Friday, February 25, 2011

10 Reasons I'll Never Truly Be A Southern Lady

As of February 28th, I will have lived in Alabama for ten years. Wow. Its amazing how time has slipped away from me. When I got out of college, I moved back to Vegas and lived with my mom while I got a job. Started working for the company I work for currently (although the name's changed a couple times). By the end of 2000, we'd lost the contract I was working on and I was given a choice of switching to the new contractor and maintaining the status quo or taking a chance, staying with my company, moving cross country and getting a decent raise for my trouble. It was scary, but I went with the latter. Hadn't set a foot in the state of Alabama until the day my mom and I (who was much more enthusiastic about moving out here than I was) drove across the state line with two cats howling in the backseat. But I'd been in Vegas a long time and to be honest, it was getting old.

Ten years later, I think I've adjusted pretty well. Don't get me wrong, it was rough. Rough for maybe three years or so while I got my bearings. If I hadn't met DB that first year, I probably would've bolted. I was way too liberal for even Huntsville, the most progressive area in the state. It was years before I didn't curse trying to buy beer for football on a Sunday, eat out on a Monday night, or try to do anything after 9PM. Fortunately, Huntsville has grown with me and mellowed me out. When I first came here, we didn't even have a Target and my neighbors told me the best place to eat in town was Shoney's. (*gasp*) But now, we have several Targets, great shopping, and lots of good restaurant choices. It's not Atlanta or Vegas, by any stretch, but it also doesn't have the traffic, the crime or the general hassles of a big city, so it's a trade off I'm happy with.

But, alas, I find that even 10 years later, I doubt I could pass the test to get my "Southern Lady" license. Its a good thing there really isn't one, cause I'd get booted out for sure. Here's my list of reasons why, most of which are food related since its such a large part of southern culture:

1. I don't like sweet tea. I don't know how many events I've gone to where this is the only option aside from unfiltered tap water they serve me with disgust in their eyes. If it wasn't for a nation being swept by diabetes, I doubt they'd have added unsweet tea as a choice in the last few years. Personally, I prefer hot tea. I can tolerate iced tea with splenda, but I'd really rather not go there at all. Thankfully, I can make sweet tea if I have to, so maybe that earns me back some points.

2. I haven't mastered the use of 'bless his/her heart.' If I'm going to say something ugly about someone, I just do and always forget to invoke the southern caviat. That's why I have to keep my mouth shut unless I'm in the company of people who understand my southern handicap in this area. I also lack the skill of being able to tell someone to go to hell and have them offer to send you a postcard when they get there. I'm not that smooth.

3. I don't like grits. Not at all. Not even with butter and cheese and shrimp on top. I eat oatmeal almost daily, but just can't stomach grits. Or if given a choice between a few things dining out, usually go with the hashbrowns instead.

4. I'm not good with enjoying 'Southern Time.' I'm way too type A to just sit and sip tea (obviously an issue right there) and enjoy the breeze on the porch. Why would I want to look at my stupid, trashy neighbors, anyway? I don't want to just go for a drive. I have to have a destination. There has to be a point. I have road rage when I get stuck behind PawPaw in his 1973 Ford pickup truck hauling a bunch of hay on a two lane road where I can't pass. I go absolutely insane. Hell, even if I'm sitting in a jacuzzi with wine, I have to plot a book or something. I am working on enjoying the journey instead of the destination, especially since the publication industry has forced me to. But its a struggle.

5. I don't like biscuits. I know. This is probably one of the biggest cardinal sins of all. But I just don't. A small, extra flaky one slathered in honey and butter is ok now and then, but I don't want a big, fluffy one. I don't want it smothered in sausage gravy. I don't want one with every meal. I prefer whole wheat toast. Or an english muffin. Or a bagel. Or a frozen waffle. Pretty much any breakfast bread ranks over biscuits with me.

