMBINED—I was trying too hard by wearing a sundress.  I changed into athletic shorts and a tee.  Being popular is complicated!

It was imperative that we didn’t look like we were trying too hard because we were going to eat with some football dudes from our dorm.  For dinner, Kristin picked at a grapefruit half and Brit dunked forkfuls of iceberg lettuce into a Ranch dressing cup.  The three of us had some low-cal fro-yo and then went to see Sex and the City, the movie.  On the way home we swung by Trops, the drive-through tropical liquor store, and bought Pina Coladas in giant Styrofoam cups with their fake IDs and my real ID.

This was a typical night for me in Missouri when I hung out with my silly hoe suitemates (I forgot to mention all the sex they had.  It was a lot).

But I wasn’t in Missouri to drink drive-through-Daiquiris.  I was in Missouri for an internship in nuclear archaeometry.  I’ll tell you about that next blog post!

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