Facebook played a dirty trick on me. Facebook removed my “Married to April Hopkins” distinction from the front page of my profile. This may not seem like a huge deal–but darn it, I work hard to be a good husband. I want the acknowledgment. Plus, I don’t want to confuse all the lovely ladies who might get their hopes up. Instead, Facebook had the command “Add your hometown” where my marriage status was previously.
Facebook was getting pushy because “hometown” was the one piece of my FB profile I’ve ignored for years. I did so on purpose. My hometown no longer exists.
I don’t want to sound too dramatic. Yes, from 1983 until 1996, I lived in Mansfield, Texas. It is where I grew up, where I went to school, where I made my friends, and where I graduated. I probably devoted hundreds of hours to riding my bike around this small town. Given the right equipment, I could’ve “Google mapped” my town from my bicycle. My parents would be dismayed if they knew how young I was and how far I traveled. Living in Mansfield, almost every day, I would walk to the 7-11. I’d buy the largest Coke slurpee available and play Strider in the small arcade. At the drug store, I bought my first packet of comic books. I spent my summers playing in the woods behind our house–exploring, hauling junk around to building forts, and destroying other kid’s forts. Yes, Mansfield was my hometown, but that Mansfield doesn’t exist. Not really.
After I graduated, Mansfield went from being a small town with only one high school to having about five or six, all with such such tedious non-names, the kind of places that could be a mental institution, a golf course, or a gated community: Lake Ridge, Legacy, Summit, and Timberview. Mansfield grew and built row after row of identical houses (yes, like Weeds). Every intersection now has a CVS or Walgreens, a donut shop, and a nail salon. Mansfield has been blessed with a Home Depot, a Best Buy, a Cinemark, and all the other businesses that crowd around these businesses. The Waffle House that was built while I was in high school, the first 24 hour anything in Mansfield, now appears old. They finally, finally added a book store, which I could tell they had been resisting for a while. And maybe, this transformation happens to every hometown. I can’t fault Mansfield for wanting to expand. CNN Money rated Mansfield as #30 on their “best small cities” list. Who am I to disagree?
It wasn’t like Mansfield was all that wondrous while I lived there. It was a segregated town, a frightfully conservative town, with an actual “other side of the tracks.” The blessed side received the country club and all the improved streets, shops, and sidewalks. The other side was allowed to falter and be forgotten. (Historical footnote: Mansfield once had a public swimming pool for “whites only.” When legally forced to integrate, the city opted to shut down the pool. Not too long after that, the country club opened. They had a swimming pool and closed membership. To my knowledge, the thriving Mansfield still doesn’t have a public swimming pool as part of their parks and recreation department.) When our elementary schools all converged into a single middle school, I saw how angry white kids, angry black kids, and angry brown kids did not get along. I heard the words shouted back and forth, words they learned from their angry parents and grandparents. So I wasn’t surprised when I heard of the problems Mansfield encountered, a few years ago, when they built new schools and tried to draw lines for where the students would go. People elected into office knew how to look out for their own interests. The population boom in Mansfield could have been a blessing, if smartly and fairly managed. Instead, it’s just a haphazard mess of shopping centers and housing developments. Despite its many faults, for a time, Mansfield was familiar. I could claim it. Now if you were to drop me into the middle of Mansfield, I may not be able to find my way out.
“You can never go home again… but I guess you can shop there.”
Facebook wants me to claim a hometown. I’m sorry, but I can’t claim Mansfield. People can renounce citizenship. Can I renounce hometownship? Instead, I’m claiming Dallas. Dallas is more familiar to me than Mansfield. Every time I approach this city, it feels like home. Sure, it’s not entirely accurate–but it feels more true. Dallas was the metropolis of my childhood. Even with its faults, I love Dallas. I don’t really understand Mansfield.
As soon as I posted a hometown to my profile, Facebook released the hostage marital status. I’m once again Facebook official.
UPDATE: I’ll confess my history of Mansfield is based more on myth and folklore. I received a message from a friend with some details about the infamous public pool. “I moved to Mansfield in 1968. The population was about 1600. Jack Ball’s pool closed because he and Madelyn (both alcoholics) couldn’t afford the insurance they were being asked to pay. Never saw any racism at all.”
If anyone else has comments or clarifications, by all means, post below in the comments section.