I've lived in the South my entire life. Nearly nineteen years of attempting to adjust to the backward, backwoods, backhanded ways and I still don't think I have. Southerners are a group I've always been fascinated by and I am one. But somehow, I've put them in the same category in my head as ancient Mesopotamians, Eskimos and cavemen. I want to understand how they work, but I haven't really tried to figure it out.
It has its own stigmas and set of clichés and customs, like any other civilization. The South is hot, humid and heritage heavy. There's always enough grits and cornbread to go around. Everything is deep fried and delicious. We've got dirt roads and dirtier trucks to drive on them. It really is like a mediocre country song.
But as for the "Southern hospitality"...
It'd be wrong of me to deny the fact that the people here are well-mannered. For the most part, they are. People are awfully polite and courteous. What I question is the sincerity behind it all. I'll be the first to admit some are the utmost sincere, but a few bad apples can ruin the whole bunch.
Too often, there's an underlying sense of various prejudices and bitterness behind the overdramatic pleasantness and fake smiles. It spoils everything even slightly enjoyable about the South.
Sure, there's a heavy amount of holding open doors and going the extra mile to lend a hand. It's all fun and games and "How are you, darlin'?" and "Yes, ma'am" until you do something the classic Southerners and church ladies deem inappropriate. Mind you, the standards are actually fairly low for what is inappropriate.
Being openminded or outspoken are grounds for being shunned where I come from. I've been treated like I had leprosy for both. Maybe it was having a witty mother from up north or just a deep desire to be defiant, but there was little stopping me from saying whatever I thought. No matter how liberal, feminist, untraditional or downright absurd it may be.
They have their thoughts and I have mine, mine being more left-sided and full of individuality. I have enough respect to know when to bite my tongue, but as the years drag on and I make my way further into adulthood, I become more outraged. I just have high hopes of enlightening and changing minds.
At more Southern family shindigs than I could count on my fingers and toes, I've experienced backlash for simple choices I've made. I'm always surprised by how offended people can be by who my friends are, putting on a little weight, having relations with guys of different colors and nationalities, criticizing the president or just being focused more on my education than boys.
In retaliation to that, however, it's rarely actual insults toward me, for that would be blatantly inhospitable. It's jokes about my choices, racial humor and questions they know the answer to but want to hear aloud to reference later. There may be a smile on their faces while they pass judgments along, but it's mixed with eyes that shoot daggers and a look of unpleasant constipation. It isn't fooling anyone. I've been granted quite a low dosage of that sweet Southern hospitality.
If I wasn't looking to be disappointed in the old-fashioned ways of my loved ones, I may not notice, but it's loud and clear to me. I'm beginning to realize the Southerners I've struggled to understand aren't worth understanding at all.
The majority are just snotty gossips who try to mask everything as a compliment. "Bless your heart" doesn't mean any hearts are being blessed and even catcalls are confused for commendations.
The South is just a twisted twilight zone where Southern hospitality is as rare as unsweetened tea.