Friday, May 28, 2010

Suthun Lessons

Living in the South takes some getting used to. I thought sneaking up on it would have helped. I grew up in the Midwest. I lived in Appalachia for a bit then Lexington Virginia, where Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried and home of fine old Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. From there I moved to Durham, which although farther South than I'd ever lived, was really less South than Lexington. So I really didn't think moving to South Carolina would be that big of a change. I was wrong.

I still have trouble with tea referring to a tooth-curling sweet cold beverage. I eventually got brave enough to eat cheese grits and found them to be quite good, but it may be a while before I start adding grits to every meal. I've almost stopped cringing when people I don't know call me Shugga, or Sweetie, Baby, or Darlin'. I still can't get my mind around Black churches and White churches. And I still get willies when I see Confederate flags or hear the Civil War referred to as The War of Northern Aggression, or That Unpleasantness.

But it's nice to be called Ma'am. And when, as happens on occasion, a man stands when I come into the room, or holds a door or a chair for me, I'm quite happy that he grew up in the South. It's a very nice habit. It certainly doesn't make me feel less liberated or inferior. I find it respectful.

Of course, I'm perfectly able to open my own door, scoot my own chair, and. . . well, I'm not sure why a man would stand when a lady enters the room other than tradition. But some traditions are just nice.

I thought nothing could be steamier than a Midwestern cornfield in August, but dang if it doesn't get hotter'n a goat's butt in a pepper patch down here. Luckily, I learned ladies don't sweat, we glow. And that's a good thing, but I swan if I don't glow enough to fill a bucket some days. Back in the Midwest, we just sweat.

In the Midwest I might have told someone off once or twice, but now I've learned to get everyone's attention if I'm fixin' to pitch a fit. Of course, I can't do it as well as someone born and raised here, but I'm gettin' the hang of it.

Of course, I could live here another 30 years and I'd probably still be called a Yankee behind my back. It took me a while before I realized it wasn't a compliment. But bring me a piece of sweet potata pie after my greens and fatback, and Shugga, you can call me most anythang.


  1. I am from a small southern town, now living in the city. When a waitress calls me "hun" or "sugar", I suddenly feel transported back to my childhood and feel those happy feelings. There is a lot of fun unique culture in the south that folks don't know about.

  2. i like do a great job of writing! mmmmm, greens, sweet potato pie.....I may have to come visit SOON!

  3. Dahlin', ya'll are always welcome!

  4. There is still racism in the South, as well as everywhere else in the US. I like to think that it's the exception much more than the rule.

    Some of the nicest people I've ever met were from Tennessee—scads of them at a national college football game here in Tempe. Our seats were smack dab in the middle of them, and they treated us like long-lost friends. By game's end, we had a ton of invites to "stop by and have tea" when we got down their way.

    Okay, enough storytelling. I liked your story, especially the final sentence.