Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

North and South

I am a Yankee by birth. I was born on the frozen tundra of Wisconsin in an igloo. We were transported to and from school by dogsled. In the winter, we did not venture from our glacial home for months on end because do so would mean risking life and limb, or at least a really bad head cold. Chronic hat head and the need to layer robbed us of our fashion sense, so we grew up assuming that one cannot go wrong with flannel. Due to a congenital tongue malformation that has plagued generations of Wisconsinites, we are incapable of pronouncing the fricative "th", and so subsitute the plosives "d", (dere, dat, dah) or "t" (tirty, tree, tirty-tree)

Unbeknownst to me, these were some of the misconceptions that I faced when I journeyed South at the tender age of 18. I learned a lot that first year and after almost 20 years in the South, I'm still learning.

Despite the yawning chasm of cultural divergence, I married a Southern country boy. And though he had been succesfully citifed by the time I met him, his family remained firmly entrenched in their small town ways, antiquated attitudes, and stereotypical beliefs regarding those who hail from North of the Mason Dixon line. It has made for some mighty entertaining moments over our 13 years of marriage.

The first time I took my then fiancee, who had never been further north than Tennessee, home to Wisonsin was Christmas of 1992. They were having a brutal cold snap, with wind chills near 30 below zero. I, who had journeyed home a week before him, called to remind him to dress warmly. He assured me he would. My parents and I went to pick him up at the small municipal airport, which did not have the luxury of jetways like the large international airport from which he had departed. We, along with many other families eagerly awaiting the yuletide return of widely scattered loved ones, watched as passengers deplaned and made their way to accross the tarmac. As my beloved appeared at the hatch dressed in a leather bomber jacket, a silk shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots, two things happened.

First, the smile on his lips froze in place as the saliva on his exposed gums instantly crystallized, turning his boyish grin into an agonized rictus of disbelief. Secondly, his testicles retreated into his abdominal cavity with such force and velocity that he was momentarily convinced that they had simply disintegrated in the savage cold; frozen solid and fragmented into tiny, sperm laden shards. Everyone saw his reaction to the frigid conditions, and a collective exclamation of pity was heard, sort of like "Yeahhhoooooh." My Dad, though trying to amenable, could not resist muttering to my mother "Doesn't that boy have any sense?"

Well, yes, he had plenty of sense, but he had Southern sense, not Northern sense. He simply had no frame of reference for judging cold of such bone piercing brutality. "Cold" in Georgia means throw on a jacket and you can always take it off if it's too much. Cold in Wisonsin means long underwear and Goretex, and a stadium blanket in the trunk in case its not enough. I blamed myself for not explaining the difference between stiff nipple cold and mother of god I can't feel my butt cheeks cold and specifying that we were dealing with the latter. But my Dad wasn't buying it. He grumbled sotto voce to my mother, "It's cold, you put on a sweater for Chrissake."

Despite the rocky start, my husband and my family actually hit it off quite well, and the rest of the week went smoothly. My parents' annual New Year's Eve bash was my first opportunity to show him off to those outside the family. Being a pretty great guy, he made a good impression and scored big points by proving his willingness to laugh along with everybody else when he complained that the beer sitting outside the back door would not be sufficiently cold for his taste and when it was revealed in a semi-drunken revelry that he knew all the words to "Sweet Home Alabama."

He endured it all with good humor, but the first Thanksgiving with his family a month previous has proven just as harrowing for me, so he owed me one. After five years of spending my solitary Thanksgivings in front of the tv eating pumpkin flavored ice cream out of the carton, I was looking forward to a family Thanksgiving dinner. My mouth was watering at the thought of turkey and stuffing, and all the accompaniments. I chose a nice dry Chardonnay to bestow upon my future in-laws, hoping to make a good impression.

When we arrived, the kitchen was awash with aromas; some familiar, some decidedly alien. I spied several dishes that were unidentifiable to me, but, being gastronomically adventurous, I resolved to try everything. I hugged my future mother in law and handed her the bottle of wine. She thanked me graciously, then apologized for the lack of a corkscrew and placed the bottle on the uppermost shelf in her kitchen cabinet, next to a coffe can full of nuts and bolts, and a bedraggled plastic floral arrangement.

