Archive for September, 2021

Welcome to the South

September 28, 2021

You may have noticed that there’s a boatload of fear and anger stirring up all our waters lately. Some of it’s reality-based and some not, but the personal emotional experience is sadly the same.

I confess I’m something of a political junkie.  I’ve always considered politics fascinating, though even as a spectator hobby, it’s not always good for my health.  Kind of like living in Arkansas and rooting for the Razorbacks.  An endless parade of hope and despair.

Still, I’m not inclined to change my stripes at this advanced age.

Woo Pig Sooie.

(Update, 9-28-21: Razorbacks have been kicking some Texas butt lately.)

But I have learned a few tricks for keeping my sanity up and my blood pressure down.  I realize I have an outlet unnatural to many people, but it certainly works for me: songwriting.

I’ve got a whole YouTube channel of ‘em.  The most recent inspiration took me way back to my roots.  It’s called “Welcome to the South.” The Link is at the bottom of this post.

I was raised in north Texas, with family roots flowing down from Arkansas and Tennessee.  When I was a kid, with unwarranted and unsupported comedic aspirations, I liked to think I did a swell imitation of a southern accent.  It wasn’t until I was well grown that I was able to see and admit that the hick southern accent was the real me.  Any other speech pattern remotely more polished was the real imitation.

I spent a lot of years living out West, and even more living in south Texas, which tilts much more toward south of the border than south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Ah, but it turns out the South is in my blood, my accent and my breeding.  And with too many recent political turns in the land of my birthright, I’ve been distressed, disturbed, depressed, alarmed…and inspired.

Welcome to the South.

Land of Steel Magnolias.  I was raised by one, and every woman of my mom’s circle was cast from the same foundry.

Our breed is marked by our knack for being properly put together for all occasions, and our freaking ability to survive any challenge or disaster you can name with a sweet, and unexpectedly sincere, smile. And a covered-dish casserole, of course.

Again, as a wannabe wit in my youth, I liked to examine the entrants in the beauty contests people in the South used to regard as sacrosanct.  To me, those runway beauties all had the same fascinating expressions.

Readers, you can practice this at home: form your mouth into the biggest, widest, most teeth-baring smile (but don’t be showing the gums, honey, don’t overdo it), while your eyes stay wide, avoiding any tell-tale crinkle lines (you don’t want to invite those crows’ feet, girls!).  Those wide-eyes never could quite hide the fear or desperation or steely cut-throat competitiveness lurking just within, any more than the pancake make-up and perky, taped-up bustline could.

I am pretty sure I would have had a far less ruthless opinion of beauty contestants if anyone had ever tapped me to be in one.

But no, I was just left to write my little songs.  Bless all y’all’s hearts.

But that patented southern smile.  Part of me loved it then and loves it now.  I’ve owned and employed that smile a million times. 

That smile got me way down the road in a number of situations that would have reduced the strongest man to tearful blubbering.

For the true Southern Woman, her life has gone something like this:

“How ya’ll doing?”  ask countless friends, co-workers, bystanders, frenemies.

“Why, we’re fine, just fine.  Fine and dandy!”

Cue The Smile.

When the truth was:

My husband’s foolin’ around on me…or has left me…or drank up another paycheck this week…or is beating up on me and will never leave


My kid’s flunking out of school…or is on drugs… or hasn’t gotten in touch in ages…or has a disease that is breaking our hearts and bankrupting us in the bargain


I’ve just up and left…that no-good husband…that job with the too-handsy boss…the schooling that would have gotten me some economic freedom, because my family didn’t like it.


We’ve been eating Crisco on toast for a month since we both lost our jobs. Our insurance. Our house.


The latest damn hurricane left our home sitting in 3 feet of nasty muck.


The drought has forced us to declare bankruptcy and sell the farm that’s been in the family for 150 years.

You get the picture.

Cue the smile. If I can just put up a good face, it’ll all be okay.

I can get through it.

I’m fine!  Fine and dandy! How y’all doin’?  

(cue the subtle deflect-and-redirect).

I’m just fine! I can hold the whole dang mess together, wrangle the kids, keep the bill collector at bay, plot how to get my man back from the arms of that hussy, get mama to her weekly doctor visits, hold down my job, help with the PTA, lead the prayer circle, do the laundry, do the grocery shopping on a shoestring budget, check on grandpa at the nursing home, sort out the kids’ squabbles, carry one more baby, and in my spare time, try to save democracy.

Do not mess with this woman, ya’ll.  This good woman with the broad, sweet and believe-it-or-not sincere smile, and the barely disguised panic in her eyes.  

She’s the canary in the coal mine.

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