I miss life “up north.” I know the vast number of loved ones, friends and acquaintances here in the DC area are unable to really understand what I’m talking about...after all, DC is south of the Mason Dixon line. “Is it really the South???” you ask? To that I say “Uh...yeah...you have no idea how freakin’ ‘south’ it is.” I live in Manassas, Virginia, a Civil War town where the Battle of Bull Run was fought, where Rebel flags are standard, and the twang of a distinctly “Virginian” accent is de rigueur. You still hear racist undertones and white folks referred to as "crackers". You also can find collard greens at any number of places, along with some of the best fried chicken I've had in my life. Now pizza? THAT is a different story entirely. The pizza down here is a sad state of affairs for this girl. Mind you, I neither consider Pizza Hut nor Domino's real pizza. There is a place down the street that is passable, but only by minimal standards.
Please understand, I don’t have a problem with the southern societal customs, etc. (except for the racist stuff which really ticks me off.) In fact, I was born in Richmond, although my time there was extremely short. In truth, much of this area I have come to embrace, and even find charming. I have been in the DC metro area for over 25 years. I am marrying a self-professed southern Virginia redneck, a true southern gentleman who swept me off my feet with his very southern manners (instilled in him by his very southern parents), and his soft, deep, slow southern drawl. I will say that when Bill comes home from a hunting trip, it usually takes a week for his unusually thick accent, brought on by his time with his southern Virginia buddies, to fade away to a point where I can actually understand what he is saying again. It’s not unpleasant, it’s more like a foreign language, sort of like someone talking with a bunch of marbles in their mouth. Not to worry, I’ve said this to him before. He’s aware of my inability to understand his “redneck hunting accent.” He usually laughs at me, and makes some joke about me and my “northern” blood. His southern buddies also take great pleasure in teasing me about my northern roots. All in good fun. :)
Like I said, it isn’t that I dislike the South, or that I long to live back in the Northeast...far from it. I read facebook posts and talk to family and friends back home. They’re buried in snow until sometime in April, and see their last frost sometimes as late as May. My blood has become incredibly thin living in a milder climate. The older I get, the more appealing moving further south becomes. But there is something about "northern hospitality and charm” that beckons me back at least a few times a year. I am blessed with one of those trips this weekend, so I will venture back to Manhattan for a work-related meeting. I’ve got my free 36 hours completely mapped out...shopping in midtown, dinner, drinks, catching up with friends, brunch in Little Italy followed by a trip to Century 21 and Soho for more shopping downtown. Somewhere in my travels I will surely stop by a Ray's Pizza for "a slice and a coke", and more than likely I will find myself wandering Times Square after dark, for this is truly one of the most magical places on earth once the sun goes down. But what I will enjoy most are the people, with their brusque demeanors and their very deliberate direction...always purposefully headed to somewhere, generally at breakneck speed. People move faster up North, quite possibly because it’s so damn cold that moving faster helps them stay warmer. Down here, everyone’s movement seems almost languid, as if they are somehow stuck in low gear. As focused and driven as people in the nation’s capital can be, they cannot hold a candle to their northern counterparts when it comes to getting where they need to be quickly. And when the heat and humidity of summer comes calling, they move even slower.
Something else I have noticed...Southern people instinctively believe Northerners to be rude. I have often said in response to this accusation that this is simply not true. A northerner may run you over, but almost always they will say “excuse me” while they are running you over. Rarely is it on purpose; they are merely focused on getting “somewhere” quickly, and you got in the way...totally an accident.
So here I am, living in the “gray” area. I occasionally catch myself saying “y’all” but my heart will always bleed “blue.” Southern charm? Yep, I am privileged to live in it every single day, but I will always miss that “Northern aggression.” It’s part of my soul, and that will never change.