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Tag Archives: Southerner
The time has come for me to pick a side.*
This year I’ve had addresses in four places: Charlottesville, Boston, Washington D.C. and Winston-Salem. Based on the odd enlightenment that came from this state hopping, I’ve reached an important conclusion about the above label. Namely, that my identity as a southerner is similar to the way I take my sweet tea…diluted.
Let me explain. I went to a college where being southern was like dolling up for the Rocky Horror Picture Show; you did it because it was fun and all the other kids were doing it too. The whole performance was borderline costume-y, hovering somewhere between time honored tradition and lighthearted, experimental dress-up. I didn’t really have a problem with this. To tell you the truth, it was quite fun. For example, preparing for Foxfield (Horses? What horses?) resurrected the five-year-old in me who wore my pink Pretty, Pretty Princess crown around the house for no reason. Different life stage and setting, similar attitude…
I have some bad news for anyone reading this blog who, like me, has mostly lived in a limited Disneyesque snow globe of what it means to be southern.* Bourbon and searsucker does not a southerner make. I’m no expert, but from my limited observation it’s safe to conclude that there is no hard-and-fast equation to becoming a southern gentleman/lady overnight.
Yesterday I visited rural North Carolina with some fellow volunteers. The low population density and generally undeveloped landscape meant beautiful views outside my window. For someone used to living within walking distance of a Starbucks, this was both a welcome and interesting change. During the long stretches of road we’d sometimes pass abandoned cars – an indicator that the owner was off hunting nearby. For lunch we had fried chicken, cabbage, peaches and a heaping side of hospitality. It was a wonderful day. I found glimpses of the pieces and people in the south beyond the ironic dress-up and accessorized charm that I’d once equated with that label. You know what? I’ve never been more happy to be proven wrong. I think it was silly of me to think that, based on (what I now know to be) my limited experience, I understood North Carolina before I moved here. Fortunately, I rarely make the same mistake twice so when I move to [insert mysterious future location] next year I won’t be so naïve.
So, am I a southerner? On a basic level that might be accurate. I’ve lived below the Mason-Dixon line for almost twenty years. Still, I’m not sure if I feel southern yet…even if the barebones definition fits. Get back to me in a few months and I’ll let you know.
For now, I’m in the process of accepting that I’m always going to be a southerner to someone while also being a yankee to someone else. I’m OK with that. In fact, this geographical-cultural limbo has produced interesting results. Evidence:
- According to this anecdote, there is a southern belle secretly hiding in my daily habits. This might be true. I can’t remember the last time I carried my own luggage or moved in somewhere without somehow tricking a strapping young man to assist me with furniture hauling.
- When I confessed that I’d never heard of/been to a Bojangles I caused an uproar in my office. Later that day someone insisted they take me. It was a big deal.
- I have “y’all” slips, but for some reason this only happens when I’m feeling agitated.
- I’m still not brave enough to eat fried things that aren’t normally fried. EX: Twinkies, beer, butter…etc.**
- One of my New Year resolutions will be to wave at people more while I’m driving. Everyone else does and I’m starting to feel like an unfriendly northerner. I was raised in D.C. traffic where there is only one hand gesture you make to others in a car and it is NOT a friendly one.
- I was hopelessly lost last week on my way to a meeting, so I called my co-worker. The conversation went something like this:
co-worker: “Where are you?”
me: “Somewhere on Stratford…just passed the big, white Baptist chuch!”
co-worker: “Seriously, Denise?!”***
* Someone awesome just posted all of Song of the South on youtube! When I discovered this I flipped out! Ever since my high school history teacher referenced this mildly racist Disney cartoon I’ve been so curious. Disney has obviously locked this little number DEEP within that mysterious “vault” of theirs, but it has broken free. Thank you, Internet.
**Yes, I’m quite serious. They served fried butter at this year’s Dixie Classic Fair. I believe this to be both gross and unnecessary.
***Since then, I’ve learned to be more specific.