Friday, October 22, 2010

Operation: Vampire in the Sun

Southerners are viscious. There is an entire culture dedicated to disguising this and if you live in the South, you learn to navigate. But it’s been a long time since I had to do so…and there are things you forget. Which is unfortunate, because I am in SOUTH Carolina. Attending the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, watching Suzie Townsend rock the world. It is very different from living in New York City. As Diana Fox so elequently put it, it's like a vampire walking into the sun and starting to sizzle. It's just clear you're out of your element. I’d forgotten so much, but it’s coming back rapidly and I would be remiss if I didn’t pass this along. I can’t have any more blood on my hands. The below are some guidelines for surviving.

1. Move slowly.

  • You’re going to feel exposed and vulnerable. All that flat, “open” space. No skyscrapers. Your weak spots are visible from effing Russia without some skyscrapers running interference. Ignore that. Don’t run. No sudden movements. The Russians are not your concern right now, and southerners, your current risk, consider economy of movement an insult of the highest order. Languish. Walk slowly. Speak slowly. Pretend you’re some sort of royalty; lord knows everyone else does.

2. Make Eye Contact

  • I know. This sounds like a recipe for death. In the natural world, making eye contact is a sign of aggression. In New York, this sort of crazy never happens. It’s code for “Hey, let’s rumble.” But that’s because New York is a part of the natural world. You’re in the south, my friend. I tried to ignore the eye-contact-making tendencies for as long as possible, but after the tenth person looked me in the eye and smiled (read: bared her teeth), I snapped. I bared mine right back and did her one better: I snarled. It was only after the woman burst into tears for the rest of the elevator ride that I realized I may have miscalculated. She shouldn’t have cornered me like that.

3. Be friendly

  • Come to find out, smiling is different than baring one’s teeth. It’s important not to confuse the two and to realize that, in fact, people in the south consider it threatening if you don’t smile at them. My recommendation, one I’m still experimenting with to figure out all the angles, is just to go with it. Better not to draw attention to yourself when in hostile territory. The risk, however, is that you may end up in the terrifying situation where you can’t extricate yourself. Once a southerner gets their hooks into you, you’re essentially in the grips of a boa constrictor. It could be a slow, crushing death or you could play dead and escape.
  • Should it come to that, your “play dead” option is to make “small talk.” Stall. Keep talking. It’s like a trance they go into, and it’s the only way to buy time before their blood lust surfaces.
  • Suggested small talk topics:
    1. Food allergies
    2. Weather
    3. Politics*
  • 4. Religion*
    5. Family scandals*

*These have particularly high time-purchasing power.

4. When going through a door, let the southerner get behind you.

  • Again, it sounds like a recipe for death. Who would willingly let an opponent out of their sight? Who would give an enemy a clear tackle? But go with me on this. If you argue this point, you will literally die before you emerge from the conflict. If a southerner says “Go ahead,” you better go. Any other response will trigger a long string of “No, I insist.” and “No, YOU go ahead, really.” Years later, you will starve to death.

5. Foster malice in your heart.

  • Even as you’re smiling, greeting people, and sauntering along, know that everyone is judging you. Your makeup, clothes, haircut, diction, and lineage. This is their secret, my friends. Southern gentility seems forced because it is. It’s just there to hide an insatiable bloodlust that, as soon as you forget it’s there, will have your throat on the floor.

Fear not. You know the truth, and information is the most powerful weapon you could possibly possess. I have every confidence. Go with God.

24 comments:

clindsay said...

I think this made me laugh so hard I ruptured something. And am now forwarding to my dear (Southern) sister-in-law!

Lela Gwenn said...

Well Bless your Heart! Aren't you just the Cleverest thing!
** Big smile but my eyes keep shifting to your hips, your purse and the fact that you are wearing black. Are you in mourning? **

Livia said...

Okay, maybe the walking slowly thing I can do, but eye contact? Are you serious? Why don't you just ask me to jump into moving traffic while you're at it?

Tanya said...

Bless your heart for sharing that.

Keri Stevens said...

Seriously (and in all seriousness, I'm serious) instead of making eye contact, stare at the bridge of the nose. That way it LOOKS like you're making eye contact, but your soul won't get sucked away from the devil (who hangs out, frequently, in the South).

Sara McClung ♥ said...

haha this is SO true! I went to school in the south and can vouch for all of this :)

Tere Kirkland said...

What do you expect from a culture that says How you doin'? instead of hello? Just say Alright, and nod, and keep walking.

And don't forget to eat something deep fried. Also, stop sweating when it's only 90 degrees out. We can smell your fear.

Sarah W said...

I read this post, comments and all to my MIL, and this is her reply, verbatim:

Wahl, Mizz Kirkland, now, you know we Suthun ladies don't swehut. That's for *horses*, deah.

Ladies *glow*---if their Mamas raised them raht? New Yohk ladies just haven't had the *advantages*.

Bless 'em.

Lynne Kelly Hoenig said...

This is fabulous! What a brilliant guide for Northerners visiting the South.

Remember, you can say anything you want as long as you preface it with "Bless your heart." See Celia Rivenbark's book Bless Your Heart, Tramp for examples: "Bless her heart, isn't wonderful that after only 5 months of marriage she had that beautiful ten-pound baby!" or "Bless his heart, you could put his brain on the head of a pin and it would roll around like a BB on a five-lane highway."

Jamie Council said...

As a born and bread Southerner I have to say...you definitely nailed us on the head. I giggled as I read it because this is very similar to the advice I give my nonSouthern friends before they come visit me.

however, beware of the ladies that smile and say, "That's nice," because the actual meaning is, "F*ck you!" Oh and don't tell anyone I told you or I'll get kicked out of the club.

