By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
During my time as a contributor for The Island News I have poked fun at many people in my life — my husband, my best friend, Momma and Daddy, my Mammaw and even some poor princess of pretention at my favorite coffee shop. I have shared their strengths and challenges with the world all the while hiding behind the mask of my keyboard. Throughout my entertaining exposés, I have given tiny glances of the oddity that is me. Now with tremendous trepidation, I turn the power of my pen, poking it directly at myself.
The unavoidable birth of Backwoods Barbie has magnified many of my insecurities, emphasized my obscurities and without a doubt painted an unusual, yet honest, picture of a girl with a very strange name from a very small town. Against my better judgment and with my best merlot, I shall pull back the curtain and dance on the public stage of print. After all, how can I continue to laugh at and with those in my life while hiding the strangest of characters?
It is true, I am a bit backwoods. This fact is something I spent the majority of my life trying to creatively conceal. My loving parents weren’t much of the doting type. I wasn’t told daily that I was special yet told with great conviction that I was a slightly different. Not necessarily different as in Mother Theresa or Dolly Pardon, more along the different lines of Ellie Mae Clamped.
This was a major theme in my life that came to full fruition once my journey to public school began. Having lived a good 30 minutes from what most inaccurately consider civilization, once catapulted into a classroom full of non-tree climbing, non-cow chasing, and non-barefoot best-behaved children, the label given by my loving parents became blindingly evident. I was in fact, different.
Fortunately my ability to accurately imitate the behaviors of others kept me from the state juvenile facility and fairly soon I was able to successfully blend in for a maximum of the eight hour school day.
While my sister and cousins were known for their beauty, I was told by most that I had a pleasing disposition that obviously complimented my blessing of coke bottle glasses mixed with a mouth full of metal and hair that could comfortably house farm animals. I suppose I should have paid attention to the annual gift of the book “The Ugly Duckling.” Thankfully, my parents were able to convince me that although Miss USA may not be in my future, Miss President just might.
To add to the irony of constant shock of my childhood twists and turns, I managed to land a coveted spot on the cheerleading squad. Most of the town, most of the school, and surely all of my family was quite taken aback. I wasn’t known for my coordination and definitely not my charm. My fellow cheerleaders were portraits of perfection and I resembled R2D2 in a skirt. Again, my ability to imitate that which is considered normal guaranteed my survival in this glowing, gleeful group.
My entire school career was a game of strategy — do what others do, never follow my instincts, and for the love of gravy keep my shoes on at least until 3:30 p.m. Basically, I learned that being me was a hazard to any goal I wished to achieve. This behavior continued on into college where the world seemed to be more complicated, demanded more unusual behavior, and at times was incredibly lonely.
There weren’t very many kindred spirits readily available for afternoon fishing, playing in fresh Mississippi mud, or climbing campus trees. It was impressed upon me to learn the world of fraternity parties, the survival of sorority encounters, and the necessary art of acceptable fashion. I had so many part-time jobs that I couldn’t attempt a sorority. Knowing all the football players gained acceptance at fraternity parties. And as luck should have it, my roommate was a fashion goddess. Once again, my ability to hesitantly conform guaranteed my survival in a pre-packaged world.
Upon release of the interesting captivity known as graduation, I chose to travel the world. Having had enough of forced normalcy, I ran as fast as two tired legs could take me, as far as a passport could get me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love every second of college, I did, but my crumpled wings and flat feet needed room to roam. And roam I most certainly did. Right by myself, I saw country after country owning nothing more than a travel book, a toothbrush and a resurging independence.
Contacts replaced my spectacle of spectacles, the metal finally came off and so did the suffocating pressure of being anything other than a girl with a very strange name from a very small town.
Of course, there are thousands of stories within my story, some best left untold and some being told weekly. Luckily, the strange and winding road of my life is better than anything even I could possibly make up. Somehow that road landed me in Beaufort, South Carolina, at a point in my life where I am perfectly comfortable in my freckled, sun-damaged skin with an opportunity to write with a voice I spent most of my life silencing.
I am still an odd creature and often run for the door in socially reserved settings. I dance any chance I get, sometimes to music and sometimes for no apparent reason whatsoever. I have been known to talk a little too much, enjoy wine a little too much, and often combining the two to create less than proud moments during less than appropriate times. I still find more in common with animals and women of the wild rather than the well-behaved masses. There are times when my ability to abide by social norms still is required and I do so dutifully knowing that it is temporary and soon I can go back to being the girl with a very strange name from a very small town.