I was on vacation and saw someone with a T-shirt from a town near where I grew up, though not close to where I currently reside. I considered introducing myself with a hearty yell, “Ithaca! I’m from Rochester—born and bred!” but I didn’t because that would only lead to talking to people and although I had mastered standing around awkwardly I was not yet ready to descend into awkwardly chatting with strangers.
But that phrase—born and bred—rattled around in my brain as I continued to stand there awkwardly not-talking to people. Essentially, it is establishing regional pride through the sexual intercourse of your parents. I wasn’t just born there—I was bred there. Which, in my case wasn’t necessarily true about my hometown.
My father gave me a paperback copy of The Hobbit when I was around ten years old. My father is a fan of writing in books, and in the front cover he had scribed, January 1973, Anchorage, Alaska. “Must’ve been the trip when we conceived you,” he said.
Now, when I conceived my first child—or technically a few months before that, when I started wanting to conceive my first child—I learned that pregnancy is a bit longer than nine months. Technically, I would have been conceived in mid-December, not January, a fact that my father as a pediatrician should have known. But since I never had the gumption to ask how long the trip to Alaska lasted—God forbid he tell me more details about my conception—I will never know where I was bred. And I daresay most other people don’t know that either.
Perhaps born and bred is therefore meant to convey that their parents never left the county/city/state and therefore they were unquestionably bred in that particular region. I’m still not sure why this is preferable to having parents who traveled at some point between 9.333 (ish) months right up to the day of birth. I mean, even Jesus couldn’t say born and bred about Bethlehem.
But there is something in us somewhere that wants to establish lineage. Land where my fathers died and all that. Wait—doesn’t that imply gay parentage? Most people only have one father. I had to google it. Yes, My Country ‘Tis of Thee clearly states my—not our—fathers, plural. At least according to Wikipedia, which—in spite of disparaging remarks made by professors about being unreliable—has never led me astray. Even autocorrect is having a problem with this, and wants to make the “s” possessive, just like it attempts to do every time I write about my two moms. Word is inherently confused by same-sex parenting.
So that left me still standing around awkwardly wondering about both our collective obsession with our parents’ sex lives and whether my elementary music teacher was patriotic and not a close-reader or secretly subverting societal norms when he made us learn that annoying song.
But then I realized something else—the expression is born and bred, not bred and born. Technically that implies that I was the one who bred there, not my parents. Which, in my case, is not true about my hometown at all. I did not increase their population by any number and only decreased it by moving away.
It’s probably better that I didn’t start that conversation with the woman from Ithaca after all.
Copyright © 2021 Lara Lillibridge
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