08 June 2010

On Southern Hospitality

While I have really enjoyed my time here in VA a lot, I really won't miss the pretense of "southern hospitality." At first the friendliness of people was a bit refreshing. The idea that people would say hi, and be nice, was a new experience, an experience quite different from the northeast where everyone keeps to themselves (or even goes out of their way to be jerks). However, after two years, it is wearing thin and, quite frankly, I can see through the veil of the hospitality myth.

In actuality, this so-called "southern hospitality" is just a convenient forum in which to embrace one's own narcissism. This is not to say that people in any one region are more narcissistic, certainly it is an epidemic in this country, but I have noticed that people here have just found a more, shall we say creative, way to express it. What starts out as friendly conversation soon develops into an endless onslaught of being told just what you should do about whatever happens to be the topic at hand. Under the guise of sympathy and empathy a true southern friend will turn every conversation they have into a chance to tell the other party exactly "what's what" about said party's life.

For some it is merely a cultural affectation, a simple learned behavior because that is what everyone does, but for others, it borders on pathological. The "true southern belles/gentlemen" operate under the genuine belief that they know what is best for everyone (due to a wonderful combination of how human nature always makes us think our choices are the only right ones and the aforementioned perceived sympathy/empathy) and, perhaps more importantly, that it is their civic duty to inform everyone of what is best for them. This is a calling dear readers. Much like being the slayer, it finds you, you certainly don't choose it.

You know that passive-aggressive family member/friend/co-worker who basically tortures the crap out of you all day about everything and then, when you finally snap just snivels "I was only trying to help."? You all know the one. Now imagine an entire sub-culture of American society based on the idea that it is totally acceptable to rudely dictate the behaviors of other as long as you are "just trying to help." I am generally at a loss for how to deal with these situations because it is culturally foreign to me and because I am a bit of a conflict avoider. Not being willing to be equally rude and just say "bugger off," I am at the mercy of the endless "help" that my friends and neighbors so generously offer. For two years, that has been this northern gal's personal hell.

Granted, people all over this fine nation suffer from the belief that they know the one and only true way. That is just what it means to be human. As an oldest sister of sisters, raised by an oldest sister, no one is more self-assured by their own "rightness" than I.  I just find that in the northeast, people spend a lot less time telling you about it. My FIL has a theory that the climate bred a high level of individualism and self-sufficiency that created a culture of people who prefer to "mind their own business." Since, in NY at any rate, there are about three weeks when it is not too hot/cold/rainy/stormy/humid/buggy/dry or otherwise life-threatening, you really had to keep your shit together and haul ass just to survive. Your time was not spent making unnecessary friends or handing over the "wisdom" of your survival skills to the new neighbors. Sure everyone who lives up there are self-centered-know-it-all-jerks, but the cultural mentality is to just keep it to your damn self.

I like keeping it to my damn self. You want to tell the world how they are doing it wrong and how right you are, just do what everyone else does in this day and age…get a blog. After all, that is what I do, so it must be right.

Eight more weeks, I just need to keep from being featured on Snapped for eight more weeks…


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