A conversation with Taylor K. Phillips about how to have a Midwestern conversation
As someone who grew up in Kansas (and lives here again as an adult), I always thought of us as quintessential Midwest and didn't know until I was an adult that not everyone agreed with this!
I do say "ope" and "I'm gonna sneak past ya" so that's got to count for something.
Ahh! Thank you thank you THANK YOU Lyz! This was the most fun conversation! Being introduced by a friend's mom named Sue is *the most Midwestern* way to meet that ever there was. (Though I was a fan before that)
I still can't stop the saying hi thing. It's too ingrained. I went on a walk this morning and the NEED TO GREET bubbled up inside me every time I saw another person. You can take the girl out of the midwest...
...but then she's just gonna write a book about it :/
The waving thing is real. As a midwesterner living outside the Midwest, I get super anxious whenever I pass someone: is it rude not to wave and say hi? Or is it more rude to do so, because maybe they want to be left alone? There’s no winning.
Also, I once had to tell a fellow midwesterner when we both lived in New York City: do not respond to the people trying to solicit you for money on the street. Not even to politely decline. They will never leave you alone unless you walk past them like they don’t exist. Yes, you will feel like an asshole every time.
I'm not from the Midwest, but I went to college in Indiana... Oh! And my grandma grew up in sodhouses all over the Midwest because her dad was an itinerate preacher. Which caused her to write a autobiography called Faith and Fried Potatoes (not joking).
So, y'know, I'm not from the Midwest, but I know what you're talking about... :) Am sending this one to a variety of my people.
This is so funny. My step-grandmother was from Minnesota, and whenever she said something indelicate, she would lower her voice or even whisper. She was scandalized by her son, my stepdad, and all his cussing, drinking, and smoking. Northwesterners have our own weird aggressive social things, like being chatty with waiters but we are also famous for the Freeze in which those same waiters will often be unengaging. We have so many people here from other places that it's hard to get a read on anything singular. My best friend was from Buffalo, and another close friend was from Rhode Island, and I so preferred their blunt communication styles. It's exhausting trying to guess what people are thinking.
Iowa native here. Hubs as well. He talks and waves to EVERYONE. And he gets pissed when Iowans don't respond. lol If we're driving (ANYWHERE in the U.S.) and he suspects someone is having car issues, he'll stop. We.have.stopped.a.lot. Iowa blizzards, Wyoming summers. I am an enabler. When we go out to eat and try to sit at the bar, I look for the optimal place for him to be able to strike up a conversation. This who he is and he's only 46. (omg some electricians just walked by my work space, smiled and waved!) LOLOL
Midwest is Best! Ha! I've been here my whole life and I feel seen by this essay and this forthcoming book. I am still telling people how 14 days of no power, 5 weeks of no internet, and over a year of haggling with insurance for a new roof "wasn't that bad" post derecho.
My mom used to greet anyone who knocked on the door with “Ill put on a fresh pot of coffee” and of course you must have something to eat after repeated offers, I remember after two refusals on the third you would give up and take a small piece which turned out to be the size of your head.
I can so relate to the greetings as you pass by people! I never realized it was a "Midwest" thing to say hello to people as you pass them by or at least nod and smile. My husband and I returned to Iowa from spending two months in Florida this winter and boy, was I shocked by what I perceived as total rudeness of people not responding to our hellos as we walked our dogs. I swear some even glowered at us. I gave up and stopped initiating a greeting but my husband refused and continued to try. Unfortunately I let it ruin my mood at times. As I talked about it to my more well-travelled sister, she's the one who told me it was a Midwest thing and Northeasterners especially think we're weird for it and not to let it bother me.
The shoes/no shoes thing reminds me of the first time I brought my now-wife to visit the family, and my mom (Indiana by way of Ohio) apologized to her for wearing shoes IN HER OWN HOUSE.
I certainly can claim midwestern roots, but I don't think the midwest ever would want to claim me, from all the "well, that's interesting..." I seemed to hear when I opened my mouth growing up. I never was very good at figuring out those conversations and I'm still awkward there because those cues were so confusing. Weirdly, my imperfect grasp of passive aggressive patterns and sometimes-not-subtle refusal to play has served me well professionally. However...DANG I needed to cultivate a less approachable face when I moved away. Having an open, friendly-faced affect when I was a very young 23 in DC was at best a massive inconvenience. AT BEST.
Oh man, the number of times I’ve done “oh, I didn’t see you!” after unsuccessfully trying to dodge someone in the grocery store. I feel this in my bones.
I can confirm “oh for cryin out loud!” was something we didn’t want to hear my Iowa dad say when we were growing up. I would add “criminy!” to the list, as well.
I was born and grew up in Iowa until I was 23. But I felt like an alien plopped down in a land where I often didn't understand others and they didn't understand me. I loved the landscape, my home - but I was hungry for attention, success, liberal in my attitudes (in high school, 1973, I played Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" in history class while I talked about racism in America.) I went "away" to college, went "away" to graduate school. Found the professional life I wanted. But I missed my childhood, missed the landscape, missed things I couldn't put my finger on. My partner noted that my romantic view of my life was about everything before the age of 15. Now I go back to Iowa. Often. I have a cottage on the lake where I grew up. But I also have California license plates. Some people, when they see my plates, want to share their opinions of California. When I show my California Driver's License in stores, that is sometimes an invitation for more sharing of opinions about California. An Iowa neighbor has interlaced into casual conversations a few times the uglyness of Los Angeles and the horror of so many homeless people. A stranger in a restaurant in Iowa in January sat down at my table because he knew the person I was sitting with. When he found out I live in California he shared details of its many current natural disasters, its homeless problem, its liberal crazy's. Last summer, a woman ordered me out of her store when I didn't agree that there are such things as Chem-trails or that a Jewish conspiracy is intentionally destroying the air over the midwest. (I disagreed politely, my Iowa friend assured me later.) So I am back where I started. I love the landscape, I want to be near my family more often, I have good friends in Iowa. But I feel like an outsider still. My Iowa roots go back five generations on both sides. But my paternal great-grandfather died at his winter home in Pasadena, a stone's throw from Los Angeles. Maybe his roaming and his attraction to the West is something I inherited. And his love of the midwest landscape, which he returned to every summer, as well. I couldn't stay and I couldn't leave.
an escapee from NYC, i moved to iowa in my early 20s. to mcgregor, no less, a town of about 900 folks (that's counting the farm people too.) my first thought was, 'where have you been all my life?' even though the state has changed a LOT since then, i still feel that way most of the time and don't want to live anywhere else. a friendly midwest wave to everyone gathered here!
I laughed out loud at this, and immediately pre-ordered the book.
Is it possible to be the mother of your friend and also be your friend? Asking for a friend ... :-)