Imagine yourself in a church of a religion you are not, in a part of town you don't frequent. You feel conspicuous, and utterly out of place. You don't know the songs, the mantras, the gestures... Your worried about your car. Are you supposed to park there?
You just follow along as much as you can, try to blend in and hope that you'll observe enough to "get it".
That's how I feel. I just moved from New York to the Deep South. The two places are pretty opposite.
I am paranoid that my kids seem rude, with their sarcasm that has become casual in our family and their lack of proper formalities that the southern folks have had banged into their heads. Ma'am means, "what did you say?" and a formal "Mrs/Miss" and "Yes" and most times it's just like a verbal period at the end of a sentence. I wonder how they view me if I don't say it? Do I just say it all the time and feel like a jack cuz it's not natural for me?
The people here run the gamut- from the uppity southern lady with the finer things who has big rings and a guarded, exclusive neighborhood, to the guy who lives in a shed that he made and burns mattresses in his front yard. (Yes I've seen both)
And as foreign as it is to a New Yorker born in the 80s, people here are prejudice- from both sides I'm told. Whites outwardly segregation-minded, and blacks verbally disrespectful to whites.
The library is proud to be desegregated since the mid 70s, as their main web page states, and the Cracker Barrel has a framed disclaimer in the lobby, and as a foot note on all the menus, about how they accept and allow all people in their restaurant.
This blows me away.
Now, I haven't witnessed or felt any of this first hand, but it is a unanimous account from the residents here.
And as I overheard in a coffee shop, many people just don't want to change. This is what they know, this is what they like, and this is how it should stay.
And, let me tell you, as a dietitian, it is very difficult to eat healthy in this town. I got a flyer from a place called Bumpers that serves, for $4, a meal called: grilled cheese sandwich and chilli pie. A chili pie, from the ad, looks like Fritos with chilli and cheese on top. For only $4! I went into the wrong grocery store one day, and it is amazing how cheap you can eat, and how crappy the food is. This ghetto supermarket had wrinkled fruits and vegetables- weather because they don't turn over enough, or because that's all the clientele is able to pay for, I don't know. And kool aid, boxes of grits, and sugar cereal. And every store has pork chittlins. I still don't know what that is, but I don't like the looks of it. One man who provided a service at my houses said, "if it ain't fried, it ain't good." He is on a diet now, per his doctor, and he suggested if you want to eat healthy, you gone have to cook it yourself.
There are signs, I swear in any southern town noting that Bubba will will buy your junk, or sell you fire logs, or clean your pipes.
Everyone loves camouflage. (I actually do too) And man do they have a thick accent.
This all isn't meant to be negative, just honest. But the beauty of the south is that's there is no traffic, mild winters, very nice people, and a LOW cost of living. Bell peppers were 0.69/pound and that wasn't even on sale. Gas is a buck less than NY, and cigarettes, if you choose to hasten your death, are HALF the price. A $9 pack up north is $4 here. Maybe it's Bloomberg.
They love beer and foot ball and everyone from Bubba in the shed with fire wood or Greg and Betty Sue in the housing association regulated neighborhood have an American made pick up truck.
And I'm stuck here with no tv for the Super Bowl, what an atrocity!! I don't know what to do- there is a Rent-to-Own on every block so I thought about rentin' me a tele-vision for one day, but I don't know...
But I got beer.
The nice things about the south are REAL nice, and the unfamiliar parts are REAL foreign. All in all it's ok.
I live in a beautiful home with a garbage disposal in the sink, in a beautiful neighborhood with neighbors who will probably be stopping by with their loafs. My house is one open floor with a big master closet. The weather is nice. The catfish is wonderful and there is Blue Bell ice cream.