Ask A Texan: Why do Texans get off on being from Texas?

[Ed. note: please welcome Austinite, crafter and design maven Allison to “Ask A Texan.” As a multi-generation Texan, we feel she is more than qualified to answer this question. If you think she got it wrong–or right–let us know in the comments!]

Dear Ask A Texan,

Why do people from Texas seem to really, really, really get off on being from Texas? I get pride in your homeland. And, I also sympathize with the need to maintain a sense of rootedness in the increasingly free-floating postmodern existential vacuum that modern life has become. However, I’ve never seen this intensity of xenophobia/nationalism on the state level. We see it nationally all the time. But Texas is unique in this regard among the 50 states. You rarely see someone, for example, refer to themselves as a “Proud Massachusettan.” Quick story: at a BBQ once, we saw a plaque on the hosts’ living room wall – a wedding gift. It said “True Friends. True Love. True Texans.” WTF? Who does that?

– No, Really, Who Does That?

Dear No, Really, Who Does That?,

Andrea invited me to take a shot at this question — thanks, Andrea! (My qualifications, if you’re curious, are that I am a Texan, a feminist, and a bossypants.)

So why are we so in love with Texas? I freely admit that I take my Texanness seriously: I love it here, love it fiercely. I have a few theories about why we’re like this:

1. We are taught to. Texas is, as far as I know, the only state that devotes two full years of history class to its history. If you are so fortunate as to be educated in the public school system of great state of Texas, you’ll spend all of fourth and seventh grade doing things like putting Santa Ana on trial and writing reports on David Burnet and putting on a reenactment of the battle of the Alamo in which William B. Travis is played by a Little Debbie Brownie from someone’s lunch (true story). Beyond that, it is everywhere. We fly the state flag at every car dealership and gas station and shopping mall in the land. We get all kinds of “Texas editions” of everything from pickup trucks to junior high textbooks. (I had no idea it wasn’t usual until my ex-boyfriend said that when he moved to Texas he could not get over how every single car commercial mentions Texas. I had just assumed all y’all were getting commercials about how you are a great Rhode Islander or whatever, and so you deserve a bigass truck.)

2. Many of us have families who cultivate this love at home too. Some of us, it’s because we’ve been here a long time, and our history and our heritage is tied up in the state (that’s my family). Some of us, it’s because we’re new and we’ve chosen this place and that makes it ours too (the “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could” bumper sticker crowd). People who move here often do so because they really like Texas, not just because it’s convenient for work or school, so they’re not usually lukewarm about living here.

3. Our mythology appeals to a lot of people. We’re at the intersection of West and South, a balance between wide open spaces and deserts and magnolias and bottomless iced tea. Both of those cultures have a lot of appeal, and no one else blends them quite like we do. And our history is big. It’s really big, and it’s filled with a lot of larger-than-life characters. It’s true that our history is actually pretty crappy when you look at the facts, but why let that bother you? We don’t. (I think, in a lot of ways, we are better at PR than other states: we’re real good at selling the version of ourselves we wish we were.)

4. We are actually awesome. It’s true that our politics suck, but mostly we are great. We are the home of Dr Pepper and chicken fried steak, Bob Wills and Willie Nelson, Schlitterbahn and Big Bend. We have deserts and oceans and everything in between. We make delicious food and good music, and we look really good in cowboy hats.

5. I do think there are a lot of states and cities that draw out a very deep and intense love from their natives: People seem to really like being from New York, or California, or Boston. (I do in fact know someone who is a “Proud Massachusettan,” but maybe they don’t say it often because it’s so damn hard to say.) Midwesterners often really identify as such. Texans are just the only ones who celebrate our homeland by shooting our guns in the air and yelling “Yeehaw!” I have a friend who grew up in Maine, and considers being a Mainer part of her core identity. But, because she is from Maine, she’s very polite about how great Maine is. That’s not really how we Texans roll. I have known people who took great pride in being from California, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan, Colorado, and even, God help them, Oklahoma. But there are a lot of Texans, and a lot of us are excited about it, and we make a lot of noise about it.

Do you have a question for a Texan? E-mail us.

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26 Responses to Ask A Texan: Why do Texans get off on being from Texas?

