The Unsolicited Opinions of The Alabama Housewife: Southern Culture

Words by Mary Alayne B. Long

Illustration by Eliza Bishop

Southern culture. Even in 2019 there are people who don’t think those two words go together. They hear about anything from the South, and they conjure up images of tornado-stricken trailer parks and barefoot children walking down dirt roads. Lots of folks who aren’t from around here think we aren’t all that bright, and that’s OK. We know better. And sometimes we like it that way. Playing dumb is a fine art, and we can do it better than anyone else.

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Through my 40-ish years on this planet, I have been fortunate—no, blessed—to make my home below the Mason-Dixon line. I’ve seen so many things change over the years—some for better, others for worse.

For all the ways we have made things better and brighter here, I’m sad to say I still have a few complaints. The inability of seemingly grown-up people to behave properly in polite society is second on my list. Their refusal to discipline their children is holding hard in the first-place spot. Sadly, the bewildering, millennial choice to forgo compulsory home training is starting to trickle into certain places down here, and I find that rather disconcerting. If you choose the free-spirited route when raising your children, that is fine and dandy. But be careful. The failure to teach them about “Please” and “Thank you,” proper table manners, and acceptable behavior when in mixed company, along with the importance of saying “Yes ma’am” and “No sir,” is going to haunt you. And it won’t serve them very well in the future either.

I also have to say that I really miss seeing ladies in white gloves at the Piggly Wiggly and the men who tip their hats when those ladies walk by. You might catch a glimpse of those good ’ol days on Easter Sunday, but that’s about as close as you’ll get.

As long as we are reminiscing here, I have to admit that I have long mourned what will one day all too soon be the death of the Southern accent. That syrupy drawl that floats across the air like smoke can ease the most troubled mind. I could listen to someone with a good old- fashioned Southern accent read out of the phone book and never grow weary. Spoken properly, it can be used to persuade most people to do just about anything you can imagine. If for some reason you aren’t quite sure what I mean, read this aloud and you’ll get it:

“Darlin’, would you mind runnin’ down to the sto-ah and grabbin’ anoth-ah stick uh buttah for this cornbread I’m cookin’ for your-ah suppah? Thank ya’ sugah.”

Even after the longest day at the office, no man alive has ever said no to that. The fact that he had likely been handed a bourbon and waut-ah as soon as he walked through the door didn’t hurt, either.

There are so many things I would like for you to know about the South—especially if it’s not a place you think of fondly—so I’ll sum it up with a few thoughts I’ve often shared in the past.

In the South:

We love Jesus, and we still love you even if you don’t.
We have pride but we aren’t boastful.
We drive pickups and Mercedes.
We are fiercely loyal, especially to our family, friends, and college football teams.
We will always lend a helping hand to anyone in need.
We are educated in farming and Shakespeare.
We aren’t all racist or homophobic.
We don’t all live in trailer parks, and we also don’t judge those who do.
We may walk barefoot down dirt roads, but it’s by choice.
We can throw an elegant party in a ballroom or on the tailgate of a truck.

I could go on and on and on, because I love it here. And I’ve been around the block a time or two, but I’ve yet to find anywhere else like the South and the people who call it home. If you know, you know. And if you don’t—come on down and visit. Stay a while. Relax. And give me a shout when you get here. I’ll grab the bourbon and pop some cornbread in the oven.