I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could. Ever heard anyone say that? Sure, you have. Great weather, low cost of living, no state taxes…it’s no mystery why people who weren’t born here want to live here.
My parents decided to move from West Virginia to San Antonio before my second birthday, so I’m as close to a native Texan as they come. I’ve lived in other states and even other countries and consider myself worldly and well-traveled. Truth be told, I could be happy in a lot of places, but living on a private island in Tahiti or in a cottage in the Scottish highlands is just a smidge impractical, so here we are.
After meeting in Illinois, moving to England, and flying (literally) around the world to adopt two Chinese children while living in England, my Michigander husband and I decided to make our home here in the Alamo City. And yeah, I did scope out the possibility of that private Tahitian island, and it just isn’t going to work out right now.
This is where our family has chosen to be, and we like it here. We like the weather, even when we complain about the humidity and how uncomfortably sweaty our tacky Christmas sweaters become after about 37 seconds of wear. I love my city and all the culture and diversity it brings, even though I will always be the crowd-o-phobic person who just doesn’t “get” Fiesta.
I love how I can get in my car, drive for an hour, and experience the artsy quirkiness of Austin. I love how the Gulf Coast beaches of my childhood are just a few hours away, and while they’re not the picturesque, sugar-white sands and turquoise waters of the Caribbean, Port Aransas and Corpus Christi equal major nostalgia for me, and I love experiencing them with my kids. I love going to Dallas for the “oh-so-Texas” vibe that most non-Texans associate with our great state. I love driving to Houston and going to the Science Museum and the Johnson Space Center. I love sitting in the Hill Country and sipping a glass of smooth Texas Tempranillo.
I love most everything about the Lone Star State. I don’t jump on the high school football bandwagon, but no one’s made me give up my Texan card…yet. Maybe I shouldn’t advertise that one. I don’t love every state and local elected official who’s ever represented me, and I don’t agree with every law that is passed—not by a long shot. It’s Texas, not Utopia, although Texas is about as close as I’ve been.
If you’re singing a Tanya Tucker song in your head right now, we should totally be friends. If you’re not, I’ll still give you a chance.
I love Texas, but not everybody does. I just realized that, and it honestly came as a surprise to me and not a pleasant one, unless you’re a weirdo who thinks a good time equals getting a bucket of ice water sloshed on your head when you least expect it.
I was sitting at a luncheon for a group of women in my professional niche—publishing—a few weeks ago. I’ve been affiliated with this group for about two years, and most of our tribe chat has been online, so I’d never had the opportunity to break bread with most of these women before. I felt comfortable. Among friends. There were pitchers of mojitos and my kids weren’t with me, which meant the odds of someone asking me to take them to the restroom 11 seconds after my food came were slim.
I was the newbie in this group. Most had known each other longer and knew each other better, but that was OK. I was basking in the knowledge that I was sitting with the cool kids, drinking a fancy-poo grownup drink, about to toast to our collective accomplishments and general badassery. The only way for life to be any better at that moment was for this situation to be happening on an island in Tahiti.
This story has a buzzkill moment, but y’all were expecting that, right?
A woman one seat over, whom I’d known for all of 20 minutes, said something unflattering about a project I’d worked on. I truly believe no malice was involved. Girlfran gets a D- in social situational awareness, but I think if she’d connected the dots, she probably would have thought twice about opening her yap. Let’s hope.
The conversation turned to Texas, as the person sitting between us was from Austin.
“I don’t get people from Texas,” she announced. As an aside, she remarked that the woman sitting between us was OK because she was from Austin and everyone knows that Austin really isn’t Texas. You know, aside from that whole state capitol thing. Let’s not make the fact that the state legislature sits in Austin a big deal.
My face grew hot and I felt tears prick my eyes because I always cry a little bit when I’m angry. I hate that I react that way, but I do.
I wanted to leap to my feet and defend my state.
I wanted to dramatically slam down my glass (after I sucked down my mojito, because—let’s be real—that was some good stuff), and declare, “You can all go to Hell. I will go to Texas,” a la Davy Crockett and stomp out of the restaurant.
I briefly considered stabbing her with a fork followed by a “bless your heart, honey.” That would have really showed her.
But I did none of those things.
I felt small, and as I stirred my fancy-poo drink, suddenly less like one of the cool kids. The conversation turned to other things; we ate, hugged goodbye, and went our separate ways. I had the opportunity to address the clueless person who’d made the thoughtless remark about the place I call home and set her straight.
But I didn’t.
I was kind to her out of some misguided notion that she’d connect the dots and feel horrible and come away thinking, Wow, those people from Texas are really nice, and I was a jerk.
Later, I decided that I didn’t give two hoots whether this person thought I was nice along with all the snappy and clever things I could have clapped back with. Because isn’t that how it always works? I second-guessed my passive, nice-girl actions for 36 hours straight. Truth be told, I’m still wishing I had a second crack at telling her off.
I decided to vent to our group organizer, someone I respect and look up to. She attempted to soothe my ruffled feathers and hurt feelings and pointed out that Austin is “very different from the rest of the state in terms of racial diversity and tolerance” and said something about Texas having more deaf people than black people. There was also a snippet she recalled from the conversation about how Austin is “the only Texas city that a liberal should even think of visiting.”
I’ll let that sink in for a sec.
I was sitting at lunch with a table full of people who apparently shared the sentiment that Texas is a terrible place. Does that make me a terrible person in their eyes? Am I a terrible judge of whom I should be friends with? Should I know more deaf people? Should I have told them that my neighbor and the vice principal at my kid’s school are black? Do they know that San Antonio had, until very recently, a black, female mayor—the first black, female mayor of any major city in history? I kind of think not.
A quick internet search of census data debunked the whole “there are more deaf people than black people” theory, but the fact remains that I’d chosen to rub elbows with people who thought it was OK to insult my home and I was completely clueless that they held these sentiments.
But I’m not the clueless one.
I’d bet a bean ‘n’ cheese taco and a Big Red that none of the people sitting around that table poo-pooing our great state really knows it, and I’d raise the ante a Pan Dulce from Mi Tierra that not one of them has been to what we all know is the world’s most charming city. Yeah, I know, I’m a little biased, but we all know that our city is warm and welcoming with off-the-charts cultural diversity. I just wish other people knew it, and the fact that there are people out there who feel that their political or social beliefs would render them unwelcome in Texas outside of Austin, makes me sad.
Maybe next time someone takes a pot shot at my hometown, my state, or my accomplishments, I’ll be ready to set them straight, complete with Davy Crockett quotes. Maybe I’ll be more cognizant that people outside my bubble don’t know how great my city is and how much of Texas they are completely unaware of. Something tells me my naysayer lunch buddies have never heard of Alpine, Marfa, Wimberly, Llano, Fredericksburg, Goliad, Bandera, or the hundreds of other off-the-beaten path cities that would take a month of Sundays to list. Maybe I need to do better at telling people that I love and am proud of where I come from, even if that involves shrugging off my nice and setting someone straight when they get a little twisted.
But for today, I’ll let the pen be mightier than the Bowie knife. Because I’m a Texan, and we’re nice here, y’all.