Thursday, July 22, 2021

The #Midwessay: Devin Thomas O'Shea, Types of Missouri Guy

Types of Missouri Guy

Devin Thomas O’Shea


A major type of Missouri guy sits in his ’98 Saturn recording YouTube rants on his phone. The phone is positioned horizontally on the car’s dashboard. His videos frame the steering wheel, the ceiling of the car, and a man on fire with rage about Star Wars and divorce court. The man is over thirty with varying arrangements of facial hair and reasons to be pissed. 
     Margaritaville Guy heard “Cheeseburger in Paradise” back in 1984 and has listened to it once a week, every week hence. He owns multiple models of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville daiquiri blender, and a deck of ticket stubs from Buffett concerts at the Westport Amphitheater, Branson, Missouri, and a themed ocean liner cruise that cost him a month’s salary and hastens a liver condition brewing in Margaritaville Guy’s guts. His lifestyle is oriented around hard liquor and good times; Margaritaville Guy needs permission to chill, and a music culture to support his checking-out of reality, because things have not been going well at the office, and sales are down, and the speed of his promotions has been slower than promised. 
     Truck Man does not get his F150 tires dirty, but he is ready for the Second American Civil War. He has joined the Proud Boys, the Three-Percenters, the local Blue Lives Matter Facebook group, and several prepper/militia organizations too obscure to mention here. The truck is raised, and was purchased by Truck Man’s father; a fatter, grey-er, middle-aged Truck Man himself. Truck Man listens to country music and does not admit that he likes pop country best; the kind with big bass lines, clever lyrics about dirt roads, and a little hip-hop blended in. The trucks keep getting bigger and taller—tall enough that a BLM pedestrian can kiss the Ford logo on the top of the grill as Truck Man does exactly what Rush Limbaugh wants him to do to those protesters. 
     Rapid fire: 
     Obsessively Fit Christian Youth Pastor Guy
     Too-Skinny Gas Station Attendant
     Online Sports Gambling Addicted Uncle
     Pontoon Boat Hoosier (stars-and-bars upholstery on boat)
     Glue-Huffing Garage Pipe-Bomb Assembler
     Qanon Dipping Tobacco Advocate
     Recovering Fentanyl Addict Who Can’t Afford Therapy
     Grass-fed Steak Salesman (pretends to enjoy grilling)
     It Works! Bodybuilder
     YouTube Fast Food Reviewer
     These types of Missouri guy are white, of a certain socio-economic class, and come off as either straight or extremely closeted. In reality, Missouri is home to many types of guy. Guys of a million different creeds and ethnicities, but somehow these Missouri guys are the ones you already know. They are the loudest; they are the easiest to make fun of. They are downwardly mobile and feel humiliated in their bodies. Their masculinity is ridiculed, they are unable to cry as they once did, as little boys. And while they don’t have to be this way, the anger won’t vanish until their material conditions improve, and they wake up to love in their lives.


Devin’s writing is in Current Affairs, Boulevard, CHEAP POP, The New Territory, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. He’s been on St. Louis Public Radio and the TrueAnon podcast to talk about Veiled Prophet, his first novel. Devin graduated Northwestern’s MFA program in 2018. @devintoshea on twitter, @_toshea on instagram.

 Like fellow Midwesterner and incredible essayist Sonya Huber, I loathe the harmful writing advice of “show don’t tell.” Yet, I am also a writer born and raised in the Show Me State. While Missouri is steeped in Southern front-porch storytelling, the Middle West’s characteristic pragmatism, understatement, and complicated* past and present are perpetual in our prose. We want it both ways: to show and to tell, to be Southern and Midwestern. Ultimately, there’s a certain resilience and toughness Missouri essayists must harbor because we can’t assume you, dear reader, share our points of reference or understand why we stay or live in this place, however long. Ultimately, though, describing what others do not know or have the words for makes for wilder, more inventive stories. The Missouri essayists in this project share the very Midwestern joys and terror of what it’s like to be in a state with “no particular place to go.” What constrains and releases us may surprise you.

Missourians: we'd love to have more essays riffing and rumbling on the #Midwessay! Contact me at michaella.thornton at gmail and I'll be happy to include your thoughts and insights in this project.

 —Michaella A. Thornton

* And by “complicated,” I mean openly racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, and more. We have a lot to unpack and improve on here.

What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond.  These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors

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