Unrequited Like

I live in North Dakota. I am not white or a farmer or of Nordic heritage. This week I realized something. I like it here. It’s cold, the people are xenophobic, I have had more health problems here than any place I have ever lived (I am a former military brat). All this, but I like it here. Then why I am sad and bitter and frustrated? The simple truth is North Dakota doesn’t like me.

I haven’t been in serious like with something/someone with no reciprocation since middle school so it took me awhile to realize what was going on. I can’t ignore the tell tell signs anymore though. When I ask North Dakota how it’s doing it just says “Fine” and scurries away to avoid further conversation. I don’t get invited to any of North Dakota’s party’s; they are reserved for Norwegians and Lutherans or Catholics. Even the land is trying to kill me slowly. I am in my late twenties and my knees ache from the cold.

It sucks knowing the place where I currently live truly doesn’t like me and won’t anytime soon. Feeling this I can’t imagine how people from here feel. I have encountered a few who are different: feminist, brown, atheist, childless by choice. These people stuck out like a beacon of hope. For a while, I thought well there are a few others who stick out like me, maybe it’ll be ok. Sadly that is not the case. If you are different here the waterfall of sameness will slowly try to erode away the pieces of you that aren’t like them. Slowly and painfully you lose your will and desire to try to change this place. Why try for people and a place that doesn’t appreciate your work and will fight you every step of the way?

If these wonderful people who are different are lucky they will get out. I have realized that is the only option. It makes me sad. We could have been great North Dakota. Sadly it was not meant to be, but just like the unrequited crushes I had in middle school this pain too shall pass.


2 thoughts on “Unrequited Like

  1. I’m not disagreeing. North Dakotans have a way of being very “nice” and “polite”, but also a bit cold if you do not fit in. Having been a religious unbeliever for nearly three decades in a highly religious environment, having been a literate sci-fi and fantasy nerd working everyday among definitively not-nerdy construction workers, as a liberal having worked for years among great people, but also ones who have the flaws a racism and sexism and a serious tendency to want our society to regress to the 1950’s, I understand. ‬

    ‪It’s not that people didn’t like me or I like them, quite the opposite really. I love those people. Rather it’s that their interests and likes didn’t match up with mine in so many ways. They’d love nothing better that shooting a buck at 400 yards, while I would really like someone to discuss the morality of War and Peace with. They tend to prefer toys with loud noisy motors while I love canoeing, biking and walking, the quieter the better. They love going to bars and having loud and rowdy times and while I certainly have had a great time doing that, I would much rather sit around with a bottle of wine and have political discussions.

    The vast majority of my friends and I are really different. ‬Though I enjoy their company and truly love them, there will always be a wall between us. With some notable exceptions, my likes are not theirs and my priorities have little weight with them.

    ‪But I also understand this. I am down deep a bit a introvert. I don’t reach out as much as I could. Even though I liked being with myself, I wanted someone to come and find me and interact with me how I wanted them to. And though it did happen, my wife is a testament to this, it was a rare event. It is a universal maxim that opposites attract, and perhaps on some quantum mechanical level this is true, in truth, in social circles like tends to congregate with like. They are not being cruel. They are not being mean. People are just naturally comfortable with others who share their interests. We are herd animals. We have a natural tendency to congregate together because of similarities not differences.

    That’s the bad news… The good news is that these are tendencies, not iron clad laws. And humanity is nothing if not unpredictable.

    My life has been a journey that started off with me being uncomfortable with my differences from the herd. I felt alone a lot. But growing older and far more comfortable with who I am, I have learned two solutions to the “too much uniqueness” or the “odd fish in a small pond” problem.

    The first is that no matter how different I am, I can join them in their version of reindeer games and fit in well enough. I’ll go out and have a few beers and loosen up and generally have a good time. I may not like hunting or the Superbowl or monster truck in the slightest, but I can certainly share the camaraderie of the group on their terms. The vast majority of times I have enjoyed these time immensely.

    The second is this. There are groups all over this state who share your values and your needs. They are just diluted out by all those people who do not. In general society, they do not stand out. In fact, they blend in to such an extent that it’s very easy to convince yourself that they don’t exist. They do. And even better, they tend to congregate in certain areas making them even easier to find. The theater is one place but there are others. There are hundreds of people around this city who are truly trying to make the world better. Their organizations are havens for well meaning people who tend to fit our type of personalities better. From Dakota Outright to the Universal Unitarians, and from the United Church of Christ to groups with United Tribes. When you start getting involved in the progressive groups in this city, you tend to run into many of the same excellent people who truly care and would love to have more help changing the world. You can find people who are far more like you than different.

    All it takes is work… and care… and time. There are thousands of people all over this state who are looking for someone just like you. You just need to find where their watering hole is. Take it from someone who knows, once you find these where they gather and join them in mutual priorities, life becomes far more fulfilling.

    Keep at it sister!


    • Thank you for your kind a thoughtful words. I truly appreciate that you took time to read my post and then even more time to respond to it. It is interesting to hear a different perspective.

      I wish that my experience of the masses of North Dakota was similar to yours. I don’t disagree with the fact there are small congregations of people who are different and passionate about trying to make positive change toward a more inclusive North Dakota. I also have made many friends and experienced the love of people who care greatly for me. Often however I feel that love is overtaken by the deep rooted desire for sameness that runs throughout the hearts of many native North Dakotans.

      In my time here, I have observed that the people who love me and the people who are different are the exception to a rule that many of the homogeneous mass would die over.

      I haven’t found that the tensions I feel are coming out of a difference of preference in hobbies. This may have to do with the fact that I am woman and my skin color is not white. I have experienced my fair share of racism conscious and unconscious and sexism.

      I have also heard the whispers of people talking about me. I have dodged the invisible daggers being thrown at me. These people although passive aggressive have not tried to hide the fact that they don’t like me.

      I really do wish it was just a matter of me trying to learn how to hunt or can/jar or drink beer. I honestly don’t think it would make a difference.

      Thank you again for your perspective and words. I truly wish my experience was more similar to yours.


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