It’s similar to, but less intense than, the feeling I have had countless times at farmers’ markets in towns I don’t belong to, when I buy applesauce (because I’ve run out of my mom’s delicious homemade apple sauce made from local apples back home), or cheese, or produce, or baked goods (though I contend that I bake as well as any Amish lady at the farmers’ market; it’s in my Amish-Mennonite blood, too) from the Amish or conservative Mennonite vendors. It’s similar to how I felt riding the shuttle at Penn State with the College of Ag dairy kids who had just finished milking and were trying to get cleaned up and to class on time. Sometimes, it’s the feeling of having the waitstaff at an authentic Mexican restaurant try really hard to speak English to me.
Sometimes, I feel like I want to wear a sign on my forehead, saying “Post-Grad, With Experience,” or “I Speak Spanish” or “My Name is Yoder: I Identify as Heritage Mennonite, Even With This Short Hair and Nose Piercing,” or “Grew Up and Learned How to Work on a Dairy Farm.” There are no outward markings I could use to demonstrate my identification with these social groups. Spanish is not a heritage language for me. I just wanted to learn it. My family has long since shed the covering and the plain dress, and more recently the language has been lost generationally. I personally have long since shed my Muck boots and old barn clothes, and traded them in for skinny jeans, dresses, more aesthetically pleasing boots, and a nose ring, and my metaphorical farm truck for a more fuel efficient Camry that is easier to park in small city parking spaces.
Have others experienced this tension? The feeling that you want others to know that you’re more like them than you might seem at first glance?