Christ, now I’m becoming toothless.
I was just sitting here, minding my own business, and half my fucking bicuspid fell out. I can’t say I’m really surprised, though. It was bound to happen sooner or later. You can’t escape your hillbilly heritage.
That tooth had been feeling kind of wobbly for a while, but I had ignored it, hoping it would self-correct. Sometimes that is best.
The medicines that 19th century doctors routinely prescribed to their patients/victims were often laced with opium, mercury, and other poisons that were more likely to kill you than cure you. Your chances of survival were much better if you stayed away from doctors and hoped that whatever was wrong with you would self-correct. That’s what Emily Bronte did. She famously refused to have any “poisoning doctors” around her during her last illness. Of course, she died from consumption a week later.
But that is beside the point. The doctors wouldn’t have cured her.
Anyhoo, the one I feel bad for here is my husband Jonathan, who did have fair warning about the hillbilly thing, but might nevertheless have harbored certain misconceptions. Cultural tropes can be a bitch. He thought he married Ellie May, but minute by minute, tooth by tooth, I am turning inexorably into Granny.
Hillbilly girls, I have heard, have a reputation, built on moonshine and inbreeding, for unbridled sluttish sexuality – Daisy Mae to Daisy Duke, it’s all the same. Part of this is the assumption that we are just too stupid to be chaste. Barely dressed and barefoot, we are simple-minded and sexually rapacious, riding hard for ruin.
And ruin comes quickly enough. The only other pop culture image of hillbilly womanhood is the Granny – lumpy and dumpy, a corncob pipe clenched in whatever teeth she has left. Her worn-out body is the price paid for early dissolution. This is what happens when you hope things self-correct. You wake up one morning dead from consumption.
Identifying myself with a tubercular Neo-Gothic author romantically expiring on the windswept English moors is not a realistic option for a hillbilly, however. I have never fainted gracefully onto a fainting couch (although I did once fall asleep and fall off my chair in a college class. A class that I was teaching. Long story. Involves vodka.)
What were we talking about? Oh, right. The slut and the granny – those are the images of women from Arkansas that I have to choose from.
But this morning, the internet is covered with a different picture of two Arkansas women – Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo, the first couple to be married in Eureka Springs, Ark., after Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage was (and I’m paraphrasing here) “bullshit.”
They look so happy. They are beaming at the camera, holding out their marriage license, holding on to each other. They don’t look like dim-witted sluts or worn-out grannies. They look beautiful. They look in love.
Of course, county clerks all over the state are kicking up a ruckus, coming up with half-assed excuses to deny equality to loving couples. But in Eureka Springs, high up in the Ozark Mountains, the hillbillies are welcoming a bright new day.
As I write this, there are 17 states with marriage equality. By next week, there will be more. Arkansas isn’t the first state to recognize same-sex marriage, but it also won’t be the last. (I’m looking at you, Ohio.) This is because people in love are amazingly strong. Like the mothers who single-handedly lift whole cars off of their trapped children, love gives you superpowers. Love will overcome.
There are all sorts of ways that we put women and sex into boxes – sluts, grannies, dykes, whatever. All of the boxes are built on telling us that who we are is wrong. But none of the boxes will hold. Dr. King was right: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In the Arkansas Ozarks, people are rejecting discrimination and embracing equality, embracing each other. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like or how much money you have or how many people you fuck or how many teeth you have left. Everybody deserves to be as happy as Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo, standing outside the courthouse in Eureka Springs, smiling on their wedding day.
Kathy Giuffre was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where her family goes back at least five generations. She is the author of An Afternoon in Summer: My Year in the South Seas and lives in Colorado with her husband and two sons. Her website is CanningForTheApocalypse.com and you can follow her on Twitter @KatherineGiuffr