Let's start with some background. I grew up in this town called Perrysburg that was once "The exempted village of Perrysburg" because of sheer population size. It used to mirror Dazed and Confused, but Mean Girls is probably more accurate these days.
Although this place provided a handful of very happy memories, it also provided equally painful memories that I hope to eventually stop remembering. As we all affectionately say, "Perrysburg is a great place to grow up" and we'll leave it at that.
Senior year I decided I was a free-spirit that could only be contained by the confines of in-state tuition because, well, student loans. So, Cincinnati it was.
There, I had the best four years of my life and it will remain one of my favorite places.
Since moving to California, I've been back home once a year at best and it's always so refreshing to leave the San Francisco bubble.
I know I'm well on my way to the Midwest when I jump on my connecting flight. I notice plenty of awkward tennis shoes, men with shirts tucked in and a lot of hairstyles that were hot in the 90's. After we land, the men retrieve all the carry-ons out of the upper compartments for the women. At that exact moment, I feel home.
Things I never recognized before are now largely apparent whenever I spend more than five minutes with someone from the Midwest- stranger or best friend, it's all the same.
This post will serve as a collection of those things that make the Midwest, the Midwest.
First, let's start by providing the necessary definitions.
I wish I could say that I'm kidding, but outsiders have zero idea where Ohio is located on the map. On my first day of grad school, a colleague approached me with "You're from Iowa, Ohio right?". At first I was confused, then I realized they thought Iowa was a city.
Here is the Midwest outlined for you.
Ohio looks like this and sits to the left of "NORTHEAST"on the [above] map. For all my geographically advanced friends out there, this is also referred to as Pennsylvania. When I googled "Ohio", this was one of the first images I found. I DIED because it would be on the side of a barn.
Even as a Midwesterner, the physical location of Ohio is confusing. But really, why aren't we considered part of the East Coast?
Culture, that's why. Let's jump in.
Everyone always talks about the weather. You may assume this is unique to people over the age of 65 but it's not, this is a universal hot topic of conversation. Probably because Midwesterners actually look at the weather everyday. You'll hear things like "It's going to be 70 and sunny this weekend, we're definitely cabrewing (canoeing with brews)" or "It's supposed to snow, this outdoor concert is going to suck".
We like to claim the weather is so unpredictable, but it's much like any other city outside of what I like to call "vacation states", or places where you look outside everyday only to find it's the exact same.
I love this one. I was up in Portland last weekend talking about this post and the topic of directions came up after several brewery stops.
If you're one of the first people to leave a party or family gathering, you will be asked where you're going, especially if there is a boy involved. If you respond with anything outside of "home", you will be immediately cornered by your drunk Uncle Tom, your grandmother and the family friend who is really good with directions. They'll politely argue over which way is fastest and even draw it out for you on a napkin because no one seems to acknowledge the existence of Google Maps. You better believe they will follow you out to the driveway only to stare at you, waving and half hugging, until they can't see your car anymore.
This is such a textbook situation that was nearly excluded from this post, I'm glad it wasn't.
Oh god, where do I start. Midwesterners believe in breakfast, ranch, sandwiches, "nothing too spicy", corn and dinner rolls. Meat is the natural epicenter of the Midwestern diet, but sausage is king. Everyone loves sausage.
I once saw a man eat a cheeseburger using a bagel as a bun. No one batted an eye- in fact, everyone thought it was super innovative, yet made a lot of sense. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "He's a meat and potatoes kind of guy". Outsiders might take this as having a preference toward meat and potatoes, but really it means this person only eats those two food groups.
We all have men in our lives we call "garbage disposals". You know, those dads or brothers that will literally eat anything you can't.
Wasting food is a sin and you'll even find grandmothers frantically packing uneaten chips from the barbecue back into the bag. People tend to store shitty grocery store clearance cookies in the freezer for an unreasonable amount of time because our ancestors didn't have any food and we'll never forget it (as it should be).
Booze is a critical piece of the culture and I'd venture to say alcohol is almost interchangeable with non-alcoholic beverages. It seems to flow just like water. General drunkenness is much more acceptable and there is a lack of judgement when it comes to doing stupid things when intoxicated. You could pee your pants the night before and be invited to a boozy brunch the next day like nothing was wrong.
Coozies are a staple of Midwestern homes and often times dads have multiple drawers of them scattered around the basement, garage and by the grill. The look and feel of these coozies vary. Must-haves include your classic sports theme, camo and Sandals vacation swag from that one trip taken outside of their cousins lake house, 15 years ago. Everyone has their favorite and you'd rather go coozy-less, than to even think about stealing your Dads.
I've come to realize many Midwesterners are more reserved in what they say because to us, making others uncomfortable is about the worst thing you can do. We hate awkwardness and we're also the experts in passive aggression. We've come up with our own unspoken language to interpret when seemingly nice things, are actually meant to relay the opposite.
A few months ago I came across an article and it perfectly summed this up in one sentence:
"In his book, Draper describes how the Midwestern phone etiquette of, “Well, I better let you go,” a euphemism for “Leave me alone now,” is consistently misread by people outside the region as a way to beg more time out of the conversation.
I can't say our accent will distinguish us from an Indiana native, but most certainly from Michiganders (They extend their "O's" much like Minnesota, but not as intense). We do say our A's weird. If you ever get a chance to go to Ohio, ask someone to say "bagel" or "dad"- you'll hear it right away. We also inject "that old" into our sentences much more than other parts of the country, which is a little strange because it doesn't seem to have any connection to the actual age of the establishment ie "We went to Jim's Bar last night, you know the bar right by that old Pharmacy (opened last year)?". Although our accents are fairly boring, we do have a lot of fabulous words that give us our flair.
Warsh: This is meant to confuse everyone with wash.
Sweeper: Another name for vacuum.
Pop: Hate this one - soda.
Sports are everything and a huge part of the culture, especially football. If you don't follow them, you'll feel like a loser in many conversations.
I'm convinced the Midwest only half-hates silence because a game is always on television and you know there is absolutely nothing to watch when people resort to little league baseball.
The question isn't, do you want to watch the game this weekend, it's where because what else would you be doing? Two imporant games on the same time is a Midwesterners worst nightmare. Thankfully, we now have split-screens and no longer have to find multiple televisions to meet our needs.
OTHER UNIQUE THINGS
- Puppy chow
- Pediddle (I will say it's a little different than Urban Dictionary will tell you)
I could write a whole book about this, but I have a social calendar I need to attend to. So, I will end with this: Midwest folks are the most down to earth people you'll ever meet, can turn anything into a fun time, are hardworking beyond belief, but unfortunately a little ignorant (we all know it's true).