Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Southern Rules

     I could never have survived living in the south.   I have lived in the very liberal state of California almost all my life and I would have broken every Southern rule that existed in the unwritten book every good Southern girl knows forwards and backwards.  They were taught all this from day one when they were born.  From the moment my mom was picked up and held she became the Southern Belle that one reads about.   It is not to say my mom didn't do something wrong in her youthful days.   Yes, I am sure she too tested her Mama and Daddy but she did it with a sweet Southern smile when she apologized. 

     When I was a young teen in the 70's my mother became   overly concerned about who I was having as a friend.  I knew that when I brought someone over the first thing she would say after she would say "Hello" would be "And who are your people?".   None of my friends could understand this "Who are your people" deal.   What does that mean?  The next thing she would say as my friend would look at me in question not knowing what to say would be "And what does your father do?".  Now that they could answer.  

     For some reason these are important answers to know.  It tells a lot about that person as to "Who are your people".   It means where do they come from or are they from a long line of old family from the south.  I have been in a department store ladies room and my mom would hear someone with a Southern accent and she would ask "Are you from south?".   Nine times out of ten they would be from some southern state.  If they were from Alabama that would be exactly what would be asked after that.   "Who are your people?".   I would listen to my mom ask "Do you know so and so?".   Then they would ask "Do you know the so and so's from Montgomery?".  I was amazed at the connections of the Southern relations!  There was always some family they could connect with or know.

     I can only assume that where you come from is a very important thing to know.  It must be like what station in life you are from.   Pity someone from the wrong area or wrong family.  I never learned the purpose of knowing this and the need to ask this with my friends.  I would usually get around to asking in a conversation where a person lived.  It just didn't sound like the way my mom would do it.  Hers was said in such an important way.  Mine was casual but it was more of a way to develop a friendship and I certainly didn't ask the personal way of "Who are you people"!

     The rudest question was  "What does your father do?".  What kind of thing is that to ask someone?  Apparently that too is an important thing to know.   I guess if your father did not have in important job they may not be a suitable friend to have.  I for the life of me cannot see the importance of that.  Yet to my mom that was what she asked.  Believe me she did try to steer me away from some of my friends upon finding them less than what she wanted for her daughter.  The higher vocation one's parent was the happier she would be.  She would be so polite and gratuitous  when they came over.  Without asking me she would invite them to do something with the family.  This was my friend, not hers!  She made it hard to want to bring friends over with her inquisitiveness and suspiciousness.  My friends thought her stiff, formal and she made them uncomfortable.  If I was not to bring a friend over and she had not met them then she would have to talk to their parent on the phone before I went over.  

     The Southern ways never leave you even if you move away.  Her southern accent did disappear oddly.  I can't remember her having it while I was growing up.  My Nan's stayed till she passed away.  My mom tried hard to instill her Southern upbringing in me and some I do have and I do like.  These though were the top of the list of insane.


Sara Louise said...

Some of that sounds so familiar and my Mother is from Dublin! My brother used to say that she kept a notepad and pen at the ready when she met our friends because she interviews them. And not much has changed. He had his current girlfriend for a year before he introduced her to our Mother and he's 35 years old!! MOTHERS!!!

Ellen said...

Thank you Sara for your comment. It's amazing that mothers everywhere were doing this! Here I thought it was just a Southern deal but I had another friend who grow up in Mexico and she said her mother did the same thing. I'm glad times have changed.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

I grew up in South Carolina in an old, revolutionary inland city. My grandmother and grandfather (who were of your mother's generation) were the same way in a sense. My mother is not that way (thankfully) but there are definitely some peculiar things from a southern upbringing that I left behind when I moved away. For example, there does seem to be a lot of social climbing in the south and I could care less about all of that. I'm glad times have changed too!
p.s. I'm losing my southern accent too! I've been in Baltimore for almost 8 years now. It's amazing how it fades away with time.


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