An article in Nerve discusses five things that Sonia Aurora, a proud, born-and-raised New Yorker, learned about the rest of the country that wasn’t New York when she started dating a man from the Midwest. Iowa, to be specific.
And she had all kinds of learning experiences when she went to visit the vast, rolling expanses from whence her boyfriend hailed. For instance, did you know that there are actually good restaurants outside of NYC? Or that being somewhat taciturn in nature, as all non-New Yorkers are, of course, is actually just fine?
Most of the article’s commenters poured on the snark. Thanks for approving of our lifestyle, bitch, they generally agreed. We were sitting on the edge of our seats awaiting your New Yawker blessing.
But Aurora had a few defenders, too. “Hey,” they said. “It’s an honest, refreshing look at someone who confronted her own biases and came away a better person from examining them.”
I have to concede that her defenders have some merit. New York authors sometimes (though not always) display a persona that lets outsiders know that the rest of the country–nay, the world–isn’t worth their time. To see someone admit to having that attitude and doing her damnedest to overcome it is rather refreshing.
And yet there is an undertone to the article that suggests she still sort of thinks the way the rest of the country assumes New Yorkers think. That she is bemused by these Midwesterners and their foreign ways. That she is charmed by the fact that those poor, landlocked souls have sushi restaurants in the same way a patient individual might be charmed by a friend’s surprisingly well-behaved child.
Of course, Colorado is not the Midwest. The physical landscape is completely different, and our revenue derives more from skiing and breweries than farming and ranching (althugh that is still a large industry here). Still, I had the impression that Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, and Nebraska were all the same to this woman. They weren’t New York; therefore, they suck.
And that’s why I kind of wish even the “open-minded” East Coasters would STFU. Articles like this sting on a personal level, because I personally bought into the myth of East Coast superiority until I moved to and spent six years in Maryland. I assumed from reading books and articles from oh-so intellectual folks who happened to live along the Atlantic that the East Coast was somehow better, that there was something in the water that made them more refined and inclined to tackle the Big Issues.
Then I lived there. I realized that people there have their own special brand of stupidity, insularity, and backward thinking, just like people in Colorado and everywhere else do. As for some special degree of intelligence that would be accorded by drinking the water, I found none of that–only a few bouts of intestinal distress. Sure, the East Coast has more publishing houses, publications, and prestigious writing programs. It also has a larger population overall than the rest of the country, as well as a longer history of European influence. Correlation might not prove causation, but as Randall Munroe explains in the alt-text of one comic, it winks suggestively and whispers, “Look over there.”
I had to move away to truly see what made Colorado amazing. Aurora had to leave New York to make an attempt to understand the rest of the United States. Both of us seem somewhat disabused of some preconceived notions that we had. The problem, though, is that Aurora only continues to reinforce stereotypes that will make another generation of young middle-America dwellers insecure about their home states, making them feel obligated to leave because they want to shed their perceived inferiority, not because they simply want to see more of the world.
In short, New Yorkers and other East Coast denizens, I welcome you to visit my gorgeous home state. Just please keep the comparisons to yours to yourselves, thanks.