simplyjan

A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Deep South

For my entire life, minus a little over 2 years when I was very young, I have lived in the South. I love the South. Then again, I don’t really know anything else. Six years ago I moved from a “metropolitan” Southern town to a quaint Southern small town. Small enough that everybody knows everybody, and everybody knows everybody else’s business. Small enough that impromptu parades led by firetrucks and ambulances still take place when the local high school wins a state championship. Small enough that folks are suspicous of you if they don’t know who your parents or grandparents are. Small enough that it is still “ruled” by a couple of leading families. The matriarch of one of those families is in my church. Lucky me. She doesn’t like me much. Not so lucky me.

This weekend I read a mystery novel by an author who, although she’s apparently been around quite awhile, I just discovered – Nevada Barr, and her Anna Pigeon series. I read Deep South this weekend. It was an interesting read, especially in the way that it gave a newcomer’s reaction to living in the South. We must truly be a strange people if her observations are anywhere close to accurate. And I believe they are!

In the novel, Anna Pigeon describes the South to her sister in this way: “It is a country of deep-fried kindness and cotton-mouthed hostilities.” I read the sentence, then re-read it a couple of times. Oh-my-gosh, is that not a great way to describe it?! (You other Southerners out there – feel free to chime in here!)

In the South, and particularly in rural and small towns, the kindness is indeed deep-fried. It pleases the palate, but so help me, it’ll kill you if you aren’t careful. And as for the cotton-mouthed hostilities, Southerner have more ways to tell you to kiss their tails with such graciousness that good manners makes you want to say, “Thank you.” But like the bite of the cotton-mouth snake, the venom is painful. If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you wish that it would.

Folks, in my six years in this small Southern town, I’ve had so much deep-fried kindness sent my way that I have to watch my step to keep my feet from sliding out from under me. And yes, I suffered the cotton-mouthed hostility of none other that our dear old matriarch. God, it was painful, but I lived through it. Even though I received the bite about two years ago, I can sometimes swear that a bit of the venom is still in my system. Maybe it’s just phantom pain. Maybe it’s just the abiding fear that the cotton mouth is just waiting for an opportunity to strike again. Anyway, I think I’ll survive. There’s plenty of deep-fried antidote available.

Blessings Ya’ll!
Preacher Mom

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15 thoughts on “Deep South

  1. Here’s what I learned after moving from Virginia to Maine in my mid-twenties: when Mainers are kind to you, you can be sure they really like you. And if they don’t like you, they will just leave you alone.

  2. I like the honesty of that: no games, no deception. In the South, “niceness” sometimes trumps honesty. I know that some folks will be offended by that, but I feel like I can say it since I have been guilty of it myself on occasion. I am learning how freeing and how refreshing honesty (coupled with compassion) can be!

  3. I’d love to hear PPB’s take on this–she’s shared some examples with me of that northeastern honesty, but there’s not much compassion sometimes. Good manners can hide a person’s true intentions, but they can also grease the wheels. (to keep the grease metaphors going)

  4. Honesty spoken in love is the goal. Even when you are nasty you can say it nicely — and still get your meaning across. And then there are the “southernisms” “That Susie Lou just can’t cook, bless her heart!” Anything with a “bless her heart” is usually a slur….

  5. Great, thoughtful post. I know exactly what you are talking about. I grew up on the East Coast South but moving to the Deep confused me. “Bless Your Heart” is most often a barb. I think I’ve become more observant trying to learn the difference between the kindness and hostility, both cloaked in sweetness. All y’all preacher gals, can’t we have a blogging gal retreat sometime? I keep thinking that I’d like to talk with all of you in person.

  6. Great, thoughtful post. I know exactly what you are talking about. I grew up on the East Coast South but moving to the Deep confused me. “Bless Your Heart” is most often a barb. I think I’ve become more observant trying to learn the difference between the kindness and hostility, both cloaked in sweetness. All y’all preacher gals, can’t we have a blogging gal retreat sometime? I keep thinking that I’d like to talk with all of you in person.

  7. I’m not sure how we would pull it off, but this is one preacher gal who would love to meet her blogging buddies! I’ve been amazed at how this medium has opened up a circle of friends – most of whom I don’t know their names, appearances, or addresses, yet I count you as friends nonetheless! It’s kinda like my childhood imaginary friends, only better. Ya’ll actually talk back to me!

  8. Well, I’m headed south in August, but probably not deep enough (just to Southeastern Virginia). I’d love to meet all y’all, too.

  9. Bother bother bother that stretch of water…I want to play too. This is such a small island, it’s not really possible to pick up regional characteristics in the same way…overall, I guess meaningless politeness is probably the approach if someone dislikes you, but “Bless them” can be equally disparaging here.Hope there’s not too much back stabbing going on in your congregation, Preacher Mom.

  10. I am from the northeast so I am used to direct and honest talk, rudeness even. I find that easier than trying to talk to someone who is so polite that I don’t figure out until minutes later that they were taking swipes at me. I am sure if I lived in the South, I would figure out the codes ….Hey, I am not a preaching woman, but I want to be invited to the retreat. I was born into a religion that doesn’t allow women to preach so it’s not my fault that I’m not a preaching woman.

  11. jo(e), you are a preaching woman, whether you’re “authorized” or not. So there! 🙂Songbird, I think I knew but forgot you were coming down Virginia way. We live one mile off of I-95 in No. VA, so you darn well better let me know when you’re heading through!

  12. My first response to this was to say I LOVE THE NEVADA BARR BOOKS!!! And, the one that came out last year came out in paperback this year and I have just TODAY gotten a copy. I have read all but the last two. Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em. As revmother has called me out, indeed I have been subjected to quite a bit of ridiculously sharp northern rudeness. Sometimes it kind of takes my breath away. But I think that’s a sort of urban bend on the northern New England style of either loving on you or ignoring you. I would LOVE to be ignored by a couple of these folks. However, I have to say that I’m not a native. I’m a midwesterner by birth and at heart. I’m used to a sort of hybrid between the two. People are very very polite to you in stores and restaurants—not superfulous by any means, but sort of genuine and sweet…..but getting in beyond the chit chat…..that takes a long time. Like the south, if you’re not from there, you may never get in beyond the “awfully pretty day” chat. My parents have lived in their big city suburb for 30 years. They’re still “new folks”. But in the town where they were raised, where they haven’t lived for 30 years, and where I have never lived….we’re all in like flynn.

  13. It’s true that the injunction “bless her/his heart” usually introduces a put-down. On the other hand it is also a reflexive nod to our common humanity.As for being deep-fried, you’ve heard of the West Texas cookbook? It has one page with two words: Fry it!I spent four years at an Ivy League college in the northeast and struggled with the northeastern/Texan-southern cultural gap. Just shut my mouth!

  14. I just finished the 2nd to latest Nevada Barr book. I hope you’ll have a chance to go back to the beginning and read all of them! Now I’m all about wanting the latest, but it’s only in hardback. sigh.

  15. Hey, I can get into a bloggy retreat. maybe Montreat? Or Epworth by the Sea? Simpsonwood? My school is doing a worship thing in Oct– y’all can come stay at my house…. it might be a lit-t-tle crowded….

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