6. I'm uncomfortable with random home visits and phone calls. I guess its just as well I don't live in the south back when people would just drop in after church and drink tea and eat the cake you just magically had on hand for company. If you want to come to my house, you have to schedule it in advance and be willing to turn a blind eye to my housekeeping skills. I might magically have cake, but that's just cause I'm weird, not because I'm a good hostess. If you're calling me just to chat, you have to tell me that up front or I'll keep wondering when we're going to get to the point. The Playfriends are working hard on my phone training, so its getting better, but I'm still just bad with small talk.

7. I don't like pickled anything. Eggs, okra, pickles, peaches, pig's feet... forget it. Relish trays are a total waste on me. And really, while I'm at it, I really don't like much fried either. I'll eat chicken fingers, french fries... the occasional fried ravioli (which is completely unsouthern and doesn't count) or specialty fair food like deep fried oreos or funnel cake, but otherwise, I'll pass. No deep fried okra. No country fried steak. I'll eat a hushpuppy or two, but usually I just depend on them so I don't starve when I'm forced to a catfish restaurant which I dislike even more. I just don't dig all the grease. Paula Deen is starting a campaign to have me extradicted to California as we speak.

8. I'm not good at letting a gentleman do things for me. Makes DB absolutely insane, but I was not raised to sit around and wait for a man to do something I can manage. In my family, you'll wait a long time. Also, out west, it isn't that ingrained in the culture. Men aren't rude, they just aren't raised by southern women to go that extra mile. So I'm bad at letting men hold doors for me. I even get uncomfortable when the bag boys at Publix want to take my cart out. When people call me ma'am, I look for my mother.

9. Let's just lump all the last foods into one here: greens of any variety, black eyed peas, potato salad, cole slaw, Moon Pies, pork rinds, casseroles (I just don't trust them), gelatin salads (again, don't trust them)... I'm sure there are more. Suffice to say that most potluck events are an experiment in terror for me. And people wonder why I always insist on a sign up sheet for those things. Its so I know what I'll eat and what I need to bring so there's at least one item I can fall back on aside from dessert.

10. I haven't overcome the language barrier. For those of you confused, you've never been in the south. To say everyone speaks English is a lie. There are regional phrases I will simply never get used to or use. I've picked up the accent, will fully endulge in 'y'all' but things still trip me up. I drink a variety of soda. If I say coke, I literally mean Coca-Cola (TM). Don't ask me what kind of coke - sprite is not coke. Its sprite. I don't 'carry' anyone anywhere. I take them. I don't drive around Target looking for a 'park.' I'm looking for a parking space. Just the tip of the iceburg here.

For the most part, I guess I fit in, but the little things can really add up. Any regional foods or customs that you just can't go along with even if you were born and bred there? Ever been transplanted in a new area and have to adjust to the culture shock?


P.S. Playground Monitor is guest blogging with several other writers today at Handbags, Books... Whatever. Come on over and see what she has to say about telling secrets.


Playground Monitor said...

I lived in Germany for 4 years and oddly enough, the culture shock was worse moving back to the US than moving over to Germany.

I love me some sweet tea but there's no love lost between me and biscuits and gravy. I also don't like anything that looks like you raked it up off the front lawn and cooked it with ham hocks.

Paula will have to have us both extradicted because I've pretty much given up fried foods. I stopped eating them a while back for health reasons and now I just can't take the grease. I went to a festival a couple years ago where they had deep fried Moon Pies and just walking by the vendor I could almost feel an atery block.

If I told you what was in my chicken casserole, would you eat it? ::grin::

Kimberly Lang said...

But you did send me a thank you note this week. I'd call that progress.

But I was born and bred in the South, what's my excuse for not liking sweet tea, hating anything pickled (that's not a dill pickle), my inability to just sit on the porch or take a Sunday drive...? (Well, I did live in Chicago for a while as a kid. I'm sure that's it.)

And you're uncomfortable about letting anyone do anything for you, not just men.

