Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bless Your Heart And Sweet Tea

   I recently took one of those facebook quizzes, something that I am constantly doing, that asked a series of questions and was supposed to measure how southern you were. My father's side of the family is southern, deep south, good old Mississippi folk, so I thought it would be fun. And I'm not really saying that the quiz wasn't fun - but a lot of the questions didn't match what I experienced living in the south. I don't know how anyone else feels about the quiz, but I'm pretty sure that the thing was written by a Northern person who was only familiar with Southern stereotypes. And there seems to be a lot of that up here, so I thought I'd set some things straight, but with the understanding that my viewpoint is just that - my viewpoint. When you talk Southern, what you need to realize is that you are talking about a whole section of a country, and southern Mississippi can be a lot different that southern Georgia and southern Texas and Florida (many of whom refuse to be classified as Southern at all. They are Floridians, dammit). They aren't all the same, no more than Washington is the same as Maine or California.
   But at any rate, we are going to start with Bless Your Heart. The quiz that I did take defined the saying 'Bless your heart' as something Southern people said to someone when they thought they were doing or saying something incredibly stupid. This may be true for some people, but personally, when I thought someone was being a moron, I always just told them to piss off. I've never blessed a person's heart in my life, and a lot of us don't use that phrase. But for those people that I've known to use that phrase, they've always used it in a more friendly manner. "Did you hear about so-and-so? Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Bless her heart." "So-and-so's husband was laid off after working for that company for twelve years. Bless his heart." I can't say that I've ever heard this phrase used in the manner of an insult. Not to say that it doesn't happen, but that is not the main use of that phrase, so don't automatically think that this phrase is an insult.
   Now we are going to move on to the usage of ma'am. I use this one a lot, and it's not well received at times. Since when was ma'am an insult? Let me set this record straight - ma'am is not commonly used to mean elderly. When I call you ma'am, I am not saying "Hey, old lady." Ma'am IS a term for a grown woman. I was once told by someone to use Miss instead. Miss, folks, is a girl. Someone who is not yet old enough to be married, to be an adult. Calling a grown woman miss is an insult. Want me to treat you like a child? Fine. You are grounded. Go to your room and stay there until you've grown a brain. Maybe that's disrespectful, but frankly, you just asked for it. Literally. Calling a woman ma'am is no different that calling a man sir, and as a kid, in the south, we were punished for being disrespectful. Being respectful is not an easy habit for me to break, and honestly, I have both an attitude and a temper.  Sometimes I really need to be able to cling to that habit of being respectful in order to keep from going off on people when they aggravate me.
    We're also going to talk sweet tea here. We don't all like sweet tea. There are plenty of people who would rather have a glass of coke or coffee or water or whatever. But, personally, I love sweet tea. I make my tea by the half-gallon and I use plenty of sugar. However, I never drank sweet tea in the south, because they drink black tea, for the most part. Black tea is gross. My sweet tea tends to be green tea, or white tea, or rooibos tea, and they tend to be flavored specialty teas at that. The south may be known for sweet tea, but I think the north has the south beat when it comes to tea. That's a personal opinion there, but all I can say is Washington has Tea Madame Tea shop, and the south doesn't. That speaks volumes to me.
    All I'm saying, I guess, is that a stereotype is a stereotype, and perhaps when someone is telling you that every person in the south acts and talks the same way, maybe you should think about how likely that really is. I mean, how big is the south? How many states? Is that reasonable that every person in the south is a carbon copy? That all of those states have the same mannerisms and traditions? Not realistic, people. We aren't all the same, and when you make assumptions, you may tend to get angry or get your feelings hurt because you are placing what we said or did in a context that doesn't apply. And also - I know a few southern women who have virulent feelings towards tea, sweet or not.

   P.S. I have never sucked on a crawfish head. Mudbugs are gross. 

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