I was not born an Auburn girl. I was born in Louisiana, the product of two LSU graduates, and when I moved to Alabama at age six, I was forced to align myself with either Alabama or Auburn in order to fit in with my peers. When we first moved to Birmingham and began meeting people, introductions were always some derivative of this:
New Friend: Hi! Nice to meet you!
Me/member of my family: Nice to meet you, too!
New Friend: Are you for Alabama or Auburn?
Me/member of my family: Oh, well actually, we just moved here from Louisiana. We're LSU fans!
New Friend: Um, ok. Yeah, but--are you for Alabama or Auburn?
Me/member of my family: Well, neither really. We're...LSU fans.
New Friend: Sure, but between Alabama and Auburn, which one do you pull for?
Me/member of my family: Oh...um, ok...I guess if I had to choose...Auburn?
New Friend: Ugh. [eye roll]
New friend walks away. Damn it. I picked the wrong team!
Kids grow up being a fan of whatever team their parents love. My dad bleeds purple and gold. On the weekends, I was home in my LSU cheerleader uniform, listening to the LSU marching band on vinyl (yeah, we were those people) and jubilantly singing all the cheers. But, during the week, while at school, I had to pledge allegiance to another team. As for which team, my decision would win friends and alienate others, and my criteria was pretty arbitrary. That's rather tricky terrain for a seven-year-old to navigate.
I remember my first Iron Bowl in 1988. Every November, Auburn plays Alabama in football. For the uninitiated, I can't convey the importance of this game to the state of Alabama. It doesn't compare to your team's rivalry. Remember when the Berlin Wall came down? That moment of global and cultural significance? Yeah, the Iron Bowl is bigger than that. If you're under the age of thirty, that reference is completely lost on you, so I'll try to put it into terms you may understand: It's a bigger event than the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie, an impromptu Justin Bieber concert in your school's cafeteria, the Superbowl, a very-special episode of Glee, the election of Barack Obama, being a guest in the Oprah audience for her "Favorite Things" show, and a shower of $100 bills raining from the sky, all rolled into one spectacular day.
Ok, back to Iron Bowl '88. I was not informed that the Friday before the Iron Bowl is "Alabama/Auburn Day" (or "Auburn/Alabama Day") and that students and faculty show their spirit by wearing their team's colors to school. There was no announcement over the intercom, there were no fliers posted, it was just this unspoken understanding, and I showed up wearing a blue and white jumper and barrettes with flowers painted on them, one flower being orange. This was met with intense disapproval by my Alabama fan friend. She was sort of the Biff Tannen to my George McFly, and I went along with whatever she said for fear of being shoved in a locker. I went to play at her house before, and after noting the elephant painted on her toilet seat lid, I made a calculated decision to declare myself an "Alabama Fan". My wardrobe choice on "Alabama/Auburn Day" betrayed me. Clearly, it's a dark day in my history.
How did I recover from my Alabama/Auburn Day fashion faux pas? How did I wind up an Auburn fan? The answers to those questions and--eh, this post just got too long so I chopped it in half. Read the rest tomorrow.