Slogans like, “There’s no neighbor like a Minnesotan” and “We’re Minnesota Nice,” give an indication of how Minnesotans view their place in the world sphere.
If by champions of “nice” they mean they’re polite even when they don’t necessarily want to be, then I believe it.
Case in point – JG and I went to a T-day celebration last Thursday at the home of our closest MN friends. There were over 35 people present and almost everyone there was either a brother/sister/son/daughter of the large family or married to one. And for many of the guests, JG and I were their first exposure to a gay couple. Minnesotans, like people everywhere, can have a skewed view of what a gay person looks like, acts like or what it means to be gay. I felt the burden that first impressions can carry, especially after last month’s contentious fight over whether to add language to the MN constitution to ban same-sex marriage (Amendment 1 was voted down at the November election, thank god. However, gay marriage continues to be illegal). JG had proposed that she wear her new, cute, purple flannel that I bought for her and her Birkenstocks – she felt it was very Minnesooooootan. I quickly vetoed the idea however, because I’ve got to admit, “Minnesota style” and “butch lesbian” are too easily interchangeable.
Because we were sensitive of our little meet-n-greet being an encounter of the third kind, we came dressed in our best “we don’t bite” outfits, carrying homemade pumpkin lasagna, cranberry sauce and chocolate chip pumpkin bars. We smiled at everyone, were very polite and engaging and we basically let ourselves be seen. Several of our good friend’s sisters made an effort to talk with us and ask us how we were liking Minnesota, what we were doing with our free time, etc. and it was wonderful that they made such an effort to get to know us.
As we worked our way through the day, I could feel a sense of “okay, so that’s what ‘they’ look like…alright, no big deal” wash over the crowd gathered. There was only one interaction that made me uncomfortable – as I was lowering the oven door to take out some biscuits before dinner, I told the guy behind me carving the turkey to be careful not to step backwards. His response: “Why, because you really don’t like to be touched by a man…?” Uh, no man, I just really didn’t want to see you take a backwards header over the oven door. I brushed off his comment with a small laugh and explained the oven situation and he quickly apologized for his “inappropriate comment” – his words, not mine. See, even if he really was offended by my oozing lesbianism while burning the biscuits, he couldn’t bring himself to be rude. He was Minnesota nice afterall, momentary slip aside.
Despite some initial hesitation, due more to the fact that we were not spending T-day in Florida with our families than anything else, we had a really nice time. We met many fantastic, warm and funny people who were open to getting to know us. We made some good memories, the pumpkin lasagna was delicious and the moments when I could actually see someone have involuntarily body spasms when deciding whether to shake our hands or give hugs goodbye were mercifully rare. We even exchanged numbers with a couple who promised to take us shooting and ice fishing. When in Rome…
(I accidentally deleted this post from my phone while sitting on the tarmac in Fargo, North Dakota earlier today (more on that later) so I lost the great comments made to this post. Thank you to everyone who liked the post the first time around, and for the comments as well. Damn technology!)