That Dangerous Question: Where Are You From?

I just got back from the BlogHer ’08 conference, where I introduced myself — over and over, till I got a little tired of hearing myself hold forth.  I told my name, the blog’s name, what we blog about, etc., etc.  Simple enough.

But then the question: Where are you from?  That one’s not that easy to answer.  In fact, it makes me a little deranged.  Here’s why.

A few times I said I was from Texas.  I got some friendly smiles, a few quizzical, are-you-crazy?-looks, a couple of snarls, at least one certifiable insult.  One comment of, “So, does everybody carry guns in Texas?”

Other times, I said I was from Austin.  Good lord, what a difference.  “Austin!  What a wonderful place!  I just love it!”  (10 or so responses)  “Austin!  I’ve never been there!  But I hear it’s great!”  (another 20 or so)

Strangely, Austin seems to have the best PR on earth — owing to its live music, high-tech, hip, livable and weird raves — while Texas itself currently has the worst — owing to the Current Occupant of the White House and the shameful death penalty industry that’s cranking back into motion right now.

It’s enough to make someone who considers herself both an Austinite and a Texan a little woozy.  I get too much (undeserved) credit for being from a hip city and too much (undeserved) censure for living in one of the reddest of states.

Unlike many of my friends, I’m not one of these people who would desert the state if I couldn’t live in Austin.  For reasons I can’t fully explain, I happen to love Texas.  I can’t help myself.  It’s in my blood.  Even when it infuriates me, it’s still where I’m from, the place I call home.

In fact, it’s much the same way as I feel about the U.S.  Even if John McCain wins the next election, as I fervently hope he doesn’t, I’m still not moving to Canada.  This is still my country, right, wrong or indifferent.  I’ve got roots here and I intend to stay.

“One thing I’ve always noticed about Texans,” a woman at the BlogHer conference said, “is that they’ve usually got a really good sense of humor.  I wonder why.”

Because, I told her, we have to.  The physical environment is too hostile and unforgiving not to have a sense of humor.

Some things, after all, simply can’t be explained.  This all makes me think of George Patton and his views about war: “God help me, I love it so!”

Thinking about Texas, not war — well, I can relate.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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