Thursday, September 11, 2008

Utah Culture Shock, Part 2 of 3

Kids kept talking about “going with” each other, which wasn’t a term I’d heard in California. I kept wondering where they were going, but later in sixth grade I figured it out. I never outright asked a girl to go with me, although when one cute redhead broke up with her boyfriend, I hinted to her that I was available. She didn’t encourage me to push it any further, so I retreated (I've always needed plenty of encouragement from women). Another queer term was “sluffing” for missing school, which was called ditching in California. Oh, and cool boys were called “studs,” but I don’t think anyone ever called me that.

Kids my age were way more into professional sports in Utah than they were in California. When I arrived in 1977, everyone was obsessed with the Pittsburg Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. In L.A. my friends and I were somewhat into the Dodgers and I even got to attend a few games, but I don’t remember people being so obsessed. I wonder if it was partly because kids in Utah at that time were more provincially bored and following sports teams was a way of becoming more a part of the world?

In California, I had tested into something called the mentally gifted minor (MGM) program for students scoring in the 98th percentile or above on standardized intellectual abilities tests. The MGM class was cool, with lots of special equipment—such as cameras for shooting animated films—and up-to-date books and other educational materials. When I got to Utah, there wasn’t any gifted program, and the school was noticeably poorer and more old-fashioned. Oh, and California’s sex education was more detailed than Utah’s (I got it in both places).

School lunch was better in Utah, I admit. In California, it was way more expensive, and it was more like fast food served on throwaway plates. In Utah, school lunch was way cheap, and they actually served things like veggies and Jell-O and rolls on real dishes that people had to wash afterward, and they let students help serve. And it was weird to have everything indoors, whereas in California we ate outside except when it rained, and the classrooms opened directly to the outside, without any interior hallways.

Tomorrow: Jews and Asians and polygamists—oh my!

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