Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Southern for Dummies

I have always identified myself as a southerner. Kentucky was a border state, but as far as I know most of Lexington and nearly all my family lined up on the Confederate side of the Mason-Dixon Line. To imply or suggest otherwise would be heresy to any of my aunts and uncles.

About a month after I moved to Athens someone called me a Yankee. The term sent me from zero to crotchety in about a half a second. I told her she could call me a lot of things but I was not and never would be a Yankee.

I still think being from Kentucky makes me a southerner. However, living in the Deep South for more than a decade has made me more southern than I was when I got here. I'm pretty sure this is a good thing.

A recent out-of-town visitor had dinner with a group of people I know. Afterward, the visitor told me she was impressed with how well the diverse group got along with each other. They might have acted like the best of friends but I happen to know better.

I kept the truth to myself--something I've learned to do here in the south. If you can't say something nice, don't. I struggle with this but with practice, have improved. My partner and most my Facebook friends hear what I really think later.

If you're not from the south you may jump to the wrong conclusions. For example, the fact nobody disagreed with your ten-step program to save the south doesn't necessarily mean everyone is on board with the plan. The silence could also mean everyone thought you were an idiot.

Words have different meanings down here in the south, too. Tell me how far behind your unemployed, meth-abusing ex-husband is with child support and I'll shake my head slowly and say, sorry. Yeah I'm sorry you married his sorry ass, but mostly I'm shaking my head because he's just so damn sorry. It's two different things.

Bless his (or her) heart sounds like an expression of caring concern. Down here we say bless his heart instead of things like idiot, loser, and dumbass. There are many, many occasions when no other phrase will do.

For example, your slutty neighbor tells you her sorry boyfriend is in jail again. It's not his fault because his friend bought the meth--he was only smoking it. Bless his heart.

Nothing else works quite as well. I swear. Just remember you heard it from...

The Crotchety Old Man

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