Yeah, this is Texas, but....
A anonymous commenter asked me to write about why I like living in Texas. I've talked about this before, but it's always fun to hit on it, at least for me. Fear not, soon-to-be-grad-student! Austin is a hell of a city, not the least because I posted about the Whip-In's new blog and the owner offered to buy me a beer in the comments. It's that sort of town. Big and yet small.
Austin and the Hill Country generally are not like The Rest of Texas, and Texas is pretty different from the rest of the South in a lot of ways. Ways that I won't go into here, because my Texas pride would make it sound like all other Southerners are toothless inbred hillbillies, and that's really not true. I'd be lying and I don't like to lie.
Texas is a big state, which people from the outside know, but don't really know. When I met my boyfriend's dad and stepmom, who were down in Beaumont visiting his sister, they asked how far away it was to El Paso, where I was born. I said, "Oh get on I-10 and drive about 850 miles." That much space means that there isn't one Texas culture by any stretch of the imagination.
Austin is a city where almost no one is actually from here, much like Denver. That means that the veneer of Bohemia always lingers in the air--most people here have escaped something, remade themselves somehow, and being vaguely ashamed of the podunk place you escaped is practically required. If you don't have podunk origins to make fun of while out with friends, make some up. The town motto has been "Keep Austin Weird" as of late in retaliation towards the rapid development that has plagued the city since the dot com boom and has strangely not tanked along with the dot com bust. I think that people here are a bit paranoid about the surge of yuppies who want to call South Congress "SoCo". They have been trying to rid that neighborhood of 60 year olds in Birkenstocks and rednecks who shoot cats from their front porch for nearly as long as I've lived here and they have only succeeded in getting rid of a porn theater.
We have kept the best parts of Texan culture and tried to discard the rest. Here you do say "ma'am" and "sir", which kills my boyfriend's parents. Hell, I'll just list some positive aspects of Texas/Southern culture:
- The word "y'all" and the phrase "fixin' ta". All other Americans suffer from the lack of these phrases and struggle to address groups of people or express the idea that something will happen in the indeterminate but decidedly near future.
- Texans are better looking than everyone else. It's a proven, indisputable fact. Austin betters most of the state, 'cause we drink wheatgrass here, too.
- We eat good. We have BBQ, Tex-Mex, and even really fantastic Vietnamese food here. My friends from New Jersey didn't know what queso was when they moved here, but they are thoroughly in love with it, though they still insist on calling it, "a bowl of hot cheese".
- For all that everyone else makes fun of Texas and the South for our supposed lack of cultural contributions, just imagine what kind of crap you'd be listening to right this minute if Southerners hadn't courteously invented jazz, country, and rock and roll.
- Cowboy boots and cowboy hats. However, you have to live here a set amount of time before you can pull it off.
- Texan-speak is a weird mix of bluntness, fanciful metaphor, and mannerly obfuscation. Yes, we are both blunt and obscure at different times for different reasons. For instance, I knew some people who named their dog Puta, but would not actually call her by her name. It's a pain in the ass, but we think it's charming.
- Texans pride themselves on having a rowdy sense of humor. I'm a prime example.
But we in Austin don't refer to the rest of Texas as The Rest of Texas for no reason. You'll be relieved, grad-student-to-be, to hear what we reject.
- The scary beauty culture isn't part of Austin. The whole culture of big hair, tons of make-up, architectural underwear, cheerleading, and beauty pagents has been rejected by the women of Austin. However, if you like to wear big hair and make-up, we respect that, too. Especially if you have flair.
- Austin voted for Kerry.
- Austin prides itself on its diverse population and we even embrace a lot of more urbane cultural things, though awkwardly. We have an art museum, for instance, even if nothing can compete with Willie Nelson shows.
- We encourage you to be as eccentric as you wish.
- The city has a vibrant downtown that is easy to find, and is not spread out like Houston or confusing like Dallas/Ft. Worth.
- Even though we like country-western, the music scene here is so diverse that it's hard to describe. Suffice it to say, the musicians here are really creative, able to combine "Texas" with other styles to various degrees and usually with a lot of success.
- We don't do "family values", though this is a great city for kids. The average age is really young and we're goshdarn slutty. Or, as the lifestyle magazines would put it, we have a good dating scene. I think some people who read my blog think that I am exagerrating the amount of cruising, hitting on, dating, breaking up, and general dating drama that I see. I'm actually downplaying it.
Austin probably has the best music scene in the country and we have a burgeoning film geek scene that is a sight to behold. Don't be afraid of being bored or being set upon by wild-eyed rednecks here. My friends and I stand in my backyard drinking beer over the grill and saying, "Yep" alright, but we aren't rednecks.