I foolishly thought that because I'd been raised by a southern mother that I could totally get along in Texas without a problem. I quickly realized that eating grits and okra does nothing more to prepare you for Texas than growing up in Anniston, Alabama and having a neighbor in "witness protection" prepares you to traverse the streets of Newark.
The top five things about Texas that I found mystifying:
1. People are really, really proud of being from Texas. This was a singular revelation to me. I can't say I was ever proud of being from New Jersey. I felt like people assumed negative things about me because I was from there (bad hair, bad accent, rude, shops at the "mawl," and spends the summer "down the showre.") People from Texas seemed unconcerned about what I thought of their Texas-ness. It was like they just all assumed I'd prefer to be like them.
2. Many people show their pride in their Texas heritage by getting things that show they're from Texas. I'm talking about earrings, pillows, and cutting boards in the shape of the state and shirts emblazoned with "Don't Mess With Texas" or "Everything is Bigger in Texas,"and "American By Birth, Texan By the Grace of God." I feel certain you could never get equivalent merchandise about any other state. You can get this shirt if you're from New Jersey:
Not exactly the same attitude. I had gone from a state with an inferiority complex to one with a superiority complex. It was very disconcerting.
3. Everyone is good-looking. Even the ugly people in Texas would be beauty queens in other states. I realize that this couldn't possibly be true, but yet I would search in vain for the troll-like and unwashed to no avail. One time I did just catch a glimpse of a scruffy fellow heading into a viaduct in Austin. But, I think it was just Matthew McConaughey.
4. Parking is everywhere. Okay, maybe you have to be from New Jersey or at least a built-up area to appreciate this, but I couldn't get over parking in fields. In New Jersey you had to park in a designated lot or parallel park on the street. In Texas you'd be at some restaurant and the parking lot would be filled, so you'd just park in the nearest field. Or, they'd be no lot and everyone just knew to park in the field as a first resort. Of course I knew what fields were because I'd seen them in the opening credits of "Little House on the Prairie" but since that took place in the 1880s, I didn't know they were for parking.
5. Car window messages were very popular. I thought this was very strange when I first got to Austin. Everyone seemed to have important things to write in shoe polish on their car windows. "Taylor's 21!" "Beat the Aggies!" or "Pledge Tri-Delt."Sometimes I felt that it went too far like when I saw the car that said, "Acquitted of the Rape Charges!!" I'm not sure if this still goes on. Maybe they've been replaced by oval stickers with the initials of vacation destinations and stick figure depictions of families. This is a nice combination of shoe polish and stick figure family:
I did get more comfortable being in Texas, but it took a little while. Things were slower, people were polite, and I got used to everyone being blonde and tan. After I lived there for about a year, I moved back to New Jersey for the summer. I took a job in New York and on my first day commuting home via bus I went up to the information counter at Port Authority.
Me: Excuse me. Can you tell me where the Suburban Transit bus to New Brunswick departs from?
Information Counter Lady: You one way?
Me: Excuse me?
ICL: You one way or round trip?
Me: Round trip.
ICL: What you got, sh*t for brains? Just go to wherever the bus left you at this morning.
That's an entirely true story. Suddenly I missed Texas. Badly.