But being a Southern Lady isn't really about most of what's on your list. Have you never read the Southern Belle Primer? I'd say it's half attitude. Act like a lady, and you can be one. It has nothing to do with your dietary choices...

Maven Linda said...

I don't like Moon Pies either. I'd rather have hashbrowns than grits. I drink coffee or water, sometimes unsweetened tea (no sweetener at all, don't like the artificials). Real okra is NEVER deep-fried! That's a blasphemy against okra.

But you gotta learn the "Bless his/her heart." It covers every situation. It can be said sincerely, with deep sympathy. It can be said as a write-off for an idiot. It can be said with satisfaction for someone's comeuppance. And the nuances are such that the listener can tell immediately which one you mean. As a phrase, it's a jack of all trades.

But we have interesting weather. I've been to Vegas. The weather is . . . not really weather.

PM's Mother said...

A lady is a lady is a lady...
north, south, east or west. It's just common courtesy. Sweet tea and grits have nothing to do with it; please and thank you do.

That's my opinion, thank you and bless your little heart.

Smarty Pants said...

PC - that was a homemade card, too! Do I get extra points for that?

:: Anticipating getting the Southern Belle Primer for Christmas ::

Instigator said...

I've lived here for 24 years...I'm still not sure I'll ever be Southern enough. I was even born in the bastard Southern state of Florida (I think we were involved in the war of agression, right?). But I spent most of my first 10 years in Michigan. And while I didn't become a midwesterner...I think I missed those important years when you get handfed the rules along with those grits and biscuits.


Anonymous said...

I'm from East TN and we don't tump things over, own a hose pipe, or carry anybody (other than a baby) anywhere. Until I was 16, I thought all iced tea was served sweetened.

Also, in E. TN, when you ask me to do something for you and I say, "I don't care to do that," I've just said yes. (Substitute "mind" for "care" as in "I don't mind doing that for you.")

"Bless your heart" is one of my favorite all-purpose phrases! One company I worked with used it to mean "F*%! you." We had to add "in a good way" if we were not insulting someone. This was very helpful when we were in public.

Maven Linda is correct about NOT deep-frying okra!!! And I, too, prefer hashbrowns to grits. (This may be caused by one great, great grandfather fighting for the North during the War of Northern Aggression.)

In addition to grits, I hate the way we beat around the bush instead of cutting to the chase. If I ask if you like my dress, you can say no. "No" doesn't mean you don't like me or that my mother and father weren't married, it means you don't like the dress.

IF PC takes the hint and gives SP The Southern Belle Primer for Christmas, I'll buy the egg plate.


Playground Monitor said...

I'd totally forgotten about the egg plate!

catslady said...

My dad grew up in Mississippi and then moved north to PA to marry my mom. I picked up the term y'all but that's about it. Then when I got married I spent 7 months in MS because my husband was stationed there. I didn't like most of the same foods as you - grits ewwwww. What drove me crazy is how slowwwww everyone was. Dining out was an ordeal. And the bugs!!!!!!!

Playground Monitor said...

I've never deep-fried okra either. It was rolled in cornmeal and fried in an iron skillet in a small amount of Crisco. That's pan-frying in my book. Deep-frying is how they do fries at McDonald's where the food is completely submersed in hot oil.

And boiled okra? Eeeewwww. Slimy!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I was born and raised in the South. And then I moved away into the big wide world. So I don't much care for fried foods either anymore, sweet tea is awesome but usually needs cutting with some unsweet, and I learned years ago to call a coke a soda. Though I do use them interchangeably now that I'm back. :)

I loooove me some grits now. With cheese and butter. Or, yes indeed, bacon. Mmm, bacon grits. Which I have not had in years, btw. Shrimp and grits is also pretty awesome especially when you get some tasso gravy in there.

But my years in the world have changed me a bit too. I don't care much for sitting on the porch, unless there's a book involved (and I don't have a porch anyway, though my mother has a fine one), and better not anybody show up at my house unannounced. I'm more likely to pretend I'm not home than answer the door if I didn't know you were coming.

