When people ask me why I didn’t go to college in Texas (a state I, incidentally, recently had tattooed on my bicep), I usually sweat profusely and say something like, “When you love something, sometimes you just have to let it go!”
I’m filled with Catholic shame and constant second-guessing because my home state really is the best, and I realized that shortly after leaving. Have you ever wondered why Texans are so obnoxious about their state pride? Why it’s the fastest growing state in the country? That an article like this could be written in the first place, as opposed to a state, like, I dunno, Delaware? It’s because Texas really is the promised land.
But like any storied, mystical place (Ancient Egypt, Versailles, the island from ‘Lost’), Texas is prone to misconceptions and stereotypes. You know about the blue skies, world class Tex-Mex, big trucks and ALL THE BEER, but here are some things you probably didn’t know.
Austin is ‘weird’ because it’s ragingly liberal, and we love it for that
Everyone in Texas used to be a Democrat. Look it up. Even Rick Perry was a Democrat in college. Yes, the guy who gleefully told the world that Texas should secede from the greatest country on Earth used to belong to the same party as Barack Obama. The switch happened sometime in the 70s or 80s when everyone fell in love with Reagan, and I’m not kidding when I say that ‘Reagan’ has become a very popular boy and girl name in Texas.
But anyway, Austin remains the last safe place for Texas Democrats, followed by Houston and around 50% of San Antonio. If you want to get your conservative kicks on, head to the hill country, West Texas or have your Shiner Bock and drink it too in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Liberal areas like Austin are totally fetishized by the rest of Texas. You can go there and ride a bike around instead of a Jeep! It was the start of the food-truck revolution that swept the state like teen pregnancies thanks to abstinence-only sex education! Sandra Bullock lives there!
It’s basically three states in one
When I moved to Missouri I discovered all the Texas stereotypes. The biggest one might be that even though we have three of the largest metro areas in the country and four major cities, the whole state is desert, tumbleweed and armadillos. Thanks, movies. This caricature of Texas is only partially true. You can draw a line basically through the middle of Texas, and everything to the west is what you’ve been shown in films, i.e. tumbleweed, accents and sand storms. My dad is from West Texas and he’s the only one I know with an accent. Everything in the east includes the major cities (Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston).
Starting at Austin and going down is South Texas, where you have the massive influence of Hispanic culture and gorgeous Hill Country that defies the myth that Texas is flat. North Texas, and I’m somewhat erroneously lumping Houston in here, is green, cold (it snows!) and has no idea what good Mexican food is.
Badass lady politicians who don’t a man
The last Democratic governor of Texas was an incredible woman named Ann Richards who had the stones to call out George H.W. Bush for being from Massachusetts and having a phony Texas accent at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. As a governor she helped make Austin into the film and tech city it is today (See: Dazed and Confused, Matthew McConaughey and SXSW) and even once guest starred on a King of the Hill episode as herself before she died. There was also Barbara Jordan, who represented Houston in the US Congress and defied pretty much every stereotype of Texas that exists. She was African American, a lesbian and was going to be nominated for the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton before she died of cancer in 1996. It’s sad that neither Richards nor Jordan are no longer alive because they got shit done like no one else, but there’s hope for Texas ladies yet: Annise Parker is the current mayor of Houston, also a lesbian who recently married her partner of 24 years in January. There’s also Wendy Davis, a Harvard graduate currently running for governor whose big blonde hair is the envy of every southern lady this side of Dallas.
Side note about Texas politics: there’s this weird geographic divide. With some exceptions, everything in south Texas seems to be named after Democrats (Lake LBJ, Lady Bird Johnson High School). Everything in Dallas is named after Republicans (George H.W. Bush Turnpike, John McCain Boulevard for some reason). It’s telling that LBJ’s library is in Austin while George W. Bush’s is in Dallas, which is also where Margaret Thatcher’s son moved and his children went to high school, seriously. The Iron Lady’s grandson played high school football against teams from Friday Night Lights.
You never know what famous person you’ll run into
I mentioned that Sandra Bullock is the pride of Austin, and that’s definitely true. But a crap ton of celebrities are from Texas. When I was in high school in Dallas there was this weird thing going on where it seemed like every Disney celebrity was from there. Demi Lovato lived in the same suburb as me (and still has friends there) and her BFF Selena Gomez lived just outside of Ft. Worth. The Jonas Brothers also lived a few towns over from mine and were frequently spotted at Target. Matthew McConaughey had a ranch near where I lived in San Antonio (all right all right all right) in the same town where Johnny Manziel is from (who dated a girl I went to middle school with). McConaughey’s favorite workout buddy and fellow Austinite? This guy. My dad also once ran into Tommy Lee Jones in a frame shop, of all places. Owen and Luke Wilson went to private school in Dallas and met Wes Anderson (a Houston native) at UT, so that’s how that whole thing got started. Erykah Badu got in some hot water for stripping naked in front of the JFK memorial in Dallas a few years back, and there seems to be this other famous female singer that I might be forgetting…OH YEAH BEYONCE IS FROM HOUSTON. H Town vicious, bow down bitches.
The list goes on and on. Ignorant people like to claim Texas is a backwoods hillbilly state (that would be Kansas) that doesn’t produce anything valuable, but clearly we’re far more culturally relevant than that.
Dylan Connell is a college bromo who was born in West Texas, raised in San Antonio and went to high school in Dallas. He drives a truck, says “y’all” and wants to be the next Don Draper. Find his blog here, and follow him on Twitter.
[Photo: Micha Klootwijk/Shutterstock]