3.22.2009

Southern Women Do It Better

Of late, I have been wrestling over a potential move from the heart of Dixie back to the big city – D.C. particularly.

Whether or not I’ll go, I don’t know. But what I do know is that there is no place quite like the South. It feels comfortable; it feels like home. I’m not sure I’m ready to be comfortable or feel at home quite yet hence the possible relocation. Nonetheless, it has a certain something about it, a je na sais quoi, if you will.

For the Yankee critics out there—yes, I just said that South has an aura so alluring it eludes description. And, no, this aura is not a result of shoeless cousins marrying one another at a Nascar event while eating barbecue and drinking sweet tea. It may come, however, from crawdad fighting and squirrel hunting.

I realized this yesterday as I was enjoying an afternoon out with a few southern female friends at a botanical garden. As we girlishly ooh-ed and aah-ed over the flowers, one of my friends pointed at a vine and remarked how, as a child, she would swing from one before dropping into a “swimming hole.” (Actually, I think she said “creek,” but the moral of the story is it tweren’t one of those newfangled cement ponds that I grew up with in Californy.)

In response, they began relaying their childhood escapades. The conversation went something like this (to get the full effect, remember that these ladies are the perfect picture of decorum, femininity, and grace):

Friend 1: “We used to swing from the vines, too, but that wasn’t as good as squirrel huntin'. We would shake the trees until they ran out, and then we would shoot ‘em.

Friend 2: “One of our favorite things was huntin' crawdads.”

Friend 3: “Oh yes! After we collected some, we'd put them together and watch 'em fight. When they were done, we'd line them up and smash ‘em with a hammer.”

At first, it seemed incongruous to hear defenseless delicate creatures (my friends) talking so cheerfully about destroying other defenseless delicate creatures (squirrels and crawdads, respectively). Then, it struck me that that may be part of the South’s charm.

More than anywhere else I’ve lived – and I’ve lived a lot of places – rules of polite behavior and social graces still apply in the South. Yet, in the midst of all this sweetness, there’s a snakebite edge that keeps it from cloying. Undoubtedly, that is what I got a glimpse of in the gardens and what contributes to that indescribable allure.

And, if you don't think that women shooting squirrels and smashing crawdads earns the South some je na sais quoi, my friends and I may put you in a tree or line you up to fight. You know what happens next: it's shootin' and smashin' time, y'all!

8 comments:

  1. Nice posting, Suzanna! Love that old "Californy" line!

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  2. Makes it sound like you should have made a left toin at Albukoykee...

    The South is a very special place for me and the food, the manners and the women are what make it so. I got teased about my politeness by several girls when I first moved out West, although I do have to admit that California girls are pretty sweet too, and they have the added bonus of not being rabidly obsessed with marriage at a young age like the Southern girls I grew up with.

    Stay away from from DC, doll. From what I can tell, most of those people are soulless husks. Unless of course that's what you're going for.

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  3. As to the swangin' vahn -- Ah'm a native Atlantan from Alabammy roots, so Ah can make fun of mah own accent -- I would imagine it was a muscadine. This wild grape-like fruit of the South grows on a sturdy, woody vine, often found entangling tall trees near streams.

    True story: One afternoon 20-odd years ago, while courting my wife, we took a stroll through the woods near Calhoun, Ga. My wife being Ohio-born, she encountered a muscadine vine with curious wonder.

    "Oh, that's a muscadine," said I.

    "A what?" she asks.

    "A muscadine."

    "You're making that up," she says.

    "No, really [explanation] . . . muscadine," says I.

    "A muscadine?"

    "Yeah. . . . Either that, or a scuppernong."

    Educating ignorant Yankees is sort of a hobby of mine. Have to disabuse them of their hateful theory of boreal supremacy.

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  4. So does that mean you know a good recipe for fried chicken then?

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  5. Ok, so... RS is now losing me with his comments as well as his posts...

    ...what the hell, it still deserves a tip jar, :)

    Love the visual, Suzanna.

    Sean~

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  6. I thought about our conversation this morning as I contemplated pouring salt on a slug. (FYI, I let it live because it's offspring a few inches away was intolerably cute.) I have to take you slug hunting in the depths of Vinemont Falls in Cullman. Bring your bathing suit (for swinging on vines into the water, of course), strength for the mile hike, and a big thing of Morton salt!

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  7. Anonymous27.3.09

    Finally caught up to your post, Sue. Makes me yearn for Birmingham, but I must say this little piece of the south isn't bad either. Here's to sweet tea, fried chicken, and charming people!

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  8. Oh, honey no! is my first thought when I read that you're contemplating a move to the city - DC, to be exact. Even though DC is 90 miles north of what used to the be Capital of our Great Conderacy (Richmond,of course), you'll find absolutely nothing southern about it.

    I was devastated when I moved here. My family settled Virginia - they've been here since the 1680, to be exact. I couldn't believe the way people behaved in Northern Virgina/ DC area.

    I've been here 8 years now. About once a month I take a break and drive to Richmond, sometimes further, when I need my dose of Southern Hospitality. I sure don't get it here.

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