This summer I had the pleasure of spending one month in my home state of Wisconsin. This is where I’ll always “be from.”
But for the rest of the last 11 years of my life, excepting a few holidays here and there, I’ve been somewhere outside the state. I don’t know what it’s like for people from elsewhere, but when traveling or living outside of the Midwest and I say I from Wisconsin, the reactions are almost always limited to the following.
1. Oh. Followed by a blank stare. This typically comes from two groups of people.
Group one is the group that doesn’t care to follow up. Expect this from East or West Coasters who consider the rest of us fly-over territory. Don’t get me started on how incredibly annoying their condescending I-never-needed-to-know-much-about-your-state ohs can really be. This is the worst.
The second “oh” group are those people who simply don’t know anything about it. And don’t care to learn or get into a discussion at the moment.
2. That’s in the north, right?
In my experience, this is often uttered by Canadians who have typically made fun of how bad my fellow “Americans” are at geography. Sure. Wisconsin’s “in the north, right?” Just like New Brunswick is, like, in the east, right? Sure, I’m happy that they’re at least in the right geographic ball park and they did express more interest than the person from Providence, Rhode Island, who didn’t care enough to clarify. But that’s probably just them being “Canada-nice.”*
If they’re from a different continent and haven’t just made fun of everyone in the US for being dumber than everyone in their more-evolved (yet currently Harper-run) paradise, I cut them some slack. And am simply happy they care enough to pinpoint it. And then do confirm that it snows a lot.
Numbers 3-8 usually come from people who have a little bit of background about the state. This tells you what the state is known for.
3. You’re a cheesehead!
If someone says, “Oh, you’re a cheesehead,” they could be simply referring to anyone from the state, or more specifically, the fact that I’m likely a Packers fan. Most of us are. I like to say I’m a Packers fan by birth. I haven’t strayed, except for one year when I supported both the Steelers and the Packers. My grandmother was upset with me, and when I decided to put an end to my Steelers fling, she welcomed me like a prodigal daughter. We did, sadly, lose one of my sisters to the Patriots during the Bledsoe years. She’s never returned. Prayers are welcome on her behalf.
4. The Dairy State!
Yes, we produce a lot of milk and cheese. I maybe only lived on that dairy farm for the first ten years of my life, but much of my family members were also dairy farmers. I’m proud of this one. And, yes, I do have to often confess that I eat more cheese than I ought to. Sometimes it’s even—can you believe it?—fried!
5. Beer Comments
Yes, there are a lot of breweries. And consumption levels are high. Often, people continue on to tell me “Yeah, they make a lot, but it’s all gross commercial beer.” I don’t really like Pabst (sorry, hipsters) or Old Milwaukee that much, either. But there’s a lot more offered at this point. I will sip on that New Glarus fruity Serendipity beer or Great Dane Emerald Isle Stout. Also, I hate when people assume that my being from Wisconsin means I want to do a keg stand. I don’t. I never did.
6. That ’70s Show!
“Hello, Wisconsin!” has been screamed in my face countless times in several different countries. Still, the show was funny and so many cultural references seemed to be spot on. At least we can follow this up with a conversation about how funny Fez was or Ashton Kutcher’s career. Not the best, but not the worst.
7. That’s where Frank Lloyd Wright is from!
I’ll take that, too. Being known as the home to one of the most intriguing architects of the last century is not bad at all. Review a couple life facts before traveling, just in case someone springs this one on you.
The thing is, they didn’t hear the Wisconsin in my accent at all until they knew where I was from. I do not deny that we do have accents (especially after being away and then returning), but if someone had thought he had so clearly pegged my accent, why was he asking me where I was from in the first place? And beyond that, I spent 17.5 years in the state and now have spent 11.5 outside of it. My accent is a bit watered down. I do not say Wiscahhhsin. And if I don’t, they shouldn’t either.
9. I love Wisconsin!
Oh, bless these people. They have visited the state as tourists. They maybe have cousins or grandparents there. They have been in Madison on Halloween, gone sailing in Door County, tchotchke shopping in the Dells, or fishing Up North. I love it, too.
10. Ah! Cool, I’m from Minnesota/Iowa/Michigan/Illinois!
We might be rivalries within the Midwest, but when find ourselves in Québec or Argentina together, we bond over all things Midwest. Think euchre, puppy chow, summer sweet corn, and the hilarity that is the Jell-O salad.
11. Me, too!
And then we hug like long-lost sisters and brothers and rejoice about all things Wisconsin. Because people from Wisconsin are so friendly. Okay, maybe an exaggeration, but it’s usually a pretty cool surprise, and there is an instant understanding between us. Even if there’s no hug, there is still talk about what part of the state we’re from and how interesting it is to meet wherever we find ourselves. There is, of course, always an exception. You will, maybe once in 11 years of travel/living outside the state, bump into some guy who acts like a d-bag, doesn’t care that you share a home state, and seems to only wants to talk about how much he agrees with everything Ayn Rand writes.**
Okay, Wisconsinites! What am I missing? How do people react to you when they learn where you’re from?
Others are allowed to weigh in on the conversation, too. What do people always say to you when you tell them where you’re from?
*Canadians often tell me that “everyone always says Canadians are nice.” Mostly, I hear Canadians talking about how nice they are. I’m pretty sure northern Minnesota and southern Manitoba are comparable in the nice department. I do not usually mention this in conversation, however. Because that wouldn’t be very “Midwest-nice” of me.
**Oh, purely hypothetical, I assure you. He was a hypothetical jerk. Not because he reads and likes Ayn Rand, but because he hypothetically asks you why you haven’t more, hears your answer of simply not making time to read any and not being sure that is what you have prioritized in your reading list, and says, “Yeah, some people are afraid of reading Ayn Rand.” I guess I’m hypothetically too scared to read more of her stuff. For those who have known me since my middle school years, Ayn Rand has become my new “Hobbit.” I refused to read it for years because someone used my lack of having read it as an insult. Was really my loss in that case. This case, I’m still holding the grudge. And prefer Sartre.
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