I was telling Honu-Girl about a "small world" kind of conversation I had the other day at the hairdressers. Since I've been working here at the Survey, the "do you know...?" questions often involve people who work here, or used to work here (I swear I've been asked about people who retired 10 years ago.), or, occasionally, some random geologist that the individual happens to know. This got me thinking about how often people ask me if I'm related to other people in town with my last name. This question often follows asking about where I live. I wondered why the askers assume I'm a local and would have family here. I don't sound much like a native (thank you for confirmation, H-G), in fact I would think my accent (or lack of, depending on how you look at it) would signal that I'm not a native Tuscaloosian. (I do admit it is a bit confusing that my parents live here, but often the asker doesn't know that.) Obviously not everyone makes that assumption, but I wonder if the people who seem to assume that I'm a native with family around*, think of Tuscaloosa as a small enough place that people don't move here from far away. This made me think that in northern Virginia, where I grew up, people would ask you where you were from, where the underlying assumption is that you didn't grow up in the DC area. Honu-Girl so correctly pointed out that the population in the DC area was very transient, making the assumption different.
Anyway all of this got me to thinking about how much of what I assume about the world, people I meet, etc. is based on my childhood. The neighborhood I grew up in is how 'most' neighborhoods are; my blended family isn't so odd (quite true now); having siblings old enough to be your parent is normal (or young enough to be your child); minorities come in many skin colors, countries of origin, and socio-economic classes, and speak many different languages; families are all spread out across the country (or world);...I could go on all day. It's not that there is anything wrong with Tuscaloosa per se, it's just not my default 'normal'.
What do you think? How strongly is your view of the world and what is "normal" colored by where you grew up?
Oh, yeah, I'm pretty happy with my childhood. That probably helps.
*My parents, two brothers with families, and two sisters do live here but the one whose ever shared my last name was born here (littlest sister). Mom's oldest has lived here most of his life but has a different last name. Also, one of my brother's in Birmingham has lived there most of his life and shares my last name, but no one ever asks me if I'm related to him.