Growing up in the Deep South instills deeply held behavior patