My cousin told us that she has always had the Tinder bio “666 kill your parents 666”, and this is, of course, a joke. She loves her parents, and has no intention of killing them. It’s her way of indicating a dark sense of humor, a childhood as a little punk, rebellion. This bio served her for the handful of years she lived in Los Angeles. After moving to the Twin Cities a little less than a year ago, though, this bio immediately got her Tinder profile flagged and banned for “inciting violence”. She created a new account, same bio, and within the day the account was again removed. This, she told us, was quintessential Minnesota nice – passive aggressive but oh so nice.
If I were a white dude with a beard and a hat and a few extra inches, I’d feel like the king of the Twin Cities. I’d probably have a truck and a few bicycles, and I’d visit a different brewery every weekend. Maybe I’d have a girlfriend and definitely I’d have a dog and some tattoos, and in the winter, I’d go home to my parents’ for the holidays and chop wood. Fix stuff.
If I were that guy, I don’t know what I’d make of a table of short-haired, fem-presenting, mid-20s white people. Maybe I’d glance and move on. Maybe I’d try to talk to them in line. Maybe I’d feel insecure or maybe I wouldn’t care at all. Half the Midwest’s queers seem to end up in these cities. But I’d be nice, because Minnesota. There’s a lot of that guy here. They don’t seem to mind, or perhaps don’t feel, the uniformity.
Minnesotans are proud. Proud of their outdoors. Proud of their biking and hiking. Proud of the way they withstand the extreme winters. Proud of how nice they are. Proud of their lakes. Proud of the beautiful old houses on the lakes. This Minnesota is very different than the last time I was here, in the middle of January when the city seemed barren and the air was needles. This time, the landscape is lush and verdant. This time it is warm and we walk the dogs around the neighborhood instead of shuffling through without the dogs in the brisk air.
In the cavernous brewery, there are hundreds of people spilling out onto the back lawn, into red chairs, under a large canvas tarp that covers wooden picnic tables but doesn’t block the setting sun. There’s pizza upstairs, we hear. But we want a table. It’s a three-day weekend, an hour-long wait. So the four of us cluster outside until we get a text telling us to come in, and then we order more beers and fried brussels sprouts, upscale bar food, from a dude with a flat-affect (but again: courteous, nice) and a mustache. The beer is good and the space echo-y. The last time I was here it was winter and it had just opened. Now, it is late May, four years later. I am here with two childhood friends and the girlfriend of one.
I am surrounded by family. Family that listen and take interest. Who seem to approach the world with genuine curiosity. We sit around tables and countertops and go for walks and go for a drive. A dog leans his head on the table, falling asleep, choking himself, and waking himself up with coughing repeatedly. A cousin once removed (I still hate this phrase) repeatedly says he wants me to try the donuts from the grocery store (which I wouldn’t be able to eat anyways) and talks about a chocolate filled churro his friend told him about and requests ice cream. We drive around glimmering, interconnected lakes as the sun sets, and I see here that stereotype of the American Dream. A family. A white picket fence. Biking. A neighborhood. The outdoors. The arts. Niceties. The pessimist in me wants to know what is beneath all of it.
When I’m not in the Twin Cities, I feel like I’m always talking about them. Room! Prince! Bike lanes! Green space! Cheap art! Room! Did I mention room? And of course, it’s still segregated. Of course, it’s still gentrifying. Of course, because like every big city in America, it’s growing, and it’s tense. But it’s one of two cities near where I grew up, and people dear to me are there, and they’re figuring their shit out. So maybe it’s a good place to be.
We spend our first night apart. And it’s strange. Strange to be reuniting with different stories of different nights in different places. How does that work? How do we have two separate experiences?
I’m lulled into the warmth of it, the friendliness, the openness. In the morning, we drink coffee with a friend and a cousin and we talk about how people want intimacy there more than in other cities (New York, LA). That people aren’t into the knife’s edge of irony (666). I don’t know how true that is across the board, but I sympathize with wanting something kind and soft and genuine from other people. Maybe that’s one of those contradictions that lives between these cities: a high-density place where people seem to want to hold space for each other. Or be held. Maybe that part even more.
In a diner down the street, a woman with short hair and bright eyes behind glasses tells us she likes our earrings and nods enthusiastically about Wyoming, where she’s been before and where we haven’t yet. She has no recommendations, but she nods and nods. I like this, I don’t mind it. It feels maybe like friendship, even though we will never know each other. But it’s in the tone — we both wish friendship upon one another across a substanceless conversation. I wonder where all this niceness goes.
I have no complaints. Nothing that puts me off. Nothing that makes me say: this sucks. But still. I don’t see myself here.