Yale has Skull and Bones. Tradesmen have Freemasonry. Beyoncé allegedly has the Illuminati and Los Angeles basically has Scientology. But, did you know? Minnesotans have their own secret society. And all you have to do to reap the benefits is move away.
Here’s how it works: Tell anyone in your adopted city that you’re from Minnesota and boom! That’s it. You’re in.
And trust me, I’ve never been on the fun side of exclusivity. In high school, the who’s who of lunch tables filled up faster than I could retrieve my plastic tray of mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. I didn’t get invited to the cool parties — partly because I was spending my weekends doing improv with 30-year-olds in suburban hotels. But something tells me I wouldn’t have gotten those invitations anyway.
A little farther back, in elementary school, due to my height and sturdy bone structure, I often found myself waiting outside the Ridgedale Limited Too while my friends and their moms shopped for age-appropriate tops that read “Cutie” or “75% Angel.”
“Can we go to Lane Bryant?” said the 8-year-old me, probably with a snack in my mouth.
At 17, I started college at New York University. I was eager to shed my Minnesota identity and all the stereotypes that went with it. I found it wasn’t that easy.
First, my freshman roommate asked, with total sincerity, whether my family owned a cow back in Minnesota.
Didn’t she know I hailed from the hip, happening suburb of St. Louis Park? Home of Al Franken and the Coen Brothers.
And then there was the time a man at a bar said I had “corn-fed good looks.”
No way. I was determined to Carrie Bradshaw the hell out of my life and become the 17-year-old savvy New Yorker I hoped to be.
This didn’t happen.
Instead, slowly but surely, I started to miss Minnesota in new and unexpected ways.
“I miss Perkins,” I lamented, to no one in particular, at an unfortunate dorm party one evening during my freshman year. “I miss driving my car on 394.”
At the other side of the dorm desk, between the Solo cups and the pretension, someone perked up. “Perkins? Wait, highway 394?”
A warm feeling washed over me, like when I used to see the Minneapolis skyline peek out from beyond 35W while driving home from the cabin.
“Yes! Are you from Minnesota?”
My vowels suddenly got a little longer. “Yeah! I grew up in Minneapolis. I went to Holy Angels. I played hockey.”
And that’s when I discovered I was born with red carpet, VIP admittance into the nicest and homiest nightclubs in the world. I was a Minnesotan who no longer lived in Minnesota.
Turns out, there are lots of us. And we talk about it. With everyone we meet.
After spending a few glorious post-graduation years in Minneapolis (toiling at Caribou Coffee, eating cheese curds whenever possible) I moved west to Los Angeles in 2012.
This time around, I owned my Minnesota heritage from the get-go. My house in Echo Park is fully decked out — a painting of the Uptown Theater here, an ode to hot dishes there. I own four Minnesota-themed mugs. I’m not sorry.
I’m not the only one. We are proud. We wear our Twins hats. We say “pop” and “parking ramp.” (Did you know that was a regional thing? No one in L.A. says “parking ramp” and you will confuse people when you do.)
Like the secret password to an unmarked but very cool warehouse party, simply uttering the words “Jucy Lucy” or “Guthrie” or “Uffda” at a party is sure to grant passage. Someone always overhears. Someone always welcomes me behind the velvet rope and into a conversation about quality-of-life lists and Lake Calhoun.
As a Minnesotan, I’m never alone. I’ve ended many a night with the promise to meet up and share the few remaining cans of Surly Furious in my new best friend’s fridge.
And the best part? These meet-ups always materialize. Because we’re Minnesotans. We stick to our plans.
In my three years in California, I rarely have observed this happen with other states. No one clamors to meet other Arizonans. I haven’t witnessed a lot of Florida pride. Sorry, Wisconsin, but I never see your state emblazoned across T-shirts.
Maybe it’s because we miss those wondrous community events like the Loppet Festival or Northern Spark. Maybe we remember what it’s like to help our neighbors shovel out their cars after yet another blizzard.
When you’re from Minnesota, even if you leave, you love Minnesota. You’re thankful for everything it gave you, even if it’s a losing football team and lots of winter.
And finding another person who feels the same way — someone who knows what it means to love a cherry on a spoon and the heartbreak of missing the State Fair — well, it’s like landing a spot at that exclusive lunch table after all.
Emily Schmidt lives in Los Angeles, where she works as an assistant to a TV writer and improvises regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. In Minneapolis, she has improvised and taught at HUGE Theater and written original plays for Minnesota Fringe Festival. She will perform at the Bryant Lake Bowl April 30 and May 1. More information: www.emilyrschmidt.com.
ABOUT 10,000 Takes: 10,000 Takes is a new digital section featuring first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives about love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota.