The Heartland. America’s Breadbasket… The Flyover Zone.

Many a time have these nicknames been used to describe the land where I was born and raised. Yet since moving to Los Angeles, it’s the last (and somewhat insulting) one that I’ve heard most often, sometimes substituted with the less catchy, “The Midwest? Why would anyone wanna live there?”

Okay, I get it. The winters are horrible. The landscape is flat and uninspiring. We don’t have Broadway or the Walk of Fame, and we’re still behind the eight ball when it comes to twenty-four hour Starbucks or not staring at interracial couples. However, I take issue with the oft-expressed notion that Midwesterners are slothful and stupid in comparison to our coastal cousins. Say what you will about the wild weather fluctuations or miles upon miles of painfully boring cornfields, but please don’t hate on us Middle Americans!

Midwesterners are fat and lazy. I’ll concede that a glance around any Midwestern mall will quickly confirm that its patrons could stand to lose a pound or two or twenty. Here’s the deal, though. When it’s ten below zero and shards of ice are tearing through your exposed cheeks at thirty miles per hour, that Zumba class can wait another day. Moreover, just like seals and walruses need their blubber during the winter, so do Midwesterners. You simply cannot survive otherwise. Second, why waste all that time working out when you can spend it with your friends and family? That’s the real reason why Midwesterners are overweight. Life is short, and we understand that instead of sweating that precious time away in a gym, you should spend it with those you love. And what’s the best way to pass the time with those you love? By eating, of course. Eating deep-dish pizza. Eating Italian beef sandwiches. Eating Chicago style hot dogs. Mmm… Is it dinnertime yet?

Midwesterners are dumb. First of all, it would be dumb not to partake in some of the most delicious foods that Middle America has to offer: Giordano’s, Portillo’s, Eli’s. Plus, have you ever experienced food coma before? Exactly. So cut us some slack. You try debating whether Bashar al-Assad should step down after finishing off a Lou Malnati’s pizza. Second, Midwesterners really are just as educated as anyone living on either coast.* The difference is that we don’t have to prove how smart we are to anyone within earshot. No need to drop into every conversation our Harvard MBA or Yale PhD to ensure that everyone is aware of our superior IQs. Plus, let’s get real… Quasiparticles? Keynesianism? Phenomenology?  Bor-ring. Instead, what about that last episode of The Bachelorette! Can you believe Ashley still isn’t over Bentley? What a fool!

Midwesterners are boring. Everyone touts NYC, DC, LA or San Fran** as the American hubs of culture and entertainment. Fair enough. The coasts do indeed have their many hot spots and exciting diversions. At what price, though? Sure, I do mean this quite literally as one can easily throw down hundreds of dollars on a Tony award-winning musical or meal at some hoighty toighty restaurant. But does that translate into a more enjoyable evening with friends and family? Midwesterners don’t think so. White Castle will do quite nicely, thank you very much, because it’s not the fine dining or entertainment that matter; it’s the company. Famous and fancy are fun, but not necessary to have quality time with loved ones. Even if we did somehow finagle a table at Masa, I guarantee that once the shock of the exorbitantly priced menu wore off, the conversation would then turn to, “So how’s your mom?” And quite frankly, that conversation can be had at Benihana for a fraction of the cost.

Midwesterners are really nice. Okay, this one is 100% true. No one can beat Midwesterners when it comes to politeness. During my travels home a few weeks ago, I heard more pleases and thank yous than I had in years, not to mention doors being opened for me almost everywhere I went and frequent smiles from those passed on the street. Multiple conversations were had with perfect strangers. Unexpired parking passes were handed off by those leaving their spots early. I was almost even forced into using some lady’s Rite Aid discount card on a purchase already under five dollars. That’s just how Midwesterners roll.

So the next time you visit America’s Heartland, please see beyond the stereotypes. If anything, think about it this way… There’s more of us to love! And while you subtly mention how you rubbed elbows with Kanye at some Hollywood club last week, we’ll be nodding politely while heading over to Dairy Queen for a blizzard… Our treat.

* Should you actually want to see the statistics proving my point, please send a written request postmarked no later than June 23rd, 2011, and I will get back to you within six to eight weeks, schedule permitting.

** I’m too lazy to write out these cities’ names because, well, I’m a Midwesterner.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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