Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with a lovely woman from New York. Why, you may ask, and on that, I’m going to smile and dodge the question. All I’ll say is stay tuned for further developments. But the thing that struck me when I spoke to her was one question—a funny question, asked in a strained voice:
“So you live in Iowa?”
She said it with the tone of a woman who was picturing me hunkered down in a covered wagon, the howls of coyotes off in the distance. I think she was worried.
Those of you who’ve ever spent any time in the Midwest know we largely live in the twenty-first century. But it is the second time in a week I’ve heard someone marvel at Midwesternness, like it’s something alien or perhaps a skin condition we might want to have looked at.
Are we truly that different?
Back in 2011 Stephen Bloom wrote a scathing article about Iowa—caused quite an uproar—and whether we were a bunch of rifle-toting rubes or chronically unemployed meth-heads, I was never quite sure. And while it seems there’s no shortage of perceptions about Midwesternness coming from elsewhere, the funny thing is, I think if I polled the Iowans I know, we’d all agree: We’re willing to take you as who you are, not where you’re from.
And maybe that does make us different.
Well–that, and the fact we call soda “pop”.
My Florida friends always pretend to not know what I’m referring to when I say pop. In my class this week, there was a woman from New York, a woman from Chicago, and another from Pennsylvania – all relocated to Iowa and love it here. I wonder how many opinions of Iowa are formed without ever being here or knowing anyone from here.
I briefly lived in San Diego where my friends teased me constantly about my “pop” habit. But I have to conclude the opinions of people who don’t know Iowa might be better than the opinion of Stephen Bloom who actually lived here for twenty years. I still can’t figure out what “Iowa” he was talking about.