Friday, July 02, 2010
A Southerner's Ten Commandments
Non-Southerners (the PC way of saying Yankees) just don't understand the Southern approach to life. We talk too slow. We worry about the wrong things. We never say what we mean.
But it can all traced back to the 10 Commandments of Being Southern. It's bred in us, especially Southern women, from the time our little bottoms are slapped and we open our eyes to the world.
1) Thou Shalt Always Display Good Manners. Now, this is not saying that Non-Southerners don't put stock in manners. They do. They just don't use them to the effect that Southerners do. It's much harder for someone to be rude to you when you're being nice to them. Don't holler and yell the next time you get bad service. Kill that cashier with kindness. Trust me, the poor blighted soul won't know what hit her.
2) Thou Shalt Never Rush. Non-Southerners -- well, the urban variety -- talk fast and they move fast and they eat fast. We Southerners know that such high velocity is only inviting trouble, for yes, the early bird may have gotten the worm, but what does that say about the luck of the early WORM?
3) Thou Shalt Always Remember That You Are A Direct Reflection of Your Mama's Raisin'. This, more than any other Southern Commandment is critical. It guides your behavior in ways that last long past the preacher's last prayer over your mama's casket. My mama's worst fear wasn't spiders or snakes or even a lizard loose in her house -- it was that she would be "hew-miiiiil-ee-ated." Yes, that's exactly how Mama said it. I laughed at her until I had a daughter of my own.
4) Thou Shalt Be Kind To Animals and Other Dumb Creatures, For They Know Not What They Do. Again, I'm not saying that Non-Southerners aren't kind to those who are vulnerable. They are, for the most part. But we Southerners tend to understand Commandment #4 applies to more critters than those covered with fur -- it applies to men, for instance, heinous husbands who say horrid things. And it applies to the less-genteelly brought up Southern girl who doesn't mind her manners and says something cutting and, my word, unforgivably direct.
5) Thou Shalt Always Be Hospitable. Yes, Non-Southerners can be hospitable, but we Southerners are truly brought up to believe that when we say, "C'mon in and stay a spell," we're opening our house up to you for anywhere from five minutes to five months. We're not going to turn you away hungry, even if it means stretching the spaghetti sauce with ketchup (a true story told by one of my friends, whose Dumb Critter Husband brought in a mess of good ol' boys for supper.)
6) Thou Shalt Uphold Tradition. Northerners don't understand why we put so much stock in tradition. They see us as resistant to change and progress. We, on the other hand, understand that things are always changing, and that if you wait long enough, it will work its way right back to where it was. Take, for instance, long straight hair and flare-leg jeans. Didn't we tell you not to throw those clothes out?
7) Thou Shalt Keep Weddings And Funerals Sacred. Closely associated with Commandment #6 is the one about Weddings and Funerals. Yes, you will attend every single solitary bridal shower -- the hardware shower, the lingerie shower, the Tupperware shower, the bridal-bridal shower -- that your starry-eyed engaged friend's mama is throwing. And you'll do it with a smile, because weddings are sacred. As for funerals, you'd best have a pan of home-baked lasagna in the freezer at the ready to take to the bereaved, because trust me, people will remember those kindnesses. And don't you dare think that bucket of greasy fast-food chicken will do -- if hard-pressed for time, throw together a care package of napkins, paper plates and cups, tissue and paper towels, or bring a big old ice chest full of ice.
8) Thou Shalt Honor Your Home. Southerners -- true Southerners -- know their home is where they were raised. True, they might get a wild hair and move up to New York City, but they're never FROM there. I know Southerners who've taken this commandment to the extreme ... there are spots in my county where you can drive for miles until you get to a house that doesn't belong to folks kin to their neighbors. And no, I'm not talking about marrying cousins. We don't do that. Er, not anymore.
9) Thou Shalt Honor Your Kith & Kin. This goes with Commandments #1, #3 and #4. Even if dumb old Uncle Butterball's drunk as a skunk and the old coot keeps mistaking you for a Hooter's waitress, you just smile and swat his hand. Then you go tell his wife, the long-suffering Aunt Mary Ellen, "I do declare, I think the poor old soul's forgotten his pills." That's all Aunt Mary Ellen needs to hear before she'll drag the dumb old thing out to the car by his ear.
10) Thou Shalt Never Apologize For Being Southern. Non-Southerners will assume Southerners, because of our studied indirectness, our slow, ponderous way with language, because of the way we get snookered into not one, not two, but three bridal showers for the same girl, that we are dumb. But we are not dumb. We're just treating people like we want to be treated, and as long as we don't venture above the Mason-Dixon line (or some city over-run by people who don't understand the importance of Commandment #3), we pretty much are treated that way.