Southern Belle. (An Essay)

I was born in a small hospital in Newberry, South Carolina. My mother tells me that she was able to walk up the street to give birth to me. I was raised on grits, cornbread [sweet like pound cake], collard greens garnished with pork, and tea sweet enough to make your teeth hurt. My form of public transportation growing up was the back half of my cousin’s bicycle seat, and I felt the grip of death if I didn’t make it indoors before my street lights came on. We had water hoses, not fire hydrants to use for instant water parks in our backyards. I knew the first name of my Ice Cream Truck Man, because he was usually one of the neighbors. I played My Car, Your Car on my front porch, spent at least 1 1/2 hours on the yellow bus to school every morning. I didn’t speak when grown-ups were talking, and I said “ma’am/sir” as the periods to my sentences. I smile when I smell ribs and fried catfish in the air during the summer (At Cookouts…not Barbecues) and see the school cancellations on the news due to signs of frost. Slamming the screen door is a sign of disrespect, and so is not bringing a dish with you when visiting someone’s home. Fried chicken is considered a food group, and I’ve seen my family members prepare, cook, and eat every part of a pig’s body.I grew up wearing frilly dresses to church and pink foam rollers to bed. Adults are automatically given respect and the elderly are given your seat. We had porches, not stoops. Soda, not pop. I spoke stretching my vowels and smiling at strangers. Church was not optional and I said grace as soon as I could learn to speak full sentences. My first instrument was the tambourine, and my cousin and I fought usually over my mom’s church fan. Family did everything together & it was my older brother’s duty to hold my hand in public when we were small. I learned to fear Whites more than I was taught to hate them. I started going to the shop (not salon) when I was 10 years old. I learned that community is as much as your family as your own kin. And I never received a single time-out in my entire life….unless you mean the time it took to go get my own switch.

Laid back & friendly. Generous & charming. True Southern women are more than their portrayed scantly clothed bodies & round, rotund behinds. We are more than “ya’lls” and huge church hats. Crazy hairstyles & kool-aid. The women who raised me taught me in the Southern tradition: family, dignity, and grace. I am deeply southern-bred, and it is one of the facts about myself that I am the proudest.

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