I used to hate country music. Hated it.
I grew up in small-town, rural Arkansas, where life in general was a giant country music song. You know, Momma's In the Back Of the Pick-Up With My Hound Dog Lloyd, and We're Headed To a Swap Meet After We Drive Through At the Moonshine Store.
(Not my momma, let me be clear. Mine wore penny loafers and Estee Lauder perfume. Just clearing that up, because if I did not, I would be receiving a phone call from that same momma in 4.7 seconds.)
But all around me I was surrounded by people who loved country music--lived it, in fact. They were delightful people. I loved them. But I would not be one of them. I just knew I was Going Places. And these places didn't have honky tonks.
But then I went to the University of Arkansas, and in the early 1990's they only granted diplomas to people who could recite the alternate concert verse of "I've Got Friends In Low Places". Seriously. You can check the school charter.
I sang along a little, and I even two-stepped some (if the boy was cute enough), but I mostly held out. I knew in my heart I was too sophisticated for a song that couldn't properly conjugate a verb. ("He done me wrong." Really?)
Fast-forward a few years, to my mid-twenties. I was living in a downtown Chicago high-rise with my husband and new baby. I was just as metropolitan as I could be. I rode the El, I pushed my son's stroller along the shores of Lake Michigan, and I even stifled my southern accent enough that the grocery checker stopped looking at me like I was speaking Hungarian.
I battled a little homesickness, but mostly? I had arrived.
And then it happened.
One afternoon I was flipping through the radio channels, and I heard the staticky sound of a country music song.
It was the sound of home. And in that moment, all my years of resistance left me faster than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
I found myself visiting Best Buy, wandering aimlessly toward the country music CD section. My husband's favorite Clint Black CD, which I had previously banished, somehow made its way into my car. And I sang along with it. I was, in the face of my own homesickness, coming to terms that the fact that the twangy sound of country music had, evidently, been taking root in my subconcious for all those years.
I was a country music fan.
I was sheepish about it for a while, listening on the sly, never admitting it to a soul. But I'm alright with it now, realizing that our musical tastes will naturally become more diverse as we age (says the girl who has REM, Pavarotti and the Gaithers on the very same iPod). I've learned that music can really speak deeply to the people we are, and the people we were.
I've also learned that you can't sing along to a song called "Big Ol' Truck" and still take yourself too seriously.