I think everyone has the right to be in the minority. It is an amazingly freeing experience. Why do I say this? The year I turned fourteen, my family moved to Canyon, New Mexico, and I started attending Jemez Valley High School. In those long ago days, Jemez and Zia pueblo sent the majority of their teenagers to Jemez Valley High. Eighty-five percent of the student body were members of one of those two pueblos. Ten percent of the student body were of Hispanic origin. The rest were of Northern European descent. The vast majority of students assumed people of Northern European descent were weird dummies. We were. I was particularly weird. I was particularly dumb as well. I only spoke one language, a sure sign of lack of education in that multilingual world. Almost everyone in that high school spoke more than two languages.
A further proof of my weirdness was I had meaty thighs and an ample behind, both uncommon in that world and unsolvable in my own. I tended to read (a lot). I liked to listen to music that was older than the usual demographic. I had these weird older brothers, both of them grown men who owned elaborate stereo systems and extensive record collections. (If anyone doesn’t know what those two things are, look them up. Also, this blog is too old for you!) I knew about Jethro Tull. I had even listened to a band called Steely Dan (which I did NOT know much about).
I was first chair clarinet in band. I did NOT drink or smoke or use profanity. I was as square as a cardboard box. I would have been a weirdo in any school, but I would not have been tolerated half so well if I weren’t in the minority. I was allowed to be weird because essentially I didn’t matter.
I was outside the world that really mattered. The world that really mattered was as old as earth and mysterious as creation. That beautiful world could not open its gates to my hirsute self. It occasionally invited members of my family and me to spectacles and feasts. We went and gently partook. We could not join, except in the Baptist Mission Church that stood outside the Pueblo. The church inside the pueblo was Catholic, but not like any other Catholic church. I can’t explain how.
The mission church was not like any other Baptist Church. We only met once a week (Sunday), and we started sometime near 10:00 a.m., though only in the general sense. We would have Bible study and then services, with preaching and singing, and then we would have a pot luck with passole and orno bread. It would take hours. I read so many Bible verses those three years. I like to read the Bible when the sermon doesn’t catch my attention so much. A thing that happens still.
Anyway, being in the minority in one’s formative years teaches courage. A person must be brave to enter a world in which she has almost no power. Jemez taught me to enjoy and trust my weird, lonely soul. I have plenty of scars and problems and shortcomings and toxic thoughts, but I am not afraid of being different. It is not a tragedy.