Monday, March 3, 2014

"And The Southern Girls With The Way They Talk..."

It is an evening when Dr. M is working late.  I have completed my routine of daily responsibilities (exercise, blog writing and piano practice), and find myself able to tear myself away from binge-watching SVU reruns of episodes that I have already seen, but to which I do not recall the resolutions.

“Did him get off by reason of ‘Mental Defect’, or did the jury see through that legal subterfuge and throw the book at him?”  Or “Did she turn out to be the transgendered sibling of an unknowing brother, and that’s how her ‘male’ DNA turned out to be all over the murder scene?”  You see?  I listen.  I just seem to zone out at the “Finish Line.”

Uncharacteristically, I decide to leave the house, go to a movie – the commendable animated feature Frozen – and to take myself out to dinner – the True Food Kitchen, not to be confused with the nearby Real Food Daily, both catering to the health- conscious diner, but one of them in a more palatable manner, though my uncertain memory prevents me from recalling which of the two restaurants that is.

The tables are all taken, so I sidle over to the counter, and I take a stool.  I order a hot health drink, “The Natural” (concocted of ginger, agave and soda), a bowl of miso soup, and a quinoa burger on a gluten-free bun.  Hey, when in vegan Rome...

Bored, because the overhead lighting is too weak to illuminate my brought-along “Kindle” (now 51% completed) Les Miserables, I turn to the diner two seats down, who is eating a bowl of unidentifiable-looking soup, and I ask,

“Is that any good?”

“It’s quite tasty, actually” she replies, in an accent that distinctly announces, “I am not from around here.”   

I leave it at that, not wanting to appear creepy or predatory, and I taste my first sip of the now-cooled “The Natural.”

“And how’s that?” she inquires, much to my surprise, my interloping intrusion rewarded by a soft and inquisitive counter-query.  

Therefrom, a conversation between strangers ensues. 

Her name is Rachel.  She hails from Chattanooga, where she and her husband work at a trucking operation.  Rachel is here to participate in an intense, month-long medical program, the specific nature of which she confides to me, much to my surprise, and, somewhat, discomfort.  Not only am I talking to a stranger.  She is unburdening personal health concerns.

But even more noteworthy, at least by my idiosyncratic priority system, was this:

As evidenced by her identifiable accent, I was having my first conversation with an authentic “Southern Belle of the Confederacy.”

To that point, I had never had adulterated “honeysuckle” dished out in my direction in my entire – much of it spent North of the Forty-Ninth Parallel – existence.  I mean, Rachel’s telling me stuff, and all I’m hearing is the word “Plantation.”

As The Beach Boys Brian Wilson famously intoned,

“And the Southern Girls with the way they talk
They knock me out when I’m down there….”

Well, I wasn’t “down there”, but for the first time, I knew exactly what Mr. Wilson was talking about.  If I’d had one at my disposal, I would have definitely fanned myself.   Accompanying that gesture of disorienting discombobulation with a breathless,

“Oh, my!

Every Civil War and Tennessee Williams movie I had ever seen was sitting on the next stool over – she had moved closer so I could hear her better – that seductive regional mesmerism beaming exclusively at me.

I was contracting a serious case of the “vapors.”

When it came time to go our separate ways, Rachel, before departing, said, “Perhaps we shall meet again sometime.”

I could have melted clean way.

“That would be fine,” I replied, in my understated Northern patois.

“I’d like that too”, she agreed, her response wafting to my ears sheathed in scented magnolia blossoms. 

And then, she was gone. 

Leaving me with this burning question:

Had I just simply been the (grateful) recipient of your standard, Southern “charm offensive”? 

Or did she really mean what she said?

There are broader and deeper implications to this matter, which I shall assemble for tomorrow’s post.  Until then…

So long, y’all.

Nah.  It doesn’t work for me. 


Canda said...

I remember working in Nashville for a month in the 1970s, and that was pretty much standard behavior even publicly when interacting in stores. For some reason, I remember on a couple of occasions women asking if I minded if they took off their shoes. They were feeling somewhat frazzled from the heat and wanted to relax a bit.

"Shoes", btw, was pronounced in a long, soothing drawl.

It took everything in me not to whistle "Dixie".

Suzanne Faulkner said...

Y'all come back now, heah?