This summer I worked with a guy — let’s call him “Joe” — who lives in Texas. He never shut up about it.
Joe on the weather: “Y’all call this hot? Come on down to Tehhhxas, I’ll show y’all what hot is.”
Joe on barbecue: “Y’all call this barbeekyoo? Come on down to Tehhhxas, I’ll show y’all some barbeekyoo.”
Joe on arctic wildlife: “Y’all call that a polar bear? Come on down to Tehhhxas, I’ll show y’all some polar bears.”
Interestingly, on many occasions Joe spoke without an accent. It was only when Texas became the subject of conversation that the drawl surfaced and his grammar failed him.
Unfortunately, this occurred about 75 percent of the time because of his consummate segue skills: “I shall conclude by saying that, due to the aforementioned reasons, the triangle is by far the most underrated and underutilized musical instrument in the orchestral ensemble. Speaking of attractive women, y’all should see the ones we grow down’n Tehhhxas. Sooooooweeeee!! Them laydies is hot!!!”
Does any of this sound familiar? Of course it does. One of your suitemates is probably from Texas, and if so, he behaves exactly like Joe. I call this sort of behavior “Texanthusiasm,” and it can at times be a particularly excruciating brand of hell for everyone else.
Texanthusiasm is not rational, as a simple experiment will demonstrate. Buy two habanero chiles. Doesn’t matter where you bought them , but tell a Texan you got one at Shaw’s and one shipped from El Paso. Ask the Texan to taste them, and nine times out of 10, he will claim that the Shaw’s pepper is somehow genetically inferior and embarrassingly mild. (Thanks to my Texan l’il sib for inspiring this groundbreaking test.)
Now, I don’t mean to characterize Texans with a tired stereotype. Most Texans I’ve met at Yale don’t wear a belt buckles the size of hubcap or sincerely believe their cattle are bigger than mine. But most of them do have what seems to me an inordinate amount of Texanthusiasm, and frankly, it rubs me the wrong way. Too many Texans act as if the Lone Star is the only star on the United States flag, or at least the brightest.
As you probably know, there is a Yale Texas Club, which is, according to its Web site, “the social, cultural, political and educational organization to serve those members of the Yale and New Haven community interested in the great Lone Star State.”
Right. I’m sure Mayor John DeStefano and the aldermen regularly ask the Texas Club for advice. Most disturbing — even more disturbing than the literary magazine they are planning — is the Yale Texas Club’s motto: “For God, for Texas, for Yale.” “For country” just ain’t that important, y’all.
Don’t think for a minute that Texanthusiasm is simply a youthful indiscretion. On the contrary, its powerful effects can be seen in the actions of many prominent Americans. Two recent examples:
1. When U.S. Postal Service team captain Lance Armstrong won his third Tour de France, the entire American nation cheered for him. It would have been nice for him to return the love.
But he chose to ignore 49 states. During his victory lap, he didn’t have time to yell out “God bless America” or even “We deliver!” because he was too busy waving around a Texas state flag, which he promptly tangled up in his bike chain.
2. “President” Bush and his staff recently started calling his ranch in Midland, Texas, the “Western White House.” They even made an official “Western White House” plaque for the press room, just like the one in the real press room in the real White House.
Apparently, most of the 13 states further west than Texas don’t really count to Dubya. This is consistent with something he said in March 2000 to a Los Angeles Times reporter: “I was raised in the West. The west of Texas.” Well, as far as I’m concerned, secession from the Union automatically disqualifies a state from membership in any but one geographical region in the United States.
What exactly causes Texanthusiasm? At first, one might assume it is some sort of incurable viral infection that attacks the area of the brain controlling compassion, aesthetic balance and dimensional perception. But hey, I’m no doctor.
Obviously, Texanthusiasm can’t be explained by saying that Texas is just a great state. After all, it’s got some pretty stiff competition. Take my home state, California. According to the California Division of Tourism’s press kit, “Were California a separate country it would rank among the top eight economies in the world.”
There’re lots of other things about California that are worthy of my gloating — but I don’t have to. You don’t see us Californians waving our flags around or telling everyone not to mess with us. We’re content to know where we’re from quietly. We’re secure in our statehood and our physical resemblance to the people on “Baywatch.”
But not Texans. They’re loud about being “proud” — which has led me to believe that they’re compensating for something. Texanthusiasm may in fact be a mass inferiority complex.
I can count Texas’s significant contributions to U.S. history on one hand: Texas toast, the Alamo, executions so regular you could set your watch to them, the “President,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
If I were responsible for any of these things, I’m not so sure I’d have such a deliberate swagger in my step.
So please, Texans, take a hint from the folks in Delaware: just be glad you’re American.
The most irritating thing about Joe’s Texanthusiasm was that he wasn’t even from Texas. It took me a while to get it out of him, but eventually he admitted that he only attends school there. He’s actually from Cleveland, Ohio.
Now hold yer goldarn horses for a second, my Texan readers. Don’t jump to the conclusion that Joe’s expatriatism is further evidence of what a great state Texas is.
Let me reiterate: Joe is from Cleveland. It’s not like he had a whole lot to work with.
JP Nogues is a senior in Davenport College.