Deep in the Heart: putting Bowdoin’s lens on our home
February 1, 2019
We’re from Texas. Houston and Austin, respectively. At first, this didn’t seem to matter much. We both come from transplant families, families who found Texas by accident—or kismet—depending on which way you look at it. The more we talked, the more we fell back on this shared upbringing in order to make sense of who we are: two ethnically ambiguous, romantically adrift young women in Donald Trump’s America.
Texas embodies some of the most notorious American stereotypes: the brashness, the bigness, the absolute antipathy towards authority. It’s the only state with a capitol building taller than Washington’s, the only place where the deep South bleeds into the wild West, where the state flag flies as high as the nation’s and where there’s a distinctive fondness for the idea of secession. Growing up, Texas culture meant affection for guns and God and the Alamo. But Texas pride is also shaped by the state’s backbone of Hispanic immigrants, a devotion to southern warmth and a fierce sense of individuality above all else. It’s a place that contains multitudes: Confederate sympathizers and Beto-maniacs, deb balls and quinceñearas.
So, we’d like to propose Texas as a prism—through it, we might explore a spectrum of thorny questions that remain despite nearly four years at this elite institution. After all the Foucault, Dog Bar Jim encounters and hours spent blasting Mitski under the gray Brunswick sky, we’re still asking ourselves questions whose origins owe much to our upbringing in the lone star state. At the end of each semester, on breaks and between flights, these are the conversations we carry with us. They’re different from the ones we have at Bowdoin, where we analyze micro-encounters and bemoan the fact that Thorne ran out of chia seed pudding. They’re broader, more open-ended, the answers floating out there in the ether: What do beauty standards mean in 2019? Have identity politics worn out their welcome? Is there any escape from Instagram? Or for that matter, the 21st-century nation-state? Surya wants to know: where did Patricia Arquette go wrong in “Boyhood”?
From Houston to Austin, El Paso to Texarkana, we’ve traversed many a Texas highway. Together, we’ve debated the merits of women’s-only nude photoshoots while nearly naked on the beaches of the Texas gulf coast (think: 2010 BP oil spill), bemoaned postmodern bros in Marfa and dissected the motivations of Trump voters while navigating the small town roads and piney woods of east Texas. We continually find ourselves turning over the ways our home state frames the conversations we have with each other at Bowdoin, whether we’re discussing liberalism and coastal elites or technology and self-branding.
If you’re wondering how any of this pertains to Texas, stick with us. Through this column, we’ll be traversing time and space, seeking a sense of place and sense of self. So giddy up, y’all. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
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As a Maine girl, Bowdoin graduate and transplant to Texas for these past 29 years, I’m really curious to see where this goes.
Very promising overture. Tell me more!