Through the Southern Mirror

Jennifer Hollie Bowles, my first guest blogger, offers a Southern belle’s perspective on both the North and South.

So, I guess I’m a Southern Belle looking at the North. I lived in the South for most of my life until January 2013, when my husband and I moved to the Boston, MA area. There are many things I can’t stand about the South, and just as many things that I love.

I’m so leery of the government that I think my granny put conspiracy theory serum in my green beans as a child. Plus, while I haven’t been religious since the 5th grade, give me a good apocalyptic doomsday speech, and I’jesusiscomingm all ears, whether it’s a preacher pimping Jesus or not.

I’ve experienced culture shock in the North, from bafflement over different colloquialisms and incorrect grammar to the sheer hordes of people and traffic EVERYWHERE. At first, I felt a little affronted by the directness and the fact that if someone is observing you, they simply don’t hide it. I’m starting to like this, though, and I feel a little sick when I think about spending all of those years in a cultural place where passive-aggressive attitudes were embedded in social interactions.

I’ve done enough searching within myself to recognize the effect that Southern culture has had on my individuality and perceptions, but those factors are small in comparison to the ways in which the South has always served as the counterpoint to my identity. I’ve rebelled against the Southern box of reality over and over again, and more than once, I’ve been referred to as a “devil” by family members and strangers alike, be it for my out-spoken writing, life choices, or simply my refusal to submit to their take on “normalcy.”

Generally speaking—or on the surface you might say—Southern thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and beliefs all represent what I do not think, do, feel, or believe, and that has remained consistent throughout my life. I used to bang my head against that wall of intolerance and backward thinking, but at some point, I stopped fighting, stepped out of the counterpoint ring, and accepted myself.

It took me nearly three decades to stop hating the South, to stop viewing it solely from an academic, intellectually critical lens. I finally realized that the hypocrisy that I hated in Southerners mirrored the hypocrisy that I was imposing on them. I don’t excuse the hypocrisy, but I do my best to focus on the positives underlying Southern modes of being.

I now look at the South in less general ways, or underneath the surface you might say. One of my many writing projects involves uncovering the meaning behind Southern expressions, and in doing so, I’ve discovered that there’s a deep love of mystery, symbols, patience, intuition, awareness, and connectivity. As a poet, I’m motivated by the same deep loves, and for those energies, I claim my Southern Belle-ness.

I am, however, down right (hehe) excited to be living in the North, and I’m about to take some Boston poetry readings by a Southern gal storm. At times, though, I find myself disappointed that no matter where I go, most people are addicted to sitcoms, shopping, and high-fructose corn syrup. If you ask me, consumerist homogeneity is far worse than a little Southern “hitch in the git-along” or a little Northern ridicule of “lobster-backs.”

Jennifer Hollie Bowles is a writer with entirely too many eggs in her basket (thank goodness they all have yolks). Her first full-length poetry book, Anarchy in a Dresser, is forthcoming in early 2014. Jennifer blogs at What’s a socioseer?

If you’re interested in guest blogging for the Carolina Yankee,  please contact me with your ideas.

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