As of late June, I have now lived in Utah longer than I've lived in Idaho. I moved away from my birth state of potatoes and irrigation canals to Utah County exactly 18 years ago.
I love Idaho, and I love Utah. But what I've found is some Idahoans don't always love Utahans, and some Utahans think Idahoans are backwater hicks.
Like a child caught in an ugly divorce, I'd like to offer my opinion as to why I love both states, and recognize in an ever kindly manner that perhaps both states also have their weaknesses.
Please note that these are my opinions based mostly on generalities of my home states, or more importantly, people who live in my home states. My apologies to people from California who may find themselves reading this and rolling their eyes and thinking, “Please. You do realize you’re talking Utah and Idaho? That’s like talking about which one’s better: the New Jersey Nets or the Washington Wizards.”
Sorry, Californians. We know you’re superior in every way.
But if I’m to be honest, Californians do have a point. Saying I’m from Utah or Idaho to anyone outside the western United States causes all sorts of stereotypes to jump into one’s head.
When I say I’m from Idaho, it’s a glazed-over look, where I assume people are trying hard to think back to their 5th grade puzzle of the United States and think, “Where does Idaho go?”
When I say I’m from Utah, I can tell only one thing comes into their mind … “how can I change seats on this airplane—I’m sitting next to a Mormon.” No, I’m exaggerating—for effect. I do that from time-to-time. Ask my children. (“Girls, your poor mother has been working her fingers to the bone all day, and if I see one more mess in this house, I will likely die.”)
Let’s be honest, western United States. Most of the world looks down on us a little bit.
Even amongst our own kind, I’m pretty sure the coastal states don’t want to claim us as part of them. I’m talking Oregon, Washington, and of course, California.
So in an ever-picked-on way, I present to you my thoughts on my two terrific home states. If I could, I would build my home straddling the state line and never have to leave either one.
My Thoughts on Utah
People are prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, but poor Utahans get blamed for everything: both good and bad. I’ve heard Utahans seriously accused of all of the following:
· Highest number of plastic surgeries.
· Highest number of suicides amongst teenagers.
· Highest usage of anti-depression prescriptions.
· Highest number of foreclosures and bankruptcies.
· Highest number of happy families.
· Highest number of kids.
· Highest number of porn viewers.
· Lowest number of teen pregnancies.
· Lowest number of DUIs.
· Most racist state.
· Most sexist state.
· Healthiest state.
· Unhealthiest state.
· Crappiest beer.
· Highest per capita Brazilian waxes.
That last one seems thrown in there, but I have actually heard a person make that claim. How they keep statistics on such a thing is beyond me. It only takes a thinking person about two minutes to discount this so-called Brazilian-wax “statistic.”
What did the person mean by repeating such a statistic, anyway? I can only guess at the implications:
- Utah women want to look porn-star perfect for their porn-addicted husbands.
- Utah women are always trying to keep up with the OC.
- Utah women enjoy pain.
If you are like me, you see those statistics and think, “Mormons.” Mormons have the highest number of plastic surgeries. Mormons have the highest number of suicides amongst teens. Mormons are the most in debt.
People at large tend to lump all Utahans in with the Mormons. It doesn’t matter to me, as I am a Utahan and I am Mormon. I can’t run away from these statistics. But to non-Mormons living in Utah, it makes it easy to say, “Well, that’s Mormons in Utah, not all Utahans.” They get a pass.
But I don’t. I am part of the 70% of Mormons who make up Utah. Without ever having a Brazilian wax, a prescription for anti-depression medication, a tummy tuck, or a bankruptcy, I reflect these statistics.
I have issues with these statistics in general, and some are obviously just dead wrong, but I have more grievances with people who use these statistics in a narrow way to prove Mormonism is evil and dangerous for people.
I guess conversely I should have issues when people use the “good” statistics to show how “good” Mormons are, but strangely, I don’t mind that so much. Crazy how that works.
I’m of the opinion that you should bloom where you’re planted. If our family would have ended up in Flatdry, Oklahama, I’d find something great about that place. But even still, if I could choose any place on earth to live, Utah County would still be high up on my favorite places. Maybe that says a lot about me already, and many people would be embarrassed if those words ever escaped their fingertips.
If you don’t get living here, that’s fine.
I do get it.
- I love the way the sun bounces off the mountains at sunset.
- I love the unruly seasons.
- I love how you can see the “Y” on the mountain as you get closer to ProvOrem.
- I love the Murdock Canal Trail that allows me to run for miles on a flat route with amazing views of the valley.
- I love the hold-out cherry and peach orchards, and that I can get fresh corn and fruit at various stands around the valley.
- I love BYU campus and the Wilkinson Center and the Creamery and Lavell Edwards Stadium.
- I love Orem’s SCERA.
- I love all the canyons that are within minutes of my house: Provo Canyon and American Fork Canyon.
- I love that if you love a sport, such as soccer, you don’t necessarily need to make the high school team to play. They have divisions for all skill levels.
Kulani feels similarly. When we were younger, Kulani’s family and my family both vacationed in Utah County. The Christensons would stay with either Uncle Fred or Grandma McEuen and we’d soak in all the valley’s warmth and charm.
We’re both from rural towns, however, so maybe Utah County felt big city enough for us without being too big city.
To me in those younger years, the Orem Fitness Center and Classic Skating were the coolest places on earth. And that we could walk there on sidewalks! In Heyburn, the town I grew up in, we only had one road with sidewalks.
When I became a teenager, I thought Utahans just seemed so much “cooler.” They had a mall. And they knew about the United Colors of Bennetton. And they knew how to rat their bangs a little bit, but not too much. And the guys…oh my goodness. Utah guys seemed so gorgeous to me as a teenager.
I still love the feelings that come over me when I drive by certain places.
I’m not sure Utahans who were born and raised here feel that same sense of wonder and awe. Sometimes I get the feeling that they’re almost ashamed of this place.
Having lived here 18 years, I know a little of what they’re feeling.
Saying you’re from Utah returns a mixed bag of thoughts and feeling. It’s not uncommon to hear disparaging remarks about Utah from people who’ve lived in other states and then moved to Utah, and I’m not just talking Californians here.
We’ve been admonished by our leaders to never say, “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” So when someone says something disparaging about Utah, I try to earnestly listen to their complaint and try to understand them.
But another part of me wants to voice an oft-repeated saying from my dad at the family dinner table: no complaining!
Or maybe there is a way to voice a little frustration while still conveying the message that you love living here, such as, “I love Utah, Cindy, you know that, it’s just that I’m not so in love with this infatuation with the Republican party….or the watered-down beer….or the keeping up with the joneses…sexism…or the fill-in-the-blank-with-the-oft-repeated problem.”
I know—I need to get out more. I hear that one a lot too.
The way I see it, every place has its virtues and vices.
I happen to love Utah. And I’m not ashamed of it.
Next up: My thoughts on Odahi.