Yes, I Grew Up in the Midwest – Enough With the Cornfield Jokes Already!

One of the biggest pet peeves I have is when people ask where I’m from. Okay, so maybe this doesn’t count as a pet peeve since I live in LA, a city infamous for its transplants. And as a brunette with fair skin and a small bust size, I get asked this question often. It’s the follow-up that bothers me. You see, I’m from Missouri – specifically St Louis. The response after sounds a whole lot like this:

a) “Missouri, huh? More like Misery! Am I right or am I right?” (Note: these people usually expect you to laugh after this ‘joke’.)

b) “Where’s that? Is that like a cornfield?”

No! No, no, no! This is the moment where all of a sudden my face does this remarkable thing in which I look at the person speaking in such a way that they step back a little and feel the need to say, “Hahah,  I was just kidding! Hahaha! Haha. Ha ha. Ha.”

I didn’t grow up in a cornfield. On the contrary, I lived in a city with over 350,000 residents. A city that is regularly ranked as one of the most dangerous in the country and is known for its beloved Cardinals baseball team, toasted raviolis and where the beer runs through the land like water since Anheuser-Busch is headquartered there. A city of block parties, crazy stupid humidity and one huge Arch.

Were there moments where I wished I had grown up somewhere else? Yes. Especially when I was a teenager, I didn’t like living in STL at all. I felt like, despite all of the people who lived there that I never met, I always saw the same ones over and over again. There were some moments where I feared never getting the chance to get out either because well, I mean, what if you can’t? It’s really easy to settle and stay put and not leave. Really easy. This is true of basically everywhere you live, but for me it was a legit fear that I actually lost out on sleep many a night over. A writer needs to get outside of the box – or in my case, a state that kind of was shaped like a box smack dab in the middle of the U. S. of A.

I do make the occasional visit back home every now and then, but I try to keep from going back often. I like to let at least 2 years go between visits, which I know might sound impossible and crazy when your family lives there. The thing is, STL rarely changes, and I mean that from a significant standpoint. A few new businesses might crop up here and there and then a few years ago there was some highway work done, but nothing too huge to demand my immediate return. It’s the memories that change when I go back. The last time I was home was last summer and it felt very odd. The first couple of days at home were a little like I was breaking them in, like they were shoes I was trying on. Walking along my old neighborhood and around my favorite places, I felt like I had this big butterfly net and I was trying to catch all of the old memories again. Bring them back to walk beside me. It didn’t work out like that for a reason: all these memories are meant to be good for that moment in time. They wouldn’t have fit a time like now so I made a bunch of new memories instead with my girlfriends and family, memories that now include the fact that there is a club out there called Library that serves drinks at midnight for $3.50. That’s right, three American dollars and fifty cents for an alcoholic beverage that in LA I’d be paying $9-12 for. (Note: I do not remember every new memory created during this night.)

So to all of the people making the whole “Misery!” joke, please don’t. I have never done that to Californians and I expect the same treatment back! You can’t call a place miserable unless you’ve lived there for a significant amount of time. Even in kidding, it’s not funny. And as for cornfields, well, I don’t know where that came from. There’s an insane amount of sophisticated and stylish folk that live in that city and some seriously great shopping, art and theaters. University City alone has some of the best thrift stores I’ve ever been to in my life gathered up and down one long street, where I don’t consider a visit home to be complete without checking out before I go.

But if you really, truly, don’t know where at on the map Missouri is, I’d be more than happy to fill you in on the location and a couple of must-visit places to make your destination of choice. This pet peeve is more directed at that stupid Misery joke than anything else. And a little at the cornfield dig too. Can we please just never repeat them ever again?