PM's Mother said...

PM, I'll leave my egg plate to you.

PM's Mother said...

...and by now it( my egg plate) is a valuable antique.

PM's Mother said...

Why hasn't anyone mentioned red-eye gravy (ugh)!

Linda Winstead Jones said...

Okay, I am southern born and raised, and I don't like anything pickled. Never have. I have learned -- through diet changes -- not to like sweet tea or fried food. Give them up for a while and they lose their appeal. Fried okra, lightly breaded with corn meal and fried to a crisp -- is the exception to that rule. The problem is, unless I make it myself it's not right. LOVE grits.

You want to talk about culture shock -- move to New Orleans. We were just outside New Orleans for five years, and it was like living in a foreign country. The food, the accent, the way of life, the saying, the occasional smattering of French thrown into a conversation . . . for goodness sake my last name is JONES and people were constantly asking me how to spell. All those "eaux" last names were no problem, but Jones threw them for a loop.

SP, I think you've adjusted very well. :-)

Anonymous said...

PM, I can't wait for SP to take the silver pattern test.


Playground Monitor said...

I couldn't pass the silver pattern test. I'd actually forgotten about that and had to look it up online. It's here. And who can afford silver anyway? I'd rather have a good set of stainless that doesn't need polishing.

As an aside, know anybody in the market for a nice set of china? I have Wedgwood I'd like to sell to a sweet southern belle.

Smarty Pants said...

Hey, now, I am good with complex table settings and I know what an oyster fork looks like. I have good china (too good to every use) and my own silver although its that's in between silver by Oneida. The pattern is Aquarius. :)

Rita said...

I know I'm late. But that's me slow to come to the party cause I'm from the south. A member od GRITS -Girls Raised In The South. I've loved every place in the world I've lived. The only cutural shock was returnin form almost four years of living in Hawaii. Children gave us the stink eye when we said you didn't have to get on a plane or boat to go to the next state and they didn't like the fact tsunami safe areas were not dsignated.

Calisa Lewis said...

SP I moved to California over twenty years ago and to the day we left I never 'got it'. The rude drivers, crazy in-a-hurry-to-get-to-the-stop sign-first minds drove me crazy.

Yep. I'm from the south, Oklahoma to be exact. Laid back, Sunday drivers- the whole nine yards. We brought our daughters for their first visit a few years ago before we moved back. People sitting on their porch in the summer evening waved as we rode by on horses and my oldest daughter freaked out. "Mom wave at them so they'll stop!" I laughed and told her to wave. "What? They might come after us!" That's the California mentality- don't wave cause they might draw a gun and shoot you. It happens.
I go slightly nuts riding with my Californian hubby because he can't drive behind anyone going slower than him. Not that he's a speed demon- we have those and I stand by the belief that they followed us here from California just to irritate me. If I get stuck behind a hay hauler it becomes story plotting time. My mind goes to work on writing to pass the time, even if M is talking to me. I have been known to be erratic in 'gentleman duties prevail'. Most times I open my own doors, but there are times (as you pointed out the women train the men) when I will simply stand and wait for/force M to be a gentleman and get the door. I should point out that after 27 years he's well trained. If he doesn't get the door some other well trained man will- and make him look bad in the process. I love grits, biscuits (any way you serve them), potluck gatherings and country music. Oh, and sweet tea ON the porch.

But I will not touch fried, boiled, steamed, or any other form of okra. My momma (a Bamian) tried for years and gave up. I love catfish but won't eat eggs with gravy, though I love gravy. I love trucks and laugh at M cause he wants one of those SMART cars so it can ride inside a huge honkin RV...with my horse...when we travel. One- we don't travel anywhere yet and two- don't have an RV of any size because he refuses to get rid of his 1974 pickup w/camper- the homeless motel of Calif!

So, I guess we all have our locale issues no matter where we live.