Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What Makes Southerners Act The Way We Do?

I’ve seen the word ‘diplomat’ described as; ‘A person who is capable of stepping on someone’s toes and never scuffing their shoe shine.’ I like to think that definition was borrowed from a Southernism used to describe us natives of the South. There are a lot of Good Ol’ Boys and Good Ol’ Gals capable of this same charming wit. We use this talent to keep the non-Southerners from tormenting us to death with their rude comments and snide attacks at our down home nature. Or as my mother used to say about these people, to keep them from ‘wearing out their welcome’.

One sweet young thing I know, a real Southern Lady, has a mouth like a switchblade. She can slice you to the bone a half dozen times with her wit before you realize it, and yet leave your pride and character untouched. It’s a gift, if you cross us with a snide remark or try to one up us with your egotism don’t be surprised if it leaves you stunned and mentally bleeding while we stand there never loosing our smile.

Southerners tend to be more laid back than those folks from big cities up North. We just don’t let things bother us like they do. I guess is has to do with the way a cool summer breeze smells when it blows through the blooms on the Magnolias, and the way it refreshes you from the humid afternoon haze. It’s like a natural spa for your mind and body. Any breeze that blows through the streets of those big cities carries a different odor and texture and tends to react with your senses in a harsh and painful way. I can understand how it would tend to keep a person on edge all the time.

We just have a much better quality of life in the South, free of the demands of the hustle and bustle that folks from up North have to live with. While the streets of New York are lined with expensive shopping districts and flashy entertainment venues we have flea markets and theme festivals, neither of which you have to get dressed up for or spend a lot of money at. They have Central Park and we have, well we have everything South of Maryland, down across Tennessee and Arkansas. There's cow pastures and corn fields as far as you can drive, dotted along the way with roadside produce stands selling fresh vegetables and our regional delicacy, boiled peanuts.

Now I am not putting down those folks that live up North, bless their hearts, they can’t help it if that’s where they were born or where they chose to run off to. I’m just pointing out how what we have in the South is what makes us what we are. We enjoy the simpler things of life that cost so little but make up so much of our rich personalities. Things like long tables of fried chicken, potato salad and black-eyed peas laid out at a Southern Baptist Homecoming dinner, or watermelons cut and set out on newspapers on the picnic table. Buying homemade soap and fried pies at an arts and crafts festival held in someone’s pasture, or going to an evening rodeo under the lights down at the fairgrounds. Southerners are big on family and get-togethers. We love to eat and fellowship, it’s what we learn from the time we can crawl across Grandma’s kitchen floor.

The Southerner is a social animal of the first order, born, raised and schooled in the tradition of getting together just for the sake of it.
This was where the term ‘Southern Hospitality’ was born. A Good Ol’ Gal is taught how to make and serve sweet iced tea before she is taught her ABCs. Making sure your guests are well provided for is the 11th commandment to Southerners. A Good Ol’ Boy knows that entertainment is crucial to a social event and that’s how this whole mud bogging, tractor pulling, skeet shooting in the pasture with a box of K-Mart clays and a hand thrower image of us Southern boys came about.

We’re a phenomenon of casual living, at times a spectacle of hilarity and always a treasure of kindheartedness. That’s what makes us act the way we do. There’s a lot of truth to the saying; ‘It’s a Southern thing, you wouldn’t understand’. I guess folks from up North might not understand us, there are times when I’m not so sure about some of us myself, but that diversity is what makes a good horse race.