“Minnesota Nice” and Other Lies My Children Are Told

"Minnesota Nice" and other lies i tell my children

“Minnesota Nice”

First of all, do not let me mislead you into a blur of anger after reading the title of this page. I love Minnesota. I love our perfectly temped summers and the hope that beams over the city when spring blooms. Our winters are actually not so bad either, once you learn how to embrace them. As a person I’m known as an optimist and do the best I can to volunteer and support our local economy. I do, however, roll my eyes dramatically whenever I hear the phrase “Minnesota Nice.” Don’t get upset yet mama, just keep calm and read on.

When I first moved here, I was shocked. Not just mentally, but physically, my body could not figure out how to handle the climate change from the warm southern city I moved from. I was born and raised in the southern part of the U.S. and abruptly relocated here at the bloom of my middle school aged years. After I spent some time growing up in our city and diving into all of the outdoor adventures Duluth has to offer, I heard the phrase “Minnesota Nice” thrown around every time they learned I had moved from a very different area. I never understood the term or what meaning it held… until I lived here for more than half of my life. 

Labels and Other Annoying Things

Living in a state that has “nice” attached to the name does not make labels or stereotypes magically disappear. They exist here too. The first time I became a mom, one of my very first mom friends whom I loved and admired at my first play date introduced herself as a “crunchy” mom. “Like the delicious sweet and salty bars?” I whispered in my mind. Did she really just slap a word that normally describes food texture on her title to define her as a person? Clearly I had never heard that label before. Maybe it was my southern roots flooding over me, maybe it was because I wasn’t yet a mom while living in a different part of the U.S. I immediately pulled out my trusty pal, Google, following the play date. Do you know what “crunchy” came up as in Urban Dictionary?

“They generally believe (for varying reasons) that there is something bad or less beneficial about buying mainstream products or doing other common activities in the mainstream way.”

What the what?!

Why did I choose this label to explain? I have heard this term used here, up north, more than anywhere else. Some of the people I have met who have identified with the term acted the exact opposite of what I had thought they were supposed to stand for as they so called “identified” themselves as. The term claims gestures like “open, diverse, welcoming” when in fact these people were some of the most closed and judgmental I had ever met. {Insert another dramatic eye roll.} I am just stating my personal experience here: you might not like it, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 

I had a natural birth, ate my placenta, and actively try to buy as many organic, whole foods as possible. Trust me y’all, I do not need to slap a label on it to feel comfortable with my lifestyle choices. I’m human. Sometimes I eat donuts and foul language slips out. I’m not proud to admit these flaws, but they happen because I am indeed a human. Boy, do they happen. That’s one of the beautiful things about being a human being. We get to be who we want to be. We get to be imperfect. Every day is a fresh start for us to do something right, not use our energy to bury us in a hole of negativity.

No, I’m not trying to throw shade on my awesome “crunchy” mama friends whom I love and adore. Why do I bring this up?

Labels instantly slap the feeling of negativity on anyone who does not identify or act on the behaviors with said label. It makes the reflecting human feel like they aren’t good enough, or aren’t doing their part to society because of the actions or choices they make reflecting their own lives. Can moms live up north, live a plant based, bra-free, organic consuming, shampoo free life without slapping a title on it? Can people regenerate their behavior of indifference into something good, focusing their energy on actually giving back to a cause that could better the world? You tell me, Minnesota. 

Aversion to Conflict

No one likes to confront or be confronted. That’s why you will more than likely see northern humans going sour in Facebook groups and online chats. It’s easy to engage in such dialect when you are hiding behind a computer, and can do so anonymously. Living in a state that pre-defines our personalities and characteristics seem a bit odd, yes? Should we mute our emotions to identify, or are we outcasts of the state because we don’t? Must we be rebels to hold people accountable for their actions or words? We need to speak up when things or people aren’t right, and to teach our future generations to do the same. 

I will not mute my voice to fit our state’s social norm. I will not restrain my daughter to hold her tongue and not share her voice because her words may not always be “nice” to get her point across. I will not raise her to only speak words that please and avoid confrontation. I will teach her to speak, listen, and resolve, move on or keep fighting. The most impactful movements and change never happened quietly my friends, and our world is headed into many different directions of major change at the moment.

Dehumanization and Passiveness

Our popular term, “Minnesota Nice” gives us the representation that we are more family-focused than in other areas. No. We aren’t. Our city is thick with locals who want to support local. We spend more money to support family run businesses. We have a downtown area dedicated almost specifically to this. Are we the only city that holds this ethic near and dear to our northern hearts? Absolutely not. To connect with this over spoken phrase means being passive on our emotions to please others or avoid conflict. For the love humanity parents, why are we praising this?! 

Stopping to Smell The Roses

There are major benefits of living in a smaller city. Of course, people move at a slower pace here because they can. Less population, less crowded, less rush in comparison to others. It’s one of the reasons I love DLH so much and continue to build our family’s nest here. I love spending my winters shredding down the mountains and watching my little’s follow in some of my footsteps. We have something special in this city, but I will continue to not include our commonly, over-used phrase in my list of reasons why.

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