I’m Not a Southern Belle…But I Play One In My Mind

I’m California born and bred. But because my sister married a Southern gent and raised her family in Memphis, and because both of my daughters went to college at University of Kentucky, I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to visit quite a few cities and small towns in the South. (Yes, I do believe “South” and “Southern” is always worthy of being capitalized.)

There’s not a lot not to like about the venerable, storied South. Spanish moss-covered trees,  grand old homes, fireflies, welcoming porches, sweet potato fries, the green-green grass ~ the perfect medley of beauty, quaintness and charm.  Its people are a lovely symphony of class and sass.

 

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So, yeah…I’m not a Southern belle. At all. I don’t have that fresh peaches-and-cream, dewy complexion — a gift from that (often-horrendous) humidity. Nor do I have that glorious accent — a gift from God that lulls me into a calm like nothing else can. And I don’t like or even know how to make sweet tea. (There is an art to it). And here’s a really sad thing: I own not one piece of clothing by Lilly Pulitzer or Vineyard Vines.  Yet…

 

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{Lilly Pulitzer dress}

Further proof that I wasn’t born South of the Mason-Dixon:  I ask, “Where did you get those shoes” instead of “Where do you worship?” And I say things like “Oh, what a bummer” instead of “Well, bless your little heart.” I too often say “damn” rather than “darn.” And I live on a “cul-de-sac”…NOT a “cove.” When I have to pee I say, “Ewww, I have to pee” or “I gotta void my bladder. Be right back!” Southern women are much more refined. They delicately wipe their Chanel-lipsticked mouth with the crisply-ironed white linen previously placed just-so on their Lilly P shift,  push their (real) Queen Anne chair back and say, “Excuse me.” Simple and sweet as that…

When Southern belles express surprise, they say “Goodness gracious!” They name their cookbooks “Gracious Goodness.”

And when the heat is unbearable and the humidity is at 90 percent, a Southern lady will say, with a wide Crest-commercial smile, “Oh, dear me!”  I say: “Are you ‘effing’ kidding me?! This is ridiccccculous!” (Because it is…)

I love the South, ya’ll.

I think wisteria, magnolia and dogwood are beautiful.  I know what Kudzu is. (Do you?) I respect the fact that college football is a religion in Dixie .  I cherish the sound of cicadas on a hot summer night. I think it’s cool that in the South bad manners are not an option.  I think collard/mustard/turnip greens and grits are delicious. I’m jealous of all the Size 2-4 Southern women who don’t gain an ounce after eating pulled pork, biscuits ‘n’ gravy and fried okra…for lunch. Lunch! What’s with that? (Is sweet tea really a diet potion in disguise that those diminutive Southern women are hiding from us West Coasters?)  And to me, Southern men, summer and seersucker go together splendidly.

The very things Southerners are (ignorantly and unfairly) lambasted for, I think, are what make them so unique and charming. They have a glass-half-full attitude.  Southern Hospitality is legit, real and wonderful. They readily open their hearts, homes and ovens. It’s families first for them, but not to the exclusion of us California strays. If they miss Sunday church or Tuesday Bible Study, they have a really, really good reason. And here’s the elephant in the room (pun? yes): Most Southerners are Republicans.

When I told a group of women I met while at my niece’s wedding in South Carolina a couple years ago that I was a registered Republican, they gasped in shock, shrieked in delight and almost choked on their mint juleps.  A Right-Leaner,  from California? To them I was an aberration.  After they composed themselves, they collectively said, “Well, bless your little heart!”

I’m not a Dixie chick.  But gosh do I try…

I mean, I personally don’t own anything that is monogrammed. But I now channel my inner wannabe Southern Belle self by gifting my friends and loved ones with monogrammed goodies as often as possible.

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Sadly, I’ve never been to a debutante ball.  Damn — I mean, Darn! I so regret not going to my niece Jessica’s coming-out fete in Memphis circa 2000.

I wear lipstick daily!

I wear pearls frequently!

And I know every single word of Sweet Home Alabama and The Lord’s Prayer!

So you see ~ I play the Southern Belle thing (kinda sorta) well a lot of the time. And always in my mind…

*****

We are who we are (I’m profound, huh?). I’m a proud native Cali gal through-and-through.  But I’ve grown to truly love and adore the South and its citizenry. And I can’t wait to visit again.

To all you Southerners I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, to those who have invited us into your lovely homes, prepared us a delicious home-cooked meal, served us Bourbon or mint juleps on your beautifully shaded porches, thank you.   And bless your hearts.

When next you are in northern California, please know you are welcome here. We’ll throw something on the grill (or bring home some Papa Murphy’s) and serve you wine on our back patio while we enjoy appetizers of carrots, tortilla chips and guacamole.  And by then, my goodness gracious, I do hope I’ll be wearing a Lilly Pulitzer to show ya’ll. 

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3 Responses to I’m Not a Southern Belle…But I Play One In My Mind
  1. Therese Fowler-Bailey
    June 2, 2013 | 4:34 pm

    2:00 am Grits Forever! Smiled with each paragraph.

  2. Marilyn
    June 4, 2013 | 7:33 am

    LOVE it!!! And oddly enough, I DO know what kudzu is…. and would love to actually see it up close and personal one day.

  3. Amanda
    August 15, 2013 | 7:15 am

    I can identify with you. I say y’all all the time! I love reading books about the South. Just about to finish one set in Atlanta called “While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.” Fun, easy going book.

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It's true! Despite playing defense virtually all my life against the onslaught of this sometimes-ugly aging process, it...has...arrived! I naively thought I would escape cellulite (the Cottage Cheese) and crow's feet (the Crepe Paper). But I didn't! And why didn't anyone tell me about this emotional roller-coaster that comes with being an Empty-Nester?! My name is Jodie Barringer Myers. I'm a 54-year-old Friday/chardonnay/ hydrangea-loving wife/mom/court reporter living in Sacramento (Gold River!), California. Writing is cathartic for me. And because I look to find humor and humility among the rubble that is my now very peri-menopausal self, I'm hopeful that you will laugh, cry, learn, enjoy and, most of all, relate to what I have to say. After all, we're all in this together, right?

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