The only patriotic outfit I ever put together is a pair of blue jeans, a white T-shirt, and a pair of red underwear. This configuration usually occurs by accident, and though only a very intimate friend would ever know, it still leaves me feeling a little self-conscious. I’ve never understood the flag waving mentality. It feels too inclusive, as if one accepts every attribute of a country. Can anyone really feel that way? I’m far pickier, preferring to select which qualities and traits I’d like to celebrate.

As a single woman, I marvel at marrieds who shrug and chuckle when describing spouses’ oddities. I envy the complete acceptance. If my mate displays appalling public behavior – well, appalling to me, at least – I want to distance myself from him as much as possible, sometimes going so far as to deny any knowledge of who he is. I’d probably apply the same denial to my child if walking away from him in a public place didn’t amount to abandonment.

Am I not accepting enough? Maybe. Or do I bond too intensely, thus seeing family members’ behavior as an extension of my own? Perhaps, but reexamining those who manage to laugh at their partners’ embarrassing behavior, I suddenly see it more clearly. They aren’t emitting chuckles of acceptance. No, they’re snorting through chuckles of superiority, of smugness. Their faces display smirks of “I’d never be that way,” alongside, “Aren’t I a great person for being so tolerant of my appalling spouse?” Suddenly it doesn’t seem so hard to be accepting, not when you can revel in self-congratulations.

But I must confess to one allegiance. When I walk down the Venice Boardwalk surrounded by its lively spirit of chaos, I feel very proud to be a Californian. Yes, without hesitation I claim my home state, which so often gets ridiculed for being out there and wacky. Wacky in just the way I like it, I must say. I’m proud to be of a state that puts forward innovations in environmental safety, that has liberal leanings in regard to domestic partnerships, gay marriage, and other protections for its citizens. Other states frequently follow our lead once we’ve shown that it’s not such scary territory, and these dramatic steps often provide real progress for society. Sure, we’ve had our embarrassing moments like certain memorable gubernatorial elections, but these missteps only serve to demonstrate the complexity of the state I love. I know there will always be those who mock California, but they’re probably laughing at their spouses as well.

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