Where Are You From?

Kansas City Skyline, 2 July 2010“Where are you from?” This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions. It is the starting point between two strangers, indicative of the need to put us in our more literal places. Sometimes, I want to lie. I want to say I’m from Des Moines or St. Louis. I could pass as being from either of those places but could never pass as someone from Dallas or Atlanta – my accent is all wrong. Dallas or Atlanta would be the more daring choices, of course, but then I’d have to make up a story about how I lost my accent and that is just too much lying. In reality, I can’t lie at all. When a stranger asks me anything, I answer and I tell them the truth. This is a character flaw. When I was 3 days past my due date with my first child, a stranger in an elevator asked me when I was due and I told her the due date that had passed. She asked me what the sex of the baby was and I told her. She asked me if I’d chosen a name and I told her the name. Throughout this entire conversation, I kept wondering why a stranger would ask so many questions. The bigger questions, however, is really why I would answer them.

When someone asks, “Where are you from?” I say, “I’m from Kansas City”. I let them make assumptions from that. Few people outside of the Midwest know that there are two Kansas Cities – one in Missouri and one in Kansas. Kansas City, Missouri is a big city filled with big buildings and lights and art galleries and people. You can see it as you approach it. Kansas City, Kansas is smaller and indistinct. You can’t see it from the highway. You could pass through and never know you were there.

I’m from Kansas City, Kansas. I’ll tell you that if you ask for specifics. If you don’t, I’ll let you let you place me anywhere.