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Michigan / North Carolina

On a whim I decided to take a "Test Your Knowledge of Michigan Slang" test on the internet. Even though I guessed on one question, I still scored a 100%.

Here's the thing, though: I lived more-or-less the first half of my life in Michigan; let's say 1962 to 1988 (26 years). The second half of my life, 1989 to the present (2016) I have lived in North Carolina. (27 years). The figures are rounded off, and I would bet that if one really studied my history and did the math, it would be be very close to 50/50, as I was born in December of 1962 and moved here in the fall of 1988. I'm too lazy to do the math right now.

The strange thing is is that, rather than feeling at home in both states, I feel like a stranger in each. My ear is no longer accustomed to the Michigan accent; in fact, when I went to my 25th high school reunion a few years ago, I couldn't help but reflect on how odd my former classmates sounded. But here, when I open my mouth people know that I'm not "native."

In the South, especially in the country, you just wave "hey" to people, even if you don't know them: it's a formality, a socially prescribed norm. To do otherwise would be to be perceived as rude. I kinda like it. So I'm in Northern Michigan, in my hometown, and I've been sledding with my daughter and my dog, and we are getting back into the car, when a pick-up truck rolls by. Instinctively, I wave, and surprisingly, the driver stops, because he wants to know if something is wrong or if I need help. How do I explain to him that I was just waving because I'm from down south and that is what we do?

At the same time I feel like I can never be a true southerner. I can't even explain why. I talk funny, I don't like sweet tea. I don't care about barbecue. (I didn't even know what it was as a Michigander). I don't give a shit about the Atlanta Braves or Alabama football. This reasoning is obviously superficial, but it is a start.

Then up in Mancelona, MI, my hometown, I start noticing confederate flags. WTF? I guess it's a symptom of alienation, and anger, based on economic issues beyond peoples' control. People are not flying it as a racist statement; they're flying it as a mere act of defiance.

I make a decent living; I have a good job. Maybe my questions of identity are frivolous in the grand scheme of things.


Michigan American

Where I live in Maine, waving or greeting people on the street is common, and also one of the first differences I noticed when I moved here 21 years ago.
Once, while visiting my dad in Detroit, I stopped my car at a cross walk to let some people cross. They just stood there and stared at me. My dad said, "They think you want to run them over. Keep driving." haha
I recently decided to refer to myself as a Michigan American. (If anybody asks.) That would make a good shirt for both of us.

June 2019



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