Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Outsider's Guide to Fitting In: Rural Iowa

I've lived a lot of places. Clinton has definitely been one of the more "unusual" locations. In fact, most days I feel like a fish out of water here. So I came up with this instructional post on how to fit in when you live in rural Iowa. (Yes, it is sort of a spoof, yet it is based on real-life observations and events that have occurred in my life.)

You don't have to worry about your appearance in rural Iowa. In fact, it's better if you don't care at all. In order to best fit in, consider the following:

- Wear pajama bottoms and a hoodie whenever possible. If it's warm, daisy dukes and a t-shirt will work.
- You will fit in if you are wearing something that has the Iowa Hawkeyes or John Deere on it.
- Cleanliness is not essential. Showing up to any event with mud on your clothes is acceptable; it is, after all, a farming community. Also, there is no need to wash or brush your hair, but you can if you want to.
- Recycling fashion from the late 1970s through the 1980s is fine, so if you have clothes from that era, now is the time to bring them out.
- Bedroom slippers will complete your look.

If you like eating, you'll do just fine in rural Iowa. Since there isn't much to do in the area, eating is the best way to pass the time. Here are a few other rules to follow when dining:

- Fast food should be a regular occurrence. You should frequent places like McDonald's, Burger King or Taco Bell daily or every other day.
- Distributing snack cakes among your friends and co-workers is a good way to make them like you.
- You must frequent and support locally-owned restaurants. If you mention that your favorite restaurant is a national chain, beware. You may be subjected to uncontrolled outbursts and name-calling.
- Super-Size, Biggie-Size and Value-Size wherever possible. You cannot eat enough.

Most times, being friendly is not necessary in rural Iowa. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

- Staring at people is acceptable, particularly as they are entering a dining establishment.
- It is alright to glare at people, until they wave at you, then you can smile.
- The only time to be very friendly is when walking past someone. Then you may say "hello."
- If you do say hello to someone, be prepared for them to look at you and say nothing back. Likewise, if someone says hi to you, it's okay not to respond. If you attempt to shake someone's hand, they may look at it and do nothing.
- Yelling inappropriate words and phrases is a common behavior among young folk. Being loud in general is good.
- Don't worry about social graces, you don't need them here. As long as you know how to say "please" and "thank you," you're set.

Some people like sports in rural Iowa. Others consider eating a sport. Either way, here are some tips:

- You must be a Cubs fan. If you cheer for anyone else, you will be ridiculed. You have to love losing teams with a passion.
- Other teams you should like include the Bulls and Bears. If not, you can get away with liking the Packers. Anyone else and you will be stoned.
- Since you can't get to any professional games in the state of Iowa, you need to have cable tv to keep up with what's going on. Posting Facebook statuses about this is also a good idea.
- An alternative to playing sports is drinking beer on a boat. The brighter red your skin is, the harder you played.

There isn't much in the way of entertainment in rural Iowa, so if you don't get bored easily, you will get by. Here are a few things you can do for fun:

- Cruise along the river-front in your car. If you see something you like, you can yell at it.
- Did I mention eating yet?
- Take in a minor league baseball game. If they're not playing, you can watch small children play; it's a good way to gear up for a nap.
- Watch the river. There are lots of places you can see it and it's always changing!
- Shopping is a good way to pass the time, especially hanging out in Walmart.
- If you like racing, you can usually catch a good street race on any given night. If you are lucky you may see a police chase, which includes lots of pretty lights and fast cars.
- You must like listening to country music. Otherwise, you will be disappointed in the available radio stations.
- Knowing how to stomp around and line dance will make you look cool.
- The best thing to do is get together with friends and get into some trouble.

If you like Walmart, rural Iowa will treat you well. If you are looking for other options, here are some things to consider:

- There are lots of different types of specialty shopping parties you can have. You should attend at least 20 each year, though you may get invited to 50. These include Mary Kay, Uppercase Living, Lia Sophia, Pampered Chef, Scentsy... you get the idea.
- Kohl's is the fashion mecca of rural Iowa.
- If you like shopping at thrift stores, you can find lots of good used items. Sometimes they don't work, though.
- There are many little locally-owned specialty shops to choose from as well. Once again, you shouldn't tell anyone you'd rather shop at a chain store than a local shop, they may hurt you.
- If you want to visit a mall, be prepared to drive 45 minutes or more to get there.

Of course English is the language of choice in rural Iowa. However, there are some things to keep in mind while speaking it...

- Use poor grammar and you will fit in! Some things you may want to try include saying, "I seen it," "ain't" and "don't got that." Feel free to make use of double-negatives.
- English should be spoken in high decibels. Most everyone in Iowa appears to be hard of hearing.
- Feel free to use all manner of "redneck speak." Slurring words together, mumbling, or talking like your mouth is full is acceptable. (Talking with your mouth full is fine too.)
- Expletives are common, but not necessary.

The best way to get around rural Iowa is by car. This fact, though, is subject to a few inclusions:

- The best type of car to get is an all-wheel drive, off-road type vehicle, as you will encounter varying terrain while you drive through the area. Be warned, roads are not consistent and you may encounter loose or shifting asphalt, large cracks and ridges, and varying sizes of potholes.
- Make sure your car tires are outfitted with chains during the winter months. Street plowing is typically optional or minimal; therefore, you should be prepared to drive through all manner of sludge, ice and snow drifts.
- Don't spend a lot of money to get your car washed. The day after you get it cleaned, it will rain.

In conclusion...
Should you decide to go against these recommendations be prepared for any of the following incidents:

- Getting stared at like you have antlers.
- Getting yelled at or gestured at.
- Someone may ask where you are from, but for the most part, they don't care.
- Getting thoroughly ignored because, well, you just don't belong!

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

This is the best synopsis of the midwest I have ever read. This made me miss Los Angeles so much.

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