Saturday, August 8, 2015
“You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas.” – Davy Crockett
I grew up watching those wonderful movies – Gone with the Wind, Steel Magnolias, and Fried Green Tomatoes – and I loved the smooth softness of those southern women. They were so sweet and buttery around the edges and had that hard strength in their core. I was so proud to be southern when I was younger. But then as I grew up, I slowly came to understand that I was different. I’m not quite southern. I most definitely am not northern, and I am not far enough west to be western. There is only one word for what I am:
There is, I think, a difference between Texan women and southern women. Very often it is as subtle as light shades of grey, but it is there. Yes, we use the same phrases like, “Bless his heart” and “Oh, God love you” and yes, they mean the same thing when we use them, but Texas women are less inclined.
Less inclined to be submissive.
Less inclined to put up with shit.
Less inclined to skip that final coat of Aqua Net on their big hair.
Yes, I’m generalizing. But Texas women are tough. We have to be. There are so many geographical changes in Texas that it is as if there were five different states smushed together. And believe me, five different geographical areas breed five very different types of people. When these people cross lines, it can feel like culture shock. Going from north Texas to south Texas, or east Texas to west Texas can be a broadening experience.
My family lives in east Texas. I often refer to it as “behind the Pine Curtain” because east Texas (again, generally speaking) lacks a certain level of open-mindedness and live-and-let-live mentality. That being said, we are typically a friendly people to strangers; we nod and say hello; men hold doors for women; parking is usually free unless you’re downtown; and if you run short at the checkout, a stranger behind you is likely to give you the dollar you lack.
This is the world in which my daughters have grown up. So when I took my youngest daughter, nine years old, to Dallas for a day of adventure, she was shocked. Dallas is only an hour and a half away, but it is beyond the Pine Curtain, you see. It’s beyond east Texas. It is The Big City.
Her first shock was that we had to pay for parking at the Dallas World Aquarium. She nearly lost her mind at that. “But don’t we have to buy a ticket to get in?” she asked. “Why do we have to pay to park on top of that?” I told her nothing is free in Dallas.
Her next shock came as we entered the building and the man ahead of us did not hold the door for her. “Excuse me, sir!” she said. When he turned around, she said, “Aren’t you going to hold the door for us? We’re girls!” I admit, it probably looked like I was having convulsions I was trying so hard to keep a straight face and hold in the laughter. Maybe I should have reprimanded her, but she did use her manners. She called him “sir” as all well-mannered children are trained to do in the south (and Texas). In his embarrassment (he turned so red), he did hold the door for us. We then let him get ahead of us in line.
I taught my girls manners. They know how to behave in a restaurant, how to manipulate a knife and fork, how to act in church and school. They also know not to accept less than they deserve, not to be treated as second class, and not to be silent in causes that matter. They are true Texas women, and they are tough. They have learned strength from the strength they see around them.
The strength of Texas flows through me. I was born within her borders. Texas has never been an easy state. It wasn’t an easy state to acquire or hold. She’s hard. She’s unyielding unless you figure out how to treat her. This is why Texas women are tough. Our mother state is tough. As we grow in her shadow, on her land, we inherit that toughness of spirit.
Only once have I left the Great State. Of course, I had often traveled, but this was (supposed to be) a permanent move. When I married my second husband, we moved to Miami. For a time, life was good. He taught history at his school, I taught English and literature at mine, my daughter went to hers. But then the unthinkable happened and my husband – my beautiful, handsome, kind husband – died after his back surgery. I was two months pregnant, devastated, and widowed. But I knew what to do. My soul heard the call. My roots felt the pull.
Texas was calling me home.
We all came home. Even my husband. He rests in Texas soil next to my son, whom I lost when he was only three months old. The women must be strong to endure; to go on, a Texas woman cannot be soft and buttery. From her core to her edges, the Texas woman is the strength and solidity of iron, and the resiliency, comfort, and durability of leather.