Assimilate Or Go Home: Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers
2011 COLUMN CONTEST WINNER
DLM is a home-schooled pastor’s kid, a real life Bible-college educated evangelical in the middle of Portland, Oregon. Currently living in low-income housing with a bunch of Somali Bantu refugees, a husband, a baby, and a very cranky cat, DLM writes about her missionary dreams and cross-cultural schemes while ardently striving to put the “fun” in fundamentalism.
Ask An Evangelical.
Q: Have you ever had a perm?
DLM: Yes, yes I have. My mom got regular perms and I thought it was the most glamorous, complicated process I had ever seen in my life. I begged for one and when I was 11 she finally let me get one. It was painful, involved lots of chemicals, and seemed like a very important rite of passage at the time. When it was all said and done, all I had were limp blonde locks that smelled like a deadly pool and a dream of crimpy hair laid to rest. I have gone on to ruin my hair in various ways since then, but never again with a classic perm.
Coming from a pretty intense subculture yourself, are there any other subcultures that you secretly have a crush on?
It’s funny, but when you are deeply enmeshed in a subculture you don’t even realize it. Everything is so normalized. I thought everyone else was in a super secret club, and that I was always the loner. All this to say, when I was nearing the end of high school I became very enamored of Salinger’s Glass family. It seemed like such a sophisticated world, one where people had psychiatric troubles instead of demons, where people had intelligent conversations and smoked cigarettes and went to boarding school. And everyone had nice apartments in New York. I think I lumped the Glass family in with a larger category of Non-Religious, Hyper Self-Aware Jewish People in New York. Which, if you read popular literature, seems to be like a rather large and humorous sub-category.
In recent years I have become very wistful of gamers—as in people who play intense and elaborate video games. I just find their communities to be very rich with meaningful relationships, and everyone seems very at terms with who they are and what is good for them.
And doesn’t everyone have nicknames like Raven or Skywalker? I imagine all of these codes of conduct in the battles, a sort of honor to the madness that is a make-believe world.
Do you play video games?
No, actually, they bore me to tears. But I wish I did, just so I could have my own tribe with secret languages and dress codes and behavioral expectations, but without any of the judgment of, you know, church and stuff.
Speaking of video game/subcultures, do you think the zombie thing is finally on the way out?
Um, I hope so. I am not the best person to talk to about zombie movies because I have never seen one. I get nightmares really easily. Also, it just seems like such a weird thing for us as a culture to fixate on: the undead, roaming around eating humans, a terrifying spectacle that we don’t feel bad about blowing away because they are already dead. I personally believe that our Western souls can’t handle all the real terror going on in the world and so we create narratives surrounding those things we can’t process and then watch it for entertainment. In reality, there are soldiers of war all around the world who are more terrifying than any zombie; there are so many true horrors that we collectively choose to ignore. So yeah, I would be happy if the zombie thing went away, if it meant we would absorb the true atrocities of the world and feel empowered to stop them. Instead of just being entertained by a parody of it all. Or, whatever. Maybe this just got a little too Debbie Downer.
OK, then. What was the best TV show of the mid 1990s?
Touched by an Angel.
Describe yourself in in pop-culture references.
Peggy Olson meets Kim Kardashian meets Michelle Duggar.
What do you think of that new show by Lena Dunham, Girls?
I don’t know. I think I am over my crush on the subculture of entitled white girls living in New York. Nowadays I need something a little more related to global crises to get me interested. I don’t care about all those little indignities of finding yourself right now, and I wonder how many other people do. Doesn’t it seem alienating? Like, I bet everyone on the show Girls had an American Girl doll when they were growing up.
What does that have to do with anything?
I think American Girl dolls are the real class divide. If you had one: rich. If you didn’t: poor.
So, obviously you didn’t have one.
Right. Although my mom did get the catalogues sent to our house and I would pour over them with my sisters, each of us claiming a doll and her excessive amounts of accessories for our own. They were our imaginary dolls. We never even asked for one, as I recall. They were like 80 dollars or something (without any outfits! Or furniture!), which in mid 1990s Wyoming was the equivalent of buying a sturdy horse. I also think that whatever American Girl doll you chose spoke volumes about your own budding sense of self. I identified with Kirsten, the fragile and determined immigrant girl from Sweden. My sisters alternately chose Samantha (posh, classically beautiful victorian girl) and Molly (artistic, WWII-era scrappy do-gooder). I think this says a lot about us, actually.
So . . . Girls?
Oh, yeah. I haven’t seen it. I can’t handle awkward sex scenes.
Most overused phrase of the moment?
Anything with the word “platform” in it.
Childhood celebrity crush?
Andrew the angel (from Touched by an Angel). Oh, and Captain Von Trapp. And Charlie from The Mighty Ducks.
Is Portland really as weird as everyone is making it out to be?
Yes and no. There really is a game called “hipster or home schooled”, and it really is a fine line these days between the high-waisted pants and awkward social skills. Also, I can count on one hand the number of friends I have who have real, career-type jobs. Most of us are living rather creatively, making do at terrible jobs while we pursue other things on the side. Or, people are making a living doing awesome things like starting organic prayer farms. So that seems pretty Portland-ish.
Yeah, somebody at my church yesterday said they were starting an organic prayer farm. Pretty awesome, right? I also have friends who tour the country as an anarchist Christian punk-rock band, (they do taxes when they are not touring). I also know people who plan fancy dinners on farms in the middle of nowhere and charge people $200 bucks to drive out there and eat. Also, I hung out with a bunch of Bible college kids, so most of them are back in school working towards something a little more practical. But maybe they just like being perpetual students. Same thing goes for my liberal arts friends.
What are baby names that you would like to see trending?
Anything not Twilight-related. I always thought if I had twins I would name them Boutros and Boutros Ghali, like I was some awesome celebrity that could get away with it.
If you believed in parallel universes, or parallel lives, what would your life look like?
Excellent question. I believe I would be a womyns studies major with ten cats who made a point of seeing productions of Shakespeare in the park. As a side note, I know without a shadow of a doubt that in an alternate universe my husband would have gone to a state school in Minnesota and achieved fame from the nerd rock he and his friends made in their dorm rooms. I just know this in my bones.
I guess it’s a good thing we are in this universe, then.
Well, you have officially answered all of our questions.
Thanks for asking them! It has been my pleasure.
SUGGESTED READSAssimilate Or Go Home: Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers: We Are Fundamentalists
by D.L.M. (10/3/2011)
Assimilate Or Go Home: Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers: Otherness
by D.L.M. (10/20/2011)
Assimilate Or Go Home: Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers: Heavy-Laden
by D.L.M. (11/7/2011)
RECENTLYScandal Befalls McGruff the Crime Dog
by Jory John (5/21/2013)
Going Where the Southern Cross the Dog: A Column About the Blues: Eddy and the Cutaways
by Jason Edward Harrington (5/21/2013)
List: How We Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk
by Julia McCloy (5/21/2013)
POPULARI Would Like to Be Pope
by John Ortved (2/25/2013)
Monologue: I’m Comic Sans, Asshole.
by Mike Lacher (6/15/2010)
Nate Silver Offers Up a Statistical Analysis of Your Failing Relationship
by Jory John (2/26/2013)