This week’s prompt is #collaboration, which pairs up two writers for one piece. This is one part of a two-part series, written by Jillian Conochan and Dennis William.
Elsewhere on The Prompt, my esteemed(?) colleague Jillian mapped out the 50 U.S. states by region.
I present to you the real U.S. regions and the states that comprise them, in reverse alphabetical order (for no particular reason).
Washington, Oregon, California
It feels weird to not have Washington and Oregon in a region called Pacific Northwest, but what else would go in there? Idaho? That doesn’t feel right. Hear me out. Definitely on the west coast. Yes, they’re specifically the Pacific Northwest, but Washington and Oregon feel more spiritually connected to California than Idaho and Montana. At least it feels that way to me, a Midwesterner currently living on the East Coast who has been to California, Oregon, and Washington once each. I’m basically an expert.
But when you think West Coast, you’re thinking California. I rest my case.
At the risk of giving every wannabe cowboy redneck a giant chubby, I’m putting Texas in its own category. It’s big enough to warrant it. Sure, maybe it’s part of the Southwest, but really, Texas is Texas. Their dumbass tourism ads act like it’s its own country, and Texans proudly sport the same attitude. I’m putting it as a standalone, as more of a quarantine than acknowledgment of rugged individualism. No other state shares a regional identity with Texas. Oklahoma might try, but no one is buying that.
New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona
Two things link these states into their regional identity: the art style that has been co-opted from the indigenous people who lived there and is now sold to tourists as tchotchkes, and the fact that all three states seem like good places to live in theory, but in reality they are either desolate deserts or desolate suburbs.
I almost included Utah. Would that have been wrong? What the heck is Utah?
Oh Jesus. Here we go.
Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Alabama
The core of the South’s franchise. That’s what you’re thinking of when you think of the South. Florida is kind of an anomaly in that it has cool, very un-South like parts. Don’t worry, I’ve got a nice wrinkle for them coming up.
This one had me thinking. It’s so far north and shares a kindred spirit with Pennsylvania. Or maybe just Pittsburgh. (Is Pittsburgh secretly an unmoored Southern city?) I had to put it here. Appalachian is just another, more interesting flavor of Alabamian.
Virginia, North Carolina
I live in D.C., and the very near suburbs of Virginia almost lulled me into questioning Virginia’s southernness. Crystal City, Rosslyn, and Arlington are full of semi-respectable yuppies. You forget that three-quarters of a mile south of them it’s all coveralls and MAGA hats. I was tempted to include Virginia and North Carolina in the Mid-Atlantic, but that felt like a slippery slope or getting too cute. Naming regions calls for decisive action. GO WITH YOUR GUT, DENNIS!
As someone who has never been to to Louisiana, I get the feeling that it is too cool for the South, especially with all of the French influence. But look at it. It’s the South.
After categorizing the states for myself, I looked at other geographical groupings and found one that had Kentucky in the same region as Ohio. That’s absurd. Maybe along their shared borders Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio aren’t that different, but it’s because Indiana and Ohio are more spiritually Southern.
In my original draft of this section, I wrote that I wouldn’t argue with anyone who wanted to tell me that these two also were part of the Midwest. I’ve driven through Ohio, and it certainly feels exactly the same as five other states. However, I recently met another Ohioan who claimed that Kansas was too far west to be in the Midwest, which is why it was in the Great Plains. So, now I refuse to accept Ohio as a Midwestern state. In no sense is Mid or West.
Maybe they can team up with Pennsylvania to form the “Unreasonably Proud of Our Mediocre Football” Region.
Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut
This is probably the most well-defined region. It’s just the colonies that aren’t in the South. I recently went on a road trip to visit all of the New England states that I had not previously visited. They are all lovely places that are occasionally shockingly white trash. I saw many more Confederate flags in Vermont than I expected. Connecticut was grimier than I imagined. And on this special trip, I forgot to detour into Rhode Island, because it is imminently forgettable.
Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota
The accents and latitude of these states make them distinct within the region, but the passive aggression and casseroles are pure Midwest.
As previously mentioned, some might say that Oklahoma belongs in some Southwest coalition, but those people are just enabling the Okies to further ride Texas’s coattails. Oklahoma is barren, depressing, and its biggest city is an agribusiness wasteland. If that ain’t Midwest, then I don’t know what is.
Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa
These are the states that inspired this list. I am from Kansas and was once told by a Ohioan that I was, in fact, not from the Midwest. He asserted that Kansas is part of the Great Plains region. While I agree that there is a part of the United States that is called the Great Plains, the notion that it is separate from the Midwest was enough for me write 1,000+ words out of spite.
Does anyone even know what the “Mid” in Midwest means? Is it the middle of the west? Midway to the west?
The vanilla ice cream states.
An objectively bad state which certainly has a lot in common with the South. From Branson, the Gomer version of Vegas and Broadway, to its founders enthusiasm for adopting the peculiar institution, one could make a strong case for including it in the lower region. However, geography and the fact that St. Louis bills itself as the Gateway to the West are too much to ignore.
D.C., New Jersey, Maryland
Not quite New England, not quite the South. I also like the sound of the name Mid-Atlantic. It sounds like everyone who lives is a crusty sailor or dock worker. Really, it’s full of yuppie transplants and townies who pretend way to hard to care about crab meat.
Pennsylvania is here by default. What the fuck are you, Pennsylvania?
I originally had Delaware in New England, then I looked at a map and realized that I’m a goddamn idiot and had to regions overlapping. How embarrassing. I recategorized Delaware rather than New Jersey, because they felt more Mid-Atlantic to me. Sadly, with Virginia’s placement in the South, I have broken up the DelMarVa trio, which is possibly the greatest region name in the United States.
It may be physically isolated, and therefore is its own category, but I’ve seen enough episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter to know that Hawaii has enough meth to be a kindred spirit to the Midwest.
Alaska, another lone wolf.
I read that the farther south you go in Florida, the more like the North it becomes. Yeah, it’s the South, but come on. The nice people from Cuba have done us a real favor down there.
Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Colorado
Colorado is the anchor of this team. Colorado couldn’t be included in the Midwest. It’s too active and full of legal weed. Colorado is where people go to escape from the Midwest. Wyoming makes sense as a partner. From there, the forgotten states of Montana, Idaho, and Utah were added to round out the line up.
Does anyone actually call these states The Mountain Region? Does anyone who actually lives in these states have a regional identity the way New Englanders, Southerners, and Midwesterners do? I could not tell you.
There was a time, yesterday, when I thought that Jillian and I would become friends. You can imagine my horror when I discovered that she was a Great Plainser. Now, I am shook to my roots, which are growing the wheat and corn that this country EATS FOR DINNER. The one glimmer of hope that I cling too is her innate distaste for Missouri. We clearly agree on the Show Me State’s innate lack of identify.
I’m surprised how many states don’t feel like they have a natural reason (Idaho, Oklahoma, etc.) and by the fact that those states all seem to be places to avoid.
But the biggest lesson from this exercise, the one I will never forget, is how much fun it is to say DelMarVa.
Want to check out Jillian’s take? Read on, you extraordinarily beautiful, highly literate creature.