Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On Becoming Southern

I'm moving to the south soon and I have a confession to make: I've never actually made an apple pie from scratch. And that's not all. When someone begins telling me about their terrible day, the phrase, "Well bless you heart" --it's not even in my vocabulary. And worse still, I can't stand the movie Gone with the Wind. (No amount of lovely southern scenery can make up for the fact that Scarlett O'hara is portraying one of the most despicable characters in all of literature who spends her time wrecking everyone's life she comes into contact with and don't even get me started about the unredemptive ending, but I digress.)

But surely worst of all it the fact that my knowledge of the civil war is sorely lacking. In fact, I only know essentially three things about the civil war. First, that there was a civil war. Second, that the war was about states' rights. And third, that the north, aka the union, won the war (maybe I should consider leaving the last bit off from now on.) It just occurred to me that I may do well familiarizing my kids with the merits of General Robert E Lee.

And then there's the whole entertaining thing I have to worry about. Having any southern belle over for dinner is tantamount to having Martha Stewart over. When I go to her house, I am going to be greeted by mounds of roasted pork, piles of mashed potates swimming in gravy, homemade buttermilk biscuits, two kinds of garden vegetables, and a large selection of those amazing pies made from scratch. Dinner at my house is usually a dish where the starch, meat and vegetables are all served together so I only have to dirty one pan. I may pick up some store-bought ice cream if you're lucky.

And there's the little things I have to worry about, like remembering to wave every time I drive past a neighbor. Most likely I'm going to imagine that I'm going out of my way to be polite and friendly, and all the while my manner will seem to them those of a hard-hearted yankee.

But there's one thing I can be sure of: whatever they think of my store-bought pastries, my one-pot-meals, my civil-war ignorance, my restrained neighborly affection, my disdain for Gone with the Wind, and any of my other odd Yankee ways that I'm not even aware of--at least I know that they will be far too polite to say anything.

Southern hospitality covers a multitude of northern ways...

Y'all come and visit me some time. (How did that sound?)


Elizabeth said...

I've lived in the south for over 7 years and I certainly don't have "southern hospitality," (when I have people over, it's definitely crock pot meals!) knowledge of the civil war, or an appreciation of "Gone with the Wind." In the "midsouth" you'll fit right in! :)

Andrea said...

My survival skill was to just enjoy all that hospitality by gawking at their Southern Living homes, eating their delicious food and trying to avoid discussing history. ;-)

PS: I know a guy that would love to give you a crash course on the Civil War. ;-)

Melissa S. said...

Oh, Leslie...How can they not LOVE you despite your "Northern-ness?" You are one of the warmest people I know. I think you will fit right in. :)

Nichole said...

I love baking Apple Pies, one of my greatest accomplishments was reading Gone With the Wind when I was 10 (seriously the first 50 pages are spent describing the scenery in full "color" detail... very long and boring), but can't stand any talk about war. When my parents lived in Georgia they were given a lot of forgiveness for what they lacked. Seems that as long as you're not a Yankee (aka from the North and I assure you that will be asked if you are) they just consider you different in a special short bus kind of way. But if you get cornered on talk about war, just fan yourself and say "oh, such talk gives me heart plantations!" Heard a southern girl say it recently to get out of talking about a topic and I just loved it!

Nichole said...

Oops... heart palpatations...darn phone auto correct

David Madeira said...

Leslie, we can't wait to have some more family representatives down here! Your post was hilarious, and I wonder what your reaction to it will be when you re-read it in 5 years.

First of all, the fact that you said the Civil War was about "States' Rights" and not necessarily "slavery" puts you above probably 99.5% of the American population in your understanding of it. Kudos on that.

Second, I don't think I've ever heard anyone talk about GWTW or Scarlett O'Hara in the 9 years I've been here. So no worries there.

The cooking thing? It depends on who you're hanging out with. Most people in our generation cook like normal people or meet up for Indian food.

I still don't consider myself a "Southerner" at all, but I really love living down here. Liz is right; this is really the "mid South," which is far more normal than you probably think.

I guarantee in a few years, you won't think that Southerners are over-the-top fake-y friendly, but instead you'll be appalled at the rudeness/snobbery of most Northerners you pass on the street when you go back home.

Finally, don't forget that the South produced Mom-mom, and that's testament to the fact that it can be a great place to live.

Leslie said...

Nichole--you're baking skills make you a bona fide southern belle! I love the heart palpitations quote! Can you just see me saying that?

I just want to say that the main point of this post was just to have a bit of fun by making a caricature of northern impressions of southerners. The parts about GWTW and the civil war are mostly jokes. The parts about amazing southern hospitality are entirely true. I'm not actually bewildered about moving there, even though I know it will be a lot different than CO. It's not like I'm moving from Manhattan to Mississippi.

I don't really think southerners are over the top or fakey. I do think that northerners can seem rude though. Truly, I'm looking forward to living there, but I sure do like to poke fun at differences. I hope no one is offended!

[Fanning myself]: Such conversations give me heart palpitations!

David Madeira said...

None taken! I just re-read my comments and they seemed much more jovial when I wrote them. We'll see you after the move!

kratosellas said...
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