Why I do NOT like tribe mentalities (even within my so-called tribe)

What is your tribe? This question intruded into head when assigned the book, Tribe by Sebastian Junger for a local book club.

As a child, I was unconsciously part of the WASP tribe, one that had an appropriate sting for anyone who dared to color outside the lines. Friends of my parents adopted as aunts/uncles slammed the door after I broke the tribal rules and converted to Judaism. But on the other hand, I did gain new friends who appeared on the horizon of my new tribal affiliation.

Moving to St. Louis, Missouri the first question asked was "what high school did you go to?" Was it a way to identify my socioeconomic tribal position in the Balkan-like city of so many neighborhoods?

In the NYC satellite-town of Westport, Connecticut the question was "what do you do?"  What I sometimes  responded was, "About what?"--a line I'd appropriated from Mary Chase's play, Harvey.  Did the entry level position at Save the Children define me? Or was I the demeaning put-down known as "just a housewife"?

Abroad among expatriate trailing spouses the question was "what does your husband do?" By then, I smelled a trap. I'd been abroad long enough to see that a CEO-status at a well-known company gave some trailing spouses an unearned status they'd wear like a cheap tiara. So my contrarian response to the question was, "I'm a kept woman." It also was one way to sort out those who embraced humor over status.

By the time I took a page from my gay and lesbian friends/family to come out of the closet as an avowed atheist, being dropped was less important than living my truth. My parents had poured a hatred of atheists into my childhood ear, so when members of my family who though aghast and unbelieving of my lack of religiosity accepted me, it was truly heart warming.

As my politics became more liberal, my husband enjoyed sitting me next to the most conservative person at his office Christmas party. I enjoyed the banter, questioning the what and why he--and in the Ag-business world it always was a he-- believed whatever he believed.

After gallivanting about the Americas, I've learned that tribes aren't inherently good or bad. But limiting oneself to one tribe is akin to the 8-year-old my daughter once baby sat for, a kid who would only eat foods that began with (pizza, pasta, peanut butter etc.) Very restricting and boring as the white bread I once limited myself to, without crusts.

So though a roaring liberal I do not limit my friends to people like me preferring my friendships to be like my salads, mixed and with a surprising twist when possible. For my only tribal affiliation nowadays is the human tribe, warts and all.

And that mixed salad is where one will find me hunkered down today, with my high school Fox News watcher friend and evangelical friend, both who forgive my foibles. It's what non-tribal friendships are all about. Forgiveness and loving kindness.

 

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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