Much the same way that I can't prevent people down here from parroting "Minn-e-SOH-tah" back to me down here when I say where I'm from, it's common for non-Texans to immediately mention guns when we say where we live now. I thought the gun thing was an exaggeration, like "Minn-e-SOH-tah", but as with many stereotypes, a generous nugget of reality probably gave birth to the depiction.
Shortly after we arrived last winter, a book called Chicks with Guns was released nationwide, featuring a variety of women posing with their preferred weapons and other props. Not surprisingly, Texas was well-represented. The situation first came to my attention while I was reading the society gossip rag here in Houston over morning coffee (see above clipping). Even though the paper lacks substance and is mainly a city shopping and party list, I do find useful restaurant and culture tidbits there once and a while. It's a nice way to take the pulse of this place. And gawk at the fancy people, of course. What I have learned is that there are certain key players, who host every fundraiser and have new unbelievable outfits for every party. One such figure is Lynn Wyatt. You can tell just by looking at her that she does what she wants, and that people pay attention. I'm dying to be a fly on the wall just once when she walks through a room. Regardless, when I came across the spread of the book-signing party for Chicks with Guns, I should not have been even a little surprised that the after-party was hosted at her house, and that she was dressed in clingy leopard prints for the occasion.
Also there is a magazine, Gardens and Guns. Really. Not only does it exist, but it isn't something you would hide in a nightstand drawer, like Playboy. It's more of a coffee-table magazine, complete with recipes for fried green tomatoes and interviews with Norah Jones (who grew up in Dallas, I learned while nosing around on the site). In fact, there is a nice city profile of Houston which nails the can-do, high-energy friendliness and go-big-or-go-home character of the place.
It was clear to me when I lived in Louisiana, as it is again now, that Southern women are different. It is easy to make fun of their focus on appearance, but I do think there is is much more to them than that. Plus it's kind of cool how they frequently do look fabulous. I have hesitated to comment so far on this topic because I do not yet feel qualified; such a vast region, so many women. Luckily, another woman did write some thoughts down for us, conveniently located on the Garden and Gun website. I am intrigued with her general assessment. In particular, I agree with her that the sense of place and belonging seems much stronger down here; people, food, family and place seem to have certain unbreakable bonds. Perhaps that is what draws me in while I'm here, in spite of knowing that this place will never my my place.