  1. Emily says:

    Traversing through Europe post college, (and post dub bush) I would find that I got a much better response to saying I was from Texas rather than just from The States. The myth is global.

    • Same here. People seemed to be pretty excited to meet a Texan, not so much to meet an American. Which doesn’t make much sense, especially considering I did the bulk of my travels in Europe at the peak of the Iraq War. You’d think the things people told me they hated about that (cultural imperialism, exceptionalism, irrational pride) would, in their minds, be magnified tenfold in their idea of Texas, but they weren’t. They just dug cowboys and stuff. Go figure.

    • ruth says:

      Tell a European that you’re from Dallas and you’ll get an enthusiastic response to the eponymous TV show.

      “I’m from Dallas.”

      “J.R.!”

      • Megan says:

        I had the same response to Dallas when studying in Italy a few years ago. “Oh, Daaalllasss!” I really do think they know it from the TV show. Also, they think it’s the capitol of Texas.

    • Werewolf42 says:

      I was told by my 8th grade American history teacher, that when he traveled abroad, and witnessed people being asked where they were from, he noticed that Americans would just say the united states, but if they were from texas, that’s just what they would say, that they were from Texas, not the U.S… I’m native Texan and proud of it, just thought it was funny that u identified urself as being from Texas cuz I always wondered if my teacher was telling the truth, and now I know he was….

  2. Janssen says:

    This is so fantastic. As a Texan by choice, I love it here.

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  4. Bearded Stoner says:

    Great post. I want to believe, I really do! I’m from Louisiana originally, and I wouldn’t say anything bad about TX I wouldn’t say about my home state. But, I don’t live in LA anymore for a reason, even though I often miss things about it. I have to say that the political culture, aggressive religiosity, and anti-intellectualism (in my particular piece of TX, anyhow) just cancel out all the awesome stuff you rightly point out (except for maybe smoked brisket and chicken fried steak). Sorry.

  5. Megan says:

    I’ve been living in Texas (minus the aforementioned study abroad stint a few years ago) for — good God — 13 years now, 3 different parts. Military town (Killeen), Dallas, now Austin. I like Texas, my mom is a born and raised Texan, so even as a kid in Germany and moving around all the time I still got a little bit of Texas instilled in me. Living in Austin now, I think this town takes the cake for coolest part of Texas, but that’s the key. Most of Texas is way too conservative and aggressively religious for me to be happy there. I could do Houston, or even maybe Dallas again if I had to (not really San Antonio — sorry, relatives who live there). But smaller town than that? I’m out.

  6. As a Texan living in Oregon, this really made me miss home. I appreciate that you acknowledged the “I love Texas, even though…” that many of us deal with.

  7. you forgot to mention the shot of state pride they give us at birth.😉

  8. Nicole says:

    This is so true. Politics aside, I love Texas fiercely.

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  10. Dani says:

    I love Michigan…but I don’t recommend it to others. MICHIGANDER FOR LIFE!!!

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  12. Maia says:

    “I had just assumed all y’all were getting commercials about how you are a great Rhode Islander or whatever, and so you deserve a bigass truck.”

    I totally thought this too!!!

  13. I was born in Austin, lived in various parts of the state, graduated from UT Austin a couple of times, and had the great good fortune to work for Ann Richards when she was Treasurer. I’ve been gone for over 25 years, and I still consider myself a displaced Texan. Apart from the current politics, I love everything from the Big Thicket to Padre Island to Big Bend and the Hill Country. I love a city that can celebrate Eyeore’s birthday. I love the (somewhat mythological) history, I love the outsized personalities, and the can-do spirit. Like others mentioned when traveling abroad I would say I was from Texas, not the US, and it got lots more interest. I miss it, but could not live in the heat again, not to mention the poisonous politics. But I do miss it.

  14. Neutral Observer says:

    1. I know of at least 8 other states that teach the history of their state in school for 2 years. These states range from the East Coast to the West Coast and some in between. There are residents of those states that love their state just as much as Texans love theirs.

    2. Every other state has examples of people who keep pride in their state because they have a history and heritage there. Just because the residents have a long-standing history in their family of being residents of the state doesn’t mean the state itself is any better than any other state in the country. In fact, people who have a long-standing history in their family of living in Texas may have lower values, lower morals and may be less educated than those in other states with the same long-standing history in their family of living in the state and upholding state pride.

