by Jennifer J. Pruiett-Selby
Here in Iowa, I’m acutely aware of the external perception of the Midwest. We are usually seen as friendly, but dull. Agrarian and lacking in spontaneity. Most believe we can’t party late into the night because we all must rise early to slop our chickens.
The commercials for the dating site FarmersOnly.com feature men who fit the mold of stereotypical farmer, a bit dumpy with their tilted hats and stained T-shirts beneath unbuttoned flannels. But, to me, it seems ridiculous that a farmer would sit with his laptop out in front of his barn, just to search for a dating website tailored to his needs: finding all the “country girls.”
Then, after moving bales of hay and mending barbwire fences, he decides to venture from his aptly-named ranch, Lonely Acres. He saunters into a local bar to inquire of the whereabouts of said country girls. The bartender tells him where to go: FarmersOnly.com. As he clicks to join, a gaggle of ladies clad in Daisy Dukes and fringed ankle-boots appear at the other end of the bar, singing the jingle in unison. Mission accomplished.
According to the informative, strictly unbiased resource known as Wikipedia:
“FarmersOnly.com is an online dating service for farmers, ranchers, and people living in rural areas [and] as of 2015, the site has over 600,000 visits per month and is ranked #119 among dating websites.”
I should probably be ashamed to admit this, but I was unaware of the existence of even 100 dating websites.
Google it. You’ll immediately arrive at an offer that’s hard to pass up: “Sign up for free to find a farmer, rancher, cowboy, cowgirl or animal lover here at Farmersonly.com.” Now, it may say more about me than anything, but only one image comes to mind when I read the term animal lover in conjunction with a dating site. (Hint: What happens in the barn, stays in the barn.)
I’m positive that isn’t the intended meaning, but it sure doesn’t help detach farmers from the undesirable association to the punchline of many bestiality jokes.
Of course, we often try to prove our versatility and intelligence to visitors from far-off wonderlands like Las Vegas and Vancouver. Sometimes, these efforts fail.
While travelling I-235, which runs through the heart of Des Moines and the metropolitan area (also according to Wikipedia), I noticed a sign pointing the way to the DMS Airport. This is strange because the internationally-recognized 3-letter code to identify the Des Moines Airport is “DSM.”
A quick search of the handy online Urban Dictionary tells me DMS is an acronym for either “Dirty Money Syndicate” or “Drugs Money Sex.” Not exactly a desired association for the one and only international airport in Iowa.
Or is it? Perhaps, this was intended to counterbalance the image portrayed by FarmersOnly.com. As if to say, “See, we’re not all agrarian and lacking in spontaneity. Some of us are straight-up players.”
Now, it may say more about me than anything, but only one image comes to mind when I read the term “animal lover” in conjunction with a dating site. (Hint: What happens in the barn, stays in the barn.)
The truth of the matter is, many Midwesterners take their labelling seriously. The judgment passed upon them by outsiders has taught them to judge all outsiders. For them, it’s a matter of safety. Even if they’re completely wrong.
Little southern Iowa towns neighboring mine have been forced to consolidate with our school, leaving brick buildings standing empty in overgrown fields. The students those buildings once held are now bussed in from up to 20 miles away. One small school remains, in a town called Seymour. Last year, they didn’t even have enough players to form a football team. They live in constant fear of their school shutting down, and rightly so. When schools shut down, a community dies. As the weeds fill in the space between slides and swings, the citizens pack up and move out. Why live in a place where you don’t work and your children can’t go to school?
I once attended a conference where my fellow instructors discussed the damaging effects of school consolidation. One woman, a former high school teacher, said there were elderly people in the community who depended on the activities—sporting events, band concerts, and the like—for entertainment. They enjoyed watching the kids, possibly hoping to absorb some of their youthful energy. When the school closed, they grew depressed, sometimes to the point of taking their own lives.
A possible solution is inviting burgeoning businesses to the area. However, given the prevailing mentality that outsiders are evil, such an invitation is unlikely. In most cases, newcomers are discouraged from settling in these places. New people are scary. What’s scarier is having an entire town shut down, but they don’t realize their fear of new things can lead to their demise.
So, I guess it’s not a bad thing, this idea of FarmersOnly.com. If you can lead a lonely rancher to new people online—whether it be potential romantic endeavors, or new business ventures—then maybe that progress will bring new life to these closed-off rural areas before they shut down for good. After all, this dating site for lonely cowboys and girls brings in 600,000 visits per month, which is way more than our local grocers and hardware stores.
First thing’s first, though. We must work on our public image. In no way am I wearing bib overalls to the harvest hoe-down. It just isn’t going to happen. If I can’t square dance in my yoga pants, I’m not going at all.