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|Being From Utah|
Apr. 11th, 2007 at 1:43 pm
Being from Utah can be an embarrassment.
Never mind its incredible natural beauty and the genuine goodness of many people who live there. Utah is perceived by many outsiders as a weird placeâ€”the backward land of Mormons and polygamists (two classifications many outsiders consider redundant), and therefore anyone from there must be, well, kind of weird.
The often unfair assumptions that accompany many outsidersâ€™ perceptions of Utah are a heavy burden to bear. To many a native Utahan living elsewhere, almost nothing brings more social discomfort than the simple, â€œSo, where are you from?â€
And itâ€™s socially acceptable to make fun of Utah. On more than one occasion, upon hearing that Iâ€™m from Utah, someone has responded with a condescending, â€œOhâ€”Iâ€™m sorry.â€
After enduring years of this kind of abuse, I decided enough was enough. I would boldly stand up for myself by providing deliberately misleading answers to the question. I found two responses especially effective.
First was to respond that I was from the â€œBay Area.â€ The Great Salt Lake has a number of bays, and broadly considered, anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley could be part of that area. Am I to blame for someone mistakenly assuming San Francisco instead of Salt Lake? These were heady times. Instead of being presumed weird and backward from Salt Lake, I was presumed hip and progressive from San Francisco. I reveled in my new, cool identity.
Another effective response was to reply with where I had lived most recently. I started employing this tactic after I had spent a semester in London. Technically, had I not just come from London? Being from London was incredible. I was presumed cultured; cosmopolitan; a man of letters. Unfortunately, my lack of British accent proved problematic and made this tactic relatively unsustainable.
But this latter tactic raises a challenging question: How long must you live somewhere before you are â€œfromâ€ there? After living in DC for a few years, I moved to Boston. Am I now from DC? What if I had lived there for twenty years? Forty? If I was born there and moved away when I was two, am I from there?
And to the larger issue: Should it be socially acceptable to make fun of Utah?