When a Townie Calls

How to talk to hometown people over the holidays

The last week of the semester leaves everyone limping, loopy, drained of all gusto, and—if we’re being honest—a little smelly. There’s no feeling that compares to the relief of shredding your syllabi and shedding those end-of-a-horror-movie tears. However, the daydream of a cozy, self-indulgent winter break overshadows the culture shock that is soon to strike. Adjusting to life with parents is one thing, but dealing with people from your hometown? That’s a whole ‘nother animal.

Artist: Lizzie Goncharova

Artist: Lizzie Goncharova

While on campus you might go an entire day without seeing anyone you know, being home means not being able to go to Target without at least three bouts of small talk with people from your past. Or it’s the sitch that happens all too often: the third grade teacher run-in at Cub.

Milk jug in hand, you make a beeline for the self-checkout. Then you hear it. Mrs. Norman’s sugar sweet voice chiming your name. You slowly pivot on the heels of your snow boots—lips smiling, eyes hollow. You exchange niceties, and then comes the question: “Staying out of trouble?” she says with a head tilt and twinkling eyes. Here are some safe bets for how to proceed:

Tell the truth! She was young once, and you’re both adults now. Have fun with it, and don’t forget the dirty details, you dog!

Tell the truth, ironically. Go ahead—tell her you were kicked out of that party, or that a   cop busted you for doin’ the doobies behind a freshman dorm. The truly ridiculous stories will make your sarcasm especially believable. If you’re not confident with your tone of  voice, throw in some finger guns for good measure.

“Are you staying out of trouble?” If said with the right delivery, you will both toss your   heads back in laughter.

After four months of peers up the wazoo, hometown people can be a little startling. Your friend’s cheery dad against your college cynicism is like salt on an open wound. The woman at your church saying, “All lives matter” rings like a banshee cry in your ears. While it’s easy to roll your eyes, try instead to go home ready to chat with the townies, leaving your snotty ‘tude behind, speaking up when necessary, and listening generously. ‘Tis the season, after all!