    3. Just because you are at the intersection of West and South it doesn’t mean your state is any better than any other state in the country. The cultures that are blended in Texas only appeal to a certain crowd. It is a fallacy to say that no other state blends them quite like Texans do. North Dakota blends well the intersection of wild west of its nation’s history and the hospitality of its neighbor’s, Canada and yet birds fly upside down just so they don’t have to look at North Dakota. What about all the states on the East Coast with a greater history than Texas with larger than life characters and a big history, many of which include the founding of one of the world’s superpowers America? Are those states any less of a state than Texas? I don’t think Texas is very good at P.R. Texans just say their state is great but have nothing to back it up with.

    4. Texas is home to Dr. Pepper and chicken fried steak but Georgia is home to Coke, the Georgia Peach and delicious southern cooking. Schlitterbahn is also found in Kansas. Texas has deserts and NO ocean, (it has the Gulf of Mexico which really isn’t that cool) and NOTHING in between. Texas doesn’t have mountains like the Rockies or Appalachians, it doesn’t have beautiful forests like the Redwood Forest or the Great Smokey Mountains but instead has a lot of wasteland that is cheap to buy because it is worth a lot less than land is most other states. There is delicious food and good music in most other states and cowboy hats looking good on people is very subjective.

    5. Point 5 doesn’t really make sense. In many parts of the state, it would be illegal to shoot a gun in the air. And why does shooting a gun in the air and yelling, “Yeehaw” make the state you live in any better than any other state? There are a lot of Texans because there is a lot of land in Texas. A weighted average of landmass would show that. So you make noise about it, who cares? Not me.

    Texas is really just a large wasteland. The land is cheaper because it is less desirable and there is a lot of it. Schlitterbahn is closed in October which usually shows on average 80 degree weather according to weather.com. Why would you close when the weather is still warm? This is another reason Texas is just an average or below average state. Right now, there is a 14-year reconstruction project on the Dallas freeways. 14 YEARS!!! The only thing that is decent in Texas is the sports. But sports aren’t everything to everyone so I still don’t see why Texas is considered by many residents to be better than any other state. I think it is an average or lower than average state.

    • Not So Neutral Are You? says:

      You don’t have to be mean about it…why post a belittling comment like this? Does it really make you feel better to rip on Texas on a website that is written and frequented mostly by Texans?

      At least it doesnt sound like you’re jealous of Texans and Texas or anything though.

    • Native Texan says:

      Not sure where you received your education or, inbreeding as you so eloquently put it,but at least here in Texas we know that the Gulf of Mexico IS an arm of the the Atlantic Ocean.You should look it up and in the future do your homework before you spout off at the mouth about things you apparently were not educated about.YEEHAW YA’LL

  15. Neutral Observer says:

    How is the comment belittling? I only stated what I observed, hence the name neutral observer.

    • Plint says:

      Texan backing it up…. Live music capital of the world, energy capital, cost of living, job market, NASA, diversity, hill country, wineries, floating the river, lakes, beaches, only state to have an nfl themed golf course…

  16. Janeontheplains says:

    Bless your little heart, “Neutral Observer.” Your mama never taught you, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I guess she also didn’t teach you that rudeness disguised as “honesty” is just all kinds of wrong.

  17. T says:

    In 7th grade are taught Texas history. We are proud but not arrogant. You can actually walk by someone on the street and look them in the eye. We are gracious when someone lets us go ahead of them at a stop sign…aka the wave hand signal. We are versatile. Neutral observer…. Have u looked at the cost of living, job market, NASA, energy capital, live music capital of the world, LBJ, museum district, hill country, vineyards (2nd largest in USA compared to napa) etc… We have Austin compared to college station…which are totally different breeds but they still have Texas pride. Wasteland? Are u kidding me? Do u drive and have you heard of oil or gas? Tell me, what do you have that you are proud of? We take pride in being American and being Texan. There are mountains in west Texas btw…. Idiot. No one yells yehaw. I am backing it up……

  18. T says:

    Oh… And less educated? Um…. How many presidents have come from Texas compared to Georgia? Y’all have Jimmy Carter. Awesome.

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