My parents were born and raised in the South (North Carolina and Alabama). My wife was born and raised in the South (Kentucky). I spent three years in the South attending seminary in Lexington, Kentucky . . . I have lived in the South. The South is a unique culture all unto its own. Since coming down to Alabama to visit the daughter, son-in-law, and new granddaughter, I have been reminded as to why the South is a nice place to visit but not a place I would choose to live. The South has its charm and its hospitality, but . . . the South is not my cup of tea!
Honey! If one more person uses that term of endearment with me I will probably go running and screaming through the nearest cotton patch. "Honey" as a term of endearment seems to be a Southern stable for females down in the southern portions of the United States . . . like some sort of genetic quirk from birth . . . that is constantly used. The wife had a tendency to use that term of endearment when addressing me early in the courting stages . . . and I hated it. How does "Honey" truly reflect a true form of endearment when it is used with everything and everyone from the spouse and children to the pets? One has to question the level of endearment when even the family's Vietnamese pot-belly pig is referred to as "Honey". I have been called "Honey" by women of all ages since being down South and for the most part it makes me uncomfortable . . . even the wife doesn't get to use that one with me. She usually refers to me as another part of the honey pot--namely the "Dip Stick".
Humidity! I think I have lived in Montana too long . . . I forgot what real humidity is like. In Montana we complain if the humidity gets up to ten percent . . . it hasn't been ten percent humidity in the South since God created the world. I was greeted to the South's humidity the second I stepped out of the airport in Dothan and my glasses fogged up. I walked right into a post because I couldn't see where I was going! I think that the typical humidity in the area where the children live is around 150 percent! People around here sweat just thinking about having to leave their air conditioned homes. It is a constant drip, drip, drip from parts of the body I never knew could sweat. Lots of creepy critters and insects thrive in the humidity . . . slugs, snails, super worms, Armadillos, turtles, and lots of overweight men who like to stand in their yards with no shirts on! The humidity allows the plants to take over too . . . everything is green around the South. We have been in a drought for so long in Montana I had forgotten how bright green really was . . . it hurt my eyes to see all that green.
Hunger! Though I know that there are people who are hungry in the South, one wouldn't know it by looking around. First of all, there are restaurants and fast food places everywhere! You can find just about every type of food imaginable in the South . . . they will cook anything and everything! Deep fat frying makes everything taste the same . . . like chicken. Second of all, they like to eat down in the South . . . and it shows. I feel like I died and ended up in the land of my people--pudgy and happy! Besides everything being friend it also has lots of sugar in it--especially the tea. Now I have always drank my tea unsweeten, but down in the South a person gets a choice--sweet or unsweeten. If you are diabetic or near-diabetic this could kill you. I don't mind a little sugar in my tea, though I prefer none, the syrup at the bottom of a glass is a little too much. Now growing up with Southern parents I know how to eat Southern, but if I were to stay in the South more than a week I would soon be pushing the "one ton crew".
Honor! I guess I must be finally growing into my age . . . I am beginning to look old. Not sure if it is the graying hair, the wrinkled skin, or the pot belly, but with age comes respect and honor. I have been called "Sir" more times than I am comfortable with as I associate "Sir" with my father or all those old guys sitting on the front porch spitting and chewing. I always look around myself to see who people are referring to when they call me "Sir"--turns out it is me! Not really sure that I have met the criteria for "Sir-dom", but down South you become a "Sir" once you hit the AARP age requirement.
My father used to tell us children that "being Southern is all a state of mind." I imagine that what I have experienced is not that much different than what someone from the South would experience if he or she were to visit Montana . . . unique, different, but in the end not that different. I think that all of us have our places of comfort--especially when it comes to where we live. It is where we know what to expect, what the traditions and myths are, and the little idiosynycrities that make each and every place a culture unto itself. Yet, deep within it all is the pull to share it with others . . . to welcome others in . . . to be hospitable. There is a little "southern hospitabilty" wherever one goes. Still, hospitality or not, humidity sucks no matter where it is found. Yeah, the South is a nice place to visit but it is not home . . . home is where the heart is. My heart is in Montana.