Christi Goddard said...

Yes, eye contact is definitely a culture thing. I was raised to have eye contact at all times. It lets the other person know you're interested and paying attention. To look away means you don't value what they're saying. I can't imagine being in a room full of people who wouldn't look me in the eye. I'd worry I had my fly down or something in my teeth they were avoiding looking at.

HBIC said...

Well, I had to read this since I am indeed, a dweller of South Carolina. I am no native to the area- only lived her about a year. I made the long haul from North Carolina. LOL.
Here is facts-
Agreed, don't trust a woman smiling. IF they smile and don't know you, they are fighting the urge to say, "Bless her heart" for what ever reason.
Mothers teach us to hold doors open for women and elderly.
If you don't make eye contact, you are either a robber or a liberal. They are more forgiving to the robbers, trust me. :(
All Southerners are not slow paced. Some have meth labs and sample the product.
BUT- here is some more that you may not know-
If you go out to eat- be sure to mention to the waiter/waitress that you are a yankee. Southerns do not tip well, Yankees do. (Folklore, I am sure, but you will get EXCELLENT service.
We do not wear black to funerals. Well, the mistress may- everyone else wears nice bright colors. A northern friend of mine attended my grandmother's funeral last year and was embarrassed that she was the only one in black. "I thought you had to wear black to a southern funeral." she said as she stood in black slacks and a hoodie. "This is these are the only black clothes that I brought."
On the plus side- A southerner will help you in any way possible- fix a flat, give you directions (by landmarks only), collecting personal loans, they even bail you out of jail with no explaining needed- but most important truth that I can offer:
If you need to get away from a Southerner, point the opposite way that you plan on running and scream, "Look, Bo- Ain't that Jeff Gordon?"
Welcome to my home state. If you need any more assistance, I am in Columbia.
(If you get a chance to visit the gay dolphin, do so-give them as much business as possible- I hear that our local government wants the name changed or the place of business gone. Yes. It is "that" conservative.)

HBIC said...

pardon my horrible spelling and randomly added words, I was rushing to give you the low down of the area before you missed the chance to use the Jeff Gordon line.....LOL

Em-Musing said...

Funny! I feel your antipathy. I am a displaced New Yorker. Have you tried any greens yet?

NiaRaie said...

Hahaha, this is too funny but true. I live in the south and people will stare you down until you smile at them. And that whole, holding the door thing? It WILL go on forever if someone doesn't just walk in first.

Anonymous said...

Slow speech and movements help you fast-paced Northerners to underestimate those of us from the warmer region of the country. Then we can enjoy that stunned look on your face when we make an intelligent counterpoint to your argument.

On another note, speaking quickly as y'all do, makes you sound like the reading-the-fine-print-gal at the end of car and drug commercials. That is to say, as if you're doing crystal meth. Or having a manic episode. Either way, we're ready with the tranquilizer gun.

You think the Carolinas are something? Wait till you have the chance for a visit to Texas. The cowboy hats and boots aren't for Halloween. And God help you if you snarl at a Texas woman, especially those wearing accessories made from dangerous animals.

Slow down, have some iced tea - you might find it brings your stress level down!

Oh, and New York is the 'natural' world? That's like calling Congressional politics a lesson in 'civility'!

Meredith Barnes said...

Just a note to anyone who doubts my street cred: I lived in Houston for 18 years. All these "LOLs?!" You think this is a JOKE, soldier?!

Trust me, I know this shiz.

kcoe said...

Love New York, but the south will always come first in my heart! This post was hilarious and most of it true (except maybe the always forced Southern gentility)... I can say one of the great things about being from the south is that there's a pride that comes along with it and a sense of family. The eye contact/door holding/friendliness are all things I love because they establish a sense of respect and appreciation for others. For me, it's definitely refreshing coming from the North where people aren't always as inclined to be polite/friendly (no one is Suite 500, obvs.) and arriving home where everybody says hi to each other! On the other hand... I think the North, particularly New York, has a sassiness that I LOVE. The Southerners may be less inclined to accept my gay posse.... fine.

Anywho, I hope that yall survived and most importantly, I hope you got the chance to eat HUSHPUPPIES... God's gift to the world.

Courtney Diles said...

Also, if you get any "Mm mm mms," or "Bless your heart!"s with a shake of the head, please read: "God above, you're an idiot."

Lindsay said...

This nearly made me pee myself!!! I'm from Alabama! You're so right about the family scandals, politics, and religion! What you said about the eye contact was really illuminating for me. I've always wondered why people from places like NY act uncomfortable when I make eye contact. Now I know!! And, yeah, in the South, if people don't smile when they walk by/look at you/insult you, it's considered strange/rude. I actually get tired of all the smiling, too- but it's a must! :) Y'all take care, now!

Lindsay said...

Should have read and seen you lived in Houston! You know all our tricks!

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised nobody asked you if you have been saved!

Holly Dodson said...

Another Southerner here, and boy did you hit the nail on the head with this!

But, HBIC, down here we DO wear all black to funerals -- and you better have heels and pantyhose on! Show up in something else and you'll be mauled by all the 'bless her hearts' and razor-sharp glares.

HBIC said...

haha..wow, where in the south do you live? I have lived in the Carolina's my entire life and the only time that I have worn black to a funeral was with my fishnets. I can not think of anyone that I have seen wear black besides maybe a suit with a bright vibrant tie...LOL...wow....

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?