Monday, April 8, 2013

Southern Reality

I adore Southern Living magazine.  I eagerly await each issue and devour every article from cover to back over the course of several evenings.  Why?  Because I love everything about the South and about being Southern.  Those of us raised below the Mason-Dixon (or sweet tea) Line possess unique characteristics and skills, a shared dialect and vocabulary, and a well-understood set of manners and etiquette that elude most outsiders.  These traits are beautiful and not easily emulated by those trying to assimilate into southern society  (as intended) because we Southerners have collectively compiled a set of rigid rules (or "secrets" as an article in the Southern Living, March 2013 edition refers to these elusive behaviors) that are near impossible for most humans, including many of our own) to adhere.  I read each of the 35 secrets, which fall into several categories, and thought to myself, "good idea," "I never think to do that," and "I don't know anyone who does that."  Then, I began to think that I must have a little Yankee in me or I must be living in a different part of the South where charm has gone by the wayside.  But then I thought, "No, I know some very charming ladies - my grandmother, Billie Jean Harding, for one - who practices many of the secrets, but even she might be baffled by the senselessness of a few of these.  So this blog is inspired by this article and will evaluate some of the "secrets to Southern charm" revealed in the current edition of my favorite mag.

The first section of the article describes/instructs (this is key, because it indicates to me that not everyone knows these things) on party etiquette.  Now, if there is one thing we southern women DO know how to do, it is entertain.  A big part of this section is dedicated to table etiquette. You know, how to set a proper table and set up a buffet meal.  In reality, many southern families are huge and these two ideas are contradictory.  First, if you must set up food on a buffet table, you can't be worried about setting a nice table because there will be too many people to sit at it.  During our parties and family gatherings, we have people crowded at the formal table, the kitchen table, the bar, in the living room watching football, and frequently open up the garage with long folding tables.  By the way, we can't afford too many monogrammed napkins so we substitute paper napkins and they work just fine.  By the way, by grandmother and friend Dr. Anne Gentry are the only two people I know who still consistently offer cloth napkins (I think they both originate from South Florida).

There are a couple of secrets that I liked in this section and they both involved drinking - something most Southerners enjoy, albeit many do it in private.  One said that Southern ladies should always be ready with a toast.  I agree with this, and few things bring me more merriment than the clinking sound of a wine glasses or beer bottles accommanied by a clever salute.  Another piece of advice suggested that every Southerner should have a signature cocktail.  Agreed, but the signature cocktail should vary with the season.  For example, while boating or floating, one should sip 9-2-1s (also known as "f*%k or fight," cause you're going to want to do one or the other after having a few).  This delicious concoction is composed of 9 ounces of vodka, 2 beers of your choice, and 1 small frozen limeade concentrate.  A word of wisdom, drink in moderation if you decide to make them.  Everyone also needs a good holiday punch (a cranberry white wine spritzer works well) and Mardi Gras cocktail (my husband is famous for his Hurricane O'Donalds).  A good bottle of wine and bourbon will suffice for most other occasions. 

The second section is entitled, "The Gracious Home."  Let me say, I have never been extended the hospitality expected on these pages, nor have I offered it.  If you visit me, you will not get beverage service.  You can walk downstairs and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.  Our closets are already full, so expect to live out of your suitcase for the duration of your stay.  Don't expect a gift.  Afterall, I just saved you some cash by allowing you to stay in our guest bedroom instead of the Motel 6.  Thank you.  You're welcome.

I could go on, but you get my point.  Read the article.  It is ROMANTIC and all Southern gals would like to live these rules...but reality dictates and most of these rules are outdated and unrealistic.  Maybe a better title for this article would have been the "35 Forgotten Secrets to Southern Charm."  Southern Living can keep it's secrets this month.

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