Yep, I’m from Kansas. Bite me.

As I gear up and plan for another international trip, I began to  think about our place in the world. Not me, not my family, per se, but Kansas. My larger family. I’m consistently surprised at the misconceptions people have about our state.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things they get right:
We’re hard workers.
Generally warm and gentle folks.
We are welcoming to strangers within our midst.
Family is important to Kansans.
We love the wide-open spaces our lovely state provides. No claustrophobic and crowded cityscapes for us. Even our cities have enough room to breathe and view that expansive, blue sky.

But there is a lot they get wrong about us. And I hear it. Every. Freaking. Time I leave the state.

Tornadoes. No, a tornado doesn’t touch down every day in Kansas. And when it happens, we band together like the strong Midwesterners we are and get that shit cleaned up and our towns rebuilt. It doesn’t take us long. We’re resiliant. Oh, and tornadoes never pick up houses and sit them down gently elsewhere. Sorry, the Wizard of Oz isn’t real. Get over it and stop romanticizing tornadoes. They are powerful and destructive forces of nature – we can attest to that because we stand on our front porches and rooftops to watch them go by, if they aren’t too close, that is. (If they are close, we do head for shelter, we’re not stupid.)

Dorothy. Let me start this section by stating that I love the Wizard of Oz. I’ve loved it since I was a tiny girl, hiding under a blanket every time the green-hued witch came on the screen. Now, as an adult, I enjoy sharing it with my girls and watching the wonder in their eyes as the story unfolds. Even at my age, the original Oz movie still has the power to enchant me. Judy Garland … well, she was just perfect. However, since I’ve actually left the state a time or two in my life, I can guarantee with certainty that I have HEARD EVERY WIZARD OF OZ JOKE THAT IS IN EXISTENCE. Sorry. You’re not funny. My dog is named after a Beatle, not Toto, and I cannot skip my flight and simply click my damn shoes together to get home.

We’re a bunch of hicks. Oh, I love this one. Let me make this clear. I’m not married to my cousin. Surprise! We live on a city street and we have sidewalks and running water and electricity. There’s a tiny kitchen garden out back, but no sign of wheat anywhere on my property. I don’t hunt varmints nor do I eat squirrel, although I do know some folks in Oklahoma that do (ugh). I do own a pair of shitkickers (that’s cowboy boots to those of you who can’t two-step) but they’ve never seen any shit – just sawdust on the dance floor of a country music bar. And while we’re on the subject of country music, Garth Brooks lives happily beside Jay-Z and Metallica on my iPod. We’re well-rounded and just as in-tune with the rest of the world as anyone else.

Beef. In addition to growing wheat, Kansas is also cattle country. We harvest locally and eat it locally. Tofu sucks. We like beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Deal with it.

Clothes. Wichita was recently ranked as the worst dressed city in America.  Yee-haw. It’s true. At the airport, you can always tell which gate has a flight leaving for Wichita because that is most casually-dressed bunch in the whole airport. We don’t dress up for silly things like running to the grocery store or to Home Depot. You’re lucky if we put on our good Wichita State Shockers tee-shirt and clean jeans to go to church or the theatre – in fact, I’ve seen my own minister deliver a sermon in a WSU tee. We are a relaxed, comfortable, laid-back kinda folk who don’t need designer clothes and $500 pairs of shoes to make us happy. Not to say that some of us don’t have those for the office or hanging in our closets (guilty) but, for the most part – if we’re not working, we’re dressed for comfort.

No Sports. We don’t have a bucketload of professional sports and athletes here in Kansas. A couple of soccer teams, some lower-level baseball teams, sure. What we do have is college sports. And, in general, they consistently do well. And I know that ticks off fans of bigger conferences, say the SEC, when a team from “lowly” Kansas kicks their ass. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll know that Wichita State is currently the top basketball team out of Kansas. I could spend another 1500 words here, heckling our friends from KU and K-State, but I won’t. I’ll just say Go SHOX! #playangry

The Kansas City Chiefs are ours, too. They may officially play on the Missouri side of the border, but we don’t hold that against them. Every fall, we trot out our Chiefs sweatshirts and ballcaps, tune in and faithfully watch them tank yet another promising start or blow a barely-grasped wild card playoff berth. The Chiefs are the reason my two children know all the good swear words and can properly use them.

Flyover state, my ass. Personally, I think Kansas is just as beautiful as any other state in the Union. And other countries, too. I remember taking a train north of London a year or so ago and thinking that the rolling hills looked a lot like the Flint Hills in the spring. Except they have sheep and not cattle. And they spray-paint them, which our cattle would not stand for. But my point is, if you can’t stand in the Flint Hills in the green of spring or on the plains of Western Kansas when the wheat is golden and reflects the sun – and appreciate a sky that goes on forever and the most beautiful sunsets on earth? Well, you don’t deserve the beauty that is Kansas. Go away.