Being a Texan is as much an ethnic and cultural identity as being Irish, Italian, Polish, Mexican or Jewish. It's a kind of ethnicity I guess y'all could call "Texnicity." We refer to ourselves as Texans as if we were from another country because, in our minds, we are. It is as tough to fit in to a Texan family as it is any other ethnicity. If you were not born a Texan, you will not be able to call yourself a Texan.
It does not count if one of your parents was a Texan; in that case you are only half-Texan. You must have drawn your first breath in the Motherland to be one. If there was such a thing as “la cosa nostra” in Texas, you would not be able to become a “made man.” And yes, even Texans practice “omerta” or the “code of honor.” It is expressed in a single sentence: “Remember who your people are.”
One thing you should know about Texans: we are constantly trying to out-Texan one another. We look at each other under the Lone Star microscope and scrutinize our fellow Texans to keep a check on who is keeping The Code and who is in terrible danger of becoming “Californicated” or “Yankeefried.”
There are many things you must not do to violate The Code. Here are some, but not all:
Never say “you guys” or, worse, “youse guys.” The proper term is “y’all.” If you are referring to one or more people, it is “all y’all.” “You guys” is decidedly Yankee and might be offensive if you are speaking of a group that includes women. The ladies are NOT “guys.”
If you are female please wear a slip under your skirt. We do not need to see how fat your thighs are through your skirt when the sun shines behind you. The mother of a boy I dated in college showed up to one of our family functions in a dress with no slip and my aunts still talk about her to this day. Miss Marnie was from Colorado, once a part of Texas, and the wife of a Conoco Oil Inc. company vice president. At the time they lived in Houston and had lived in Texas long enough to at least learn the language. You’d think she’d have known better. That just goes to show that you can take the girl out of the trailer park but you cannot take the trailer park out of the girl and money cannot buy you class.
If the only music you listen to is country and western, you are trying too hard and we know it. We listen to other music too, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Buffett and .38 Special. We are very complex in our musical tastes.
Texans do not go about in Wrangler jeans and western shirts all the time, but when we do, we do it right. Make sure your jeans adequately cover the tops of your boots even when you sit down. It is not enough to stand there and look good; you have to sit there and look good too. We do not need to see the top-stitching on your boots unless they are off your feet. If you sport the high-water look with your boots, you are a Yankee.
The other Texas uniform includes shorts, T-shirt, flip-flops and gimme cap. The gimme cap generally comes from a feed store. Yankees call them “ball caps.” Other than that, we dress like normal people and you should too.
Jello salad is appropriate at every meal except breakfast, and even then no one would mind. I personally hate the stuff, but my mother has fifty different recipes for it. She makes a black cherry Jello salad that was my father’s favorite. My cousin Kathleen calls it “purple rock Jello” because one time my mother forgot to get pitted cherries and put cherries with the pits in it. Kathleen (at the time, 4 years old) spit a pit out and said, “this Jello has rocks in it!”
Texans will not only tell you they are Texans, they also will tell you what generation Texan they are. I personally am a sixth generation Texan, a Casstevens, tracing my line back to Colonel Trezevant Calhoun Hawpe, who organized the 31st Texas Cavalry Regiment (Hawpe’s Regiment) and was one of the first sheriffs of Dallas County. The Crocketts of David Crockett’s line married into our family. We are steeped in the blood and soil of Texas. The Bass family might have supplied the money for the building and development of Tarrant County, but we were the ones who built it and developed it with our own hands. My paternal grandmother’s family is related to the Bachman family for whom Bachman Lake in Dallas is named.
See what I mean?
And now you understand that sentence: “Remember who your people are.” We remember, we will tell you all about them and we will remind you every chance we get.
Being a Texan is only achieved through time, breeding, birthplace and bloodline. Human development theorists Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget argued the “nature versus nurture” debate until their deaths, but as a Texan, I can tell you it is both, hands down. While you cannot be a Texan unless you were born here, you also cannot truly be a Texan unless you grew up here and were forged in the fires of social and familial scrutiny over just how “Texan” you successfully represent yourself to be.
So if you’re trying to “blend” or “pass” for Texan, give it up now. You can’t make it happen; you have to let it happen. Be yourself and we’ll respect you for that.
An original Yellow Prose blog entry, 2011.