My fiancee whispered in my ear "Chattooga is a dry county, hon." Wha??? A dry county? I thought those were a myth, like tar paper shacks and people marrying their first cousin, both of which, I later found, were not in fact, myths. "Why didn't you TELL me?" I hissed back. He shrugged..."I thought you knew." I momentarily considered asking for it back; it was a $40 bottle of Mer Soleil, after all. But I decided it would be in poor taste, so I resigned myself to drinking ice water with the meal. I couldn't help but cast one last longing glance at the lovely Chardonnay, which did not go unnoticed.

We settled in at the table whereupon I was given the dubious honor of saying Grace. I couldn't help but think it was test of some kind, though in reality, it was most likely just a kind gesture meant to made me feel welcome and included. Having already exposed myself as a raging alcoholic, I was reluctant to add Godless Heathen to the quickly lengthening list of shortcomings. Nevertheless, I passed the buck to my fiance with as much diplomacy as I could, as my mealtime prayer repertoire had never evolved beyond "Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub." The ease with which he channelled Jerry Falwell was slightly disconcerting, but I chose to overlook it in light of the fact that he had saved me from being branded a drunken impious wretch by people I would have had to spend the next 30 or 40 years sucking up to in an effort to convince them that I am not the devil's concubine and our children his imps.

At long last the food was served, and most of it seemed perfectly palatable. By and by, however, I was passed a Pyrex bowl filled with something that resembled kelp and smelled like feet. I looked up to find half a dozen pairs of eyes fixed upon me expectantly. My future father-in-law proudly pronounced, "Them's Collard Greens. Linda boils em with streaked (pronounced stree-ked) meat for flavor." "Is that so?" I replied. I did not know what streaked meat was, and I wasn't sure I wanted to. Reminding myself of my resolve to try everything, I enthusiastically placed a pulpy dab upon my plate.

I found myself repeating that reminder when I was handed a bowl of liquid the color and consistency of snot. I hesitated, uncertain of its exact purpose. My savior fiancee once again came to my rescue and informed me cheerily, "It's giblet (hard G, as in gross) gravy. You serve it over the cornbread dressing." Ah yes, the granular substance that was passed to me immediately preceding the snot. Gotcha. I dipped the ladle into the viscous fluid, carefully avoiding the unindentifiable animal matter bobbing merrily on the surface, surmising that is was a pancreas or a gall bladder or some such thing. As the aroma wafted up from my plate my resolve weakened somewhat. But, I reasoned, I had swallowed plenty of snot over the course of my life, and since this was an actual foodstuff, it couldn't possibly be any worse. It turns out I was wrong. Profoundly, tragically, egregiously wrong.

The lesson I learned that day is....don't put anything that smells like feet in your mouth, and there are things in this world that taste worse than snot.

To be fair, there were some truly delectible dishes on the table that day. My mother-in-law can make the lightest, flakiest, most succulent apple turnovers you have ever tasted in your life. They call them fried apple pies. I call them orgasmic. She can make biscuits of transcendant fluffiness, creamed taters that melt in your mouth, and fried chicken that defies description. I've never mastered the art of frying chicken despite her patient instruction, and I definitely do not have the biscuit gene, so despite the initial shock of my first experience with collard greens and giblet gravy, I have to admit to her superiority in the kitchen.

Since that fateful day 13 years ago, we've struggled through many issues related to our cultural differences. Some, such as collard greens, were trivial, and easy to laugh at later. Some of the differences were deeper and harder to reconcile and some we still labor to overcome. But I've learned that my in-laws are good, kind, and generous people and that a lazy drawl can disguise a keen intellect and quick wit.

I still pine for home, of course. And no matter how many years I've been here, I still can't get into the Christmas spirit without snow or cope with the crushing humidity during the interminable summer. But I've learned to appreciate the genteel charm, rich history, and easy hospitality of the South.

After 20 years, I guess it's growing on me. Now, if we could just do something about the Metro area traffic, I might be persuaded to stay.


  • At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    HA! Excellent! Dh and I have differences, as I'm originally a city kid and he's straight off a farm. Believe me, we have our stories, but your family anecdotes are much more diverse, and MUCH funnier! Thanks for the laughs.

  • At 8:28 AM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    I was in a dry county once --longest 6 hours of my life.

    This is utterly fantastic. Have you considered a career as a memoirist? I think you've found your millieu.

  • At 5:05 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Hmmm, I never really considered it. Is there a market for such a thing?

    Thanks for the kind compliment. :?)

  • At 12:27 AM, Blogger Wendy said…

    Very funny and...colorful!! Great post!

  • At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you think that stuff's for real? I tend to think it's all a front:

    "genteel charm, rich history, and easy hospitality of the South."

    Charm: read kissing ass
    Rich History: read HIS-story
    Easy hospitality: see Charm

    (at least in MS...)


  • At 2:06 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    LOL! In some ways, you are very right.

    But, where I come from, people are very....reserved. Like, you don't make conversation in line at the grocery store reserved. It's very different here. I'd say that generally speaking, Southerners are friendlier and more outgoing.

    Now there's a whole lot of bad stuff I could say about the South (just ask my husband)...but I do have to live with a Southerner, so I have to curb my tongue a little.

    As far as History goes, slavery, and the abolishment of it, happened. I don't think there's any way to ignore it or sweep it under the rug, so we try to learn from it. My kids, being boys, tend to glamorize war, and we've made an effort to make them see how at one time it ravaged our country and tore it apart, and how subjugating an entire race divided out nation. I think they get it.

    I've been to Missippi. It was....unique. I wouldn't call it the armpit of the South...I'll reserve that honor for Alabama. Georgia at least has Atlanta to keep things somewhat civilized so maybe I'm not getting the full flavor of the South. Who knows?

  • At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, I'm here from Mom-101. That was an amazing post. I can appreciate some of the differences because I too am a Yankee transplant and my hubby is a Southern boy, although we don't have quite the entertaining story. :-)

    Thanks for the smiles this morning!

  • At 11:21 AM, Blogger Suburban Turmoil said…

    This was a great post. Congrats on your Perfect Post award! You deserve it.

    I'm from Georgia and I actually wrote an entire post about how much I hated Thanksgiving growing up and all of the menu choices. I know collard greens and giblet gravy well. Eww.

    My husband is from California and worked in Green Bay for a few years. He has many stories about the bone-chilling cold and how inexperienced he was in handling it. Funny stuff!

  • At 11:54 AM, Blogger Shalee said…

    Hello... Here from Mom 101.

    Well, see now, I read this with a twist because I am the Southerner in this story. I, being from Tennessee, never knew what cold was according to my husband from Nebraska. (I didn't even know where NE was; I admit looking it up on the map.) When I decided to move up north to this unknown (and still fairly unchartered) state, he said that it would be fine, but we would have to go shopping because I didn't have any winter clothes.

    What? I did too, and I proceeded to show him all the heavy duty sweaters and coats I owned. He just smiled and said, "You'll see."

    I did.

    How do people live in that weather? My blood froze the moment I set foot there.

    The up side was that I got a whole new wardrobe out of the deal and I felt like Pretty Woman. The down side is that I still am trying to hide my frostbite markings... not so pretty.

    My turn to laugh at them was when I went into the electric company to pay a bill and two ladies were discussing about how humid it was.

    That pleasant day was humid? Good night nurse... They would never make it on the banks of the Mississipi.

    And as far as the food goes, ummm, I'm with you on the collard greens and snot gravy. Oh, and I don't care for sweetened ice tea, cornbread or black-eyed peas. Blech.

  • At 11:56 AM, Blogger Catherine said…

    Wow. I am ever-amazed at what fantastic writing lies inside so many women's blogs (and men's, I'm sure, but I haven't really looked into theirs). MOM101 is right... you need to be cashing in.

  • At 12:18 PM, Blogger Jess Riley said…

    As a native Wisconsinite with Alabaman relatives, I think I love you. And I mean that in a completely non-stalkerish, platonic way.

  • At 1:03 PM, Blogger MrsFortune said…

    Also here from Mom-101. What a tremendous post! My husband and I also come from pretty different cultural backgrounds and you captured the pitfalls of that so accurately. LOVED IT, certainly deserves the "pefect post" award. :-)

  • At 1:03 PM, Blogger MrsFortune said…

    Also here from Mom-101. What a tremendous post! My husband and I also come from pretty different cultural backgrounds and you captured the pitfalls of that so accurately. LOVED IT, certainly deserves the "pefect post" award. :-)

  • At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I came here from Mom 101 too. What a riot! Your description of your hub disembarking the plane is PRICELESS.

    I'm a New Englander married to a West Texas boy so I know these stories far too well! You describe them far better than I ever could.

    Inexplicably, I love collard greens (streek-ed meat is bacon or salt pork, I think - I choose not to ask). Come to think of it I was obsessed with Southern food long before I moved south. Go figure.

  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    who knew all these people were reading me! BA, you bring out my lurkers. Bravo.

  • At 8:02 PM, Blogger Kimberly said…

    Wonderful post!! Over our 12 year marriage we've moved from VA to Oklahoma - from there to Atlanta - from there to San Francisco and then back to VA. I can totally relate to all the differences (good and bad) you so brilliantly illustrate here.

    Bravo on your award!!

  • At 12:58 AM, Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said…

    Congratulations! That was truly a perfect post. Mom101 sent me too, so I knew you had to be great. I think, now I've found your site, that I'll be back regularly for a snoopsee.

    My husband is from Minnesota and I'm from he Outer Hebrides of Scotland (we like in CA now). He criticizes my pronunciation of tomatoes and basil, but I can take him any day of the week in a whohadthechilliestchildhood-off, any day of the week. Dry midwest midwinters will surely freeze your bits and bobs off in an alarming 'my God! They're blue!' kind of way, but a wild, wet Atlantic wind will turn the marrow of your bones into a slushy sno-cone with fewer e-numbers. Nothing will thaw it except a golden drink of something infernal and a bawdy joke. And you thought we Celts drink a lot 'cos we like it? Nopeynopenopenope. It's survival of the internally-lit-est there.

    In CA, I often get toasty warm British expat's guilt at the great weather we have and have lied before, to family and friends on the phone in Britain, about the shocking rain we've been having.

    Again, truly a perfect post. You rock and I think I'm a new fan.

  • At 11:26 AM, Blogger Movin Mom said…

    Here via mom-101
    Briliant, I am not only a native Texan my hubby is a midwesterner, but we could also write a book because I am hispanic and he is not so we both have some first's
    different cultures different up-bringing. oh I might add that we live in the mid-west.

  • At 3:24 PM, Blogger Table4Five said…

    Also came from Mom101. Great post! Your description of your in-laws Thanksgiving dinner had me both laughing and cringing. My Dad's ladyfriend is from Arkansas, and she has a very different way of cooking from us here in Michigan.

    Incidentally, you can hear words like dem and dere and dose in Michigan's Upper Peninsula too.

  • At 12:27 PM, Blogger zinalasvegas said…

    Hey! Add me to the posse from Mom-101. What a great post. I'm married to a man from Uzbekistan so man do I hear ya on the cultural chasms and all. Word! But it's so amazing to see where the lives become sewn together.

    I think I want an orgasmin fried apple pie RIGHT NOW.

  • At 10:57 PM, Blogger Karyn said…

    Once I stop gagging over the Giblet-Snot fiasco I will begin laughing until I hurt something.

    My husband was a military / government child who lived in the middle and far east, who lived in the west and in the south, and who for a number of stupid reasons wound up in the far northeast regions of the US , married to a Yankee.

    I assure you, the "What Means Cold To You vs What Means Cold To Me" discussion takes place at least twice per year. Happily he is thrilled with our food and cooking generally and I do not have to know a collard green on sight, nor do I have to identify or befriend a grit. We will not discuss giblet anything. That is absolutely revolting.

    Too funny.

    Although I would like to say, despite my Way North Of The Mason Dixon Line Heritage, I'm pretty chatty and friendly; even in the grocery line!


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