Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Southern Discomfort

I am in trouble with my Mom. Maybe my Dad too, but I am not sure.

What happened was that I made what I thought was an innocuous comment about the South being all about living in trailers and hunting and how I felt disconnected from it sometimes. I also talked about how I thought Northeastern Catholics were more "Catholic" than Southern Catholics. Both comments were made in humor, but my little sister read it and then ran and tattled on me. Shades of childhood. (She denies tattling, by the way.)

So in the interest of family harmony I feel compelled to offer up this clarification.

I am proud to be from the South. I don't think that Southerners all live in trailers or that trailers are a shelter that is unique to the South. I also know that people from all parts of the country, indeed the world, hunt, so it is obviously not a uniquely Southern thing. And even if it were it would not be a bad thing. Much of my extended family hunts, including my sister's husband who is probably sighting in his deer rifle in preparation for the next time he sees me.

What I meant by the comment was that I sometimes feel disconnected from being a Southerner because I don't hunt or fish and that, while they are not unique to the South, they certainly are a major thread of the fabric that is Southern life. I could get into all sorts of Southern stereotypes here, and while the South is obviously much more than a stereotype, what I meant was that I sometimes -- many times really -- feel very disconnected from it because I don't fall into any of those stereotypes. And let's be honest, things don't become stereotypes unless there is some truth to them.

I probably feel this way at least in part because I have spent much of my adulthood traveling and associating with people from all over the country and even the world. There is a saying in the Air Force that you don't see people as Northern or Southern or black or white or Catholic or Jewish or Southern Baptists. You see them as blue and nothing much else matters.

And maybe that is my real problem. Since I have moved often, I have a hard time identifying with any area of the country or any group of people except the Air Force which was a long time ago, but still is very much a part of me.

But I am working on it. We have lived here for eight years now -- the longest we have lived anywhere since my childhood -- and slowly but surely we are developing a local identity. One I enjoy, although I refuse to wear overalls to church.

As to the Catholic comment. Well, that was a joke too and the more I try to explain what I meant the harder it becomes to do so. Let's just say that I wasn't trying to insult Catholics or Southern Baptists and especially not the Pope.

So let me end this by again proclaiming my love for the South and the Pope and my wonderful parents who probably from time to time feel like they brought the wrong baby home from the hospital.

And as to my sister. Well, one day soon I will tell the "climbing on the roof of the Glass Kitchen diner" story and set the record straight as to who is the "good" one.