Wow. Ever since Governor Goodhair (rest in peace, Molly Ivins) threw his giant, oversized cowboy hat into the presidential ring, Texas has really been thrown back into the national spotlight. And not always in a good way. Being a blue chick in this, the reddest county in the reddest state in the union, I can dig it. I’ve long moaned about many disappointing aspects of Texas, such as the government’s allegiance to businesses over humans, for example.
But when the state caught fire after Perry prayed for rain? It got nasty. That’s when I started to see and hear some downright unfair commentary about Texas and Texans that got my back up. And even though I am not considered a “real” Texan (you have to be born here to be called that; they actually make certificates. I am not making this up. I am merely considered a Texasissippian), I feel the need to defend what I call home.
Because that’s actually the first example of the coolness of my state. Velvet rope stuff! Not everyone gets to call themselves a member of this exclusive club. Texas may be a dysfunctional family, but we are definitely a family. We may fistfight each other, but for an outsider…God forbid, a Northerner…say something sideways about us? We’ll all band together to stomp a crater in your behind. I love the cohesiveness and pride of Texans. Even if some of them don’t want to be confused with the facts.
It seemed timely, what with the unending supply of unintentional humor Perry is providing the nation, to spread a little knowledge on the state for those not familiar with actual Texas culture. You should know from an insider a little about how cool being a Texan…er, Texasissippian…can be.
Yes, that’s right: TEXAS CAN BE VERY, VERY COOL. There’s a toughness here, a George-Bush-clearing-brush kind of mentality. Plenty of elbow grease. Forget New York; if you can make it here in the land of the scorpions and searing heat, THEN, my friend, you can truly make it anywhere. Surviving the summers here just gives us more swagger. It’s like getting a tattoo, going through your first Texas summer. After awhile, July comes, and you just break out your Clint Eastwood squint. Bring it.
And Texas females are particularly amazing, speaking of swagger. Don’t let the big hair and soft accents fool you, my friend. Most of us can throw a punch while never creasing our designer clothes or tipping over in our six inch heels. We know football stats and can hold our margaritas. Did you ever see Ann Richards on her pearl white Harley?
Some Texas-sized misconceptions I’d like to address:
Myth: Everyone in Texas is a cowboy or JR Ewing. Guys. Most of us live in very urban areas. We work for Texas Instruments, AT&T, EDS, Frito-Lay, Ericsson….very little wrangling going on in the halls of the tech industry (unless you count jostling for stock options). We don’t all drive trucks or wear cowboy boots. Most of us don’t own a belt buckle off of which you could serve a turkey. Some of us even have an active loathing for Toby Keith.
Myth: Everyone in Texas is a hayseed who votes Republican. Much of Texas is actually urban. Dallas itself is actually a blue city. We have a thriving gay community and one of the largest gay churches in the nation. George Michael’s partner is from here (whoops! He and Kenny Goss just broke up, I forgot), and they owned an art gallery downtown. Dallas runs a close third in the fashion industry behind New York and Los Angeles. Two words for you: Neiman Marcus. Austin, also blue, is one of the hippest cities in the nation.
Myth: Everyone in Texas is a rich jerk who belongs to a country club. Okay, this one is mostly true. NO! I kid. Actually, 51% of Texans earn $33,000 a year…or less. We’re second in food security in the nation. I’ve never met a murdering cheerleader. You’ll never see a reality show about all the hard-working, two-income families here. Regular Texans are not the car wreck “Dallas’ Most Eligible” are, but everyone loves to rubber-neck a wreck. Related: they’re most eligible BECAUSE THEY’RE REPUGNANT AND NO ONE WANTS THEM. But I digress.
Myth: Texas hates immigrants. Boy, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. What you hear from elected Texas officials does not reflect the love this state has for the Mexican culture. It is inseparable from Texas culture. Mexican food, Catholicism, mariachi…Texas wouldn’t have its identity without its spicy dash of Spanish culture. White and brown have lived and loved happily here together for decades…and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Myth: Texas weather is unbearable. Okay, we crowded “unbearable” a little this summer with seventy days above 100 degrees. But on the whole, the rest of the year is mild and amazing. We have beautiful hiking, river tubing, and camping areas. There isn’t a ton of rain to depress you. Bonus: we don’t wear much sometimes because of the heat. But come visit us in April or October, because there isn’t a prettier state in the union then. And lastly:
Myth: God is punishing Texas with heat and fire because we are evil and stupid. This isn’t even funny as a joke, y’all. Over 500 houses were lost in wildfires. No matter what your politics, you don’t deserve that. I forgive those who made the jokes; they’re just trying to say something hideous and undeserved would never happen to THEM. It wasn’t right when Pat Robertson said it about Katrina and New Orleans. It’s not right to say it about Perry and the fires.
So even though I don’t get to call myself a “real” Texan, I sure am affiliated. Even in my Dallas suburb, I am surrounded by eclectic artists, very cool musicians, intellects, and a healthy counter-culture (shout out to my favorite biker bar right now). In small town Texas. We ain’t leaving, because it’s our state too. The bumper sticker reads “Keep Austin Weird” down in the capital, y’all. And guess what? We might just turn the whole state.
So, if you’re ever in Texas or you’re new to the area and worried there’s no one who shares your point of view, look up your favorite McKinney Momma. I’ll show you cool Texas. It really is like Lyle Lovett sings: That’s right, you’re not from Texas. But Texas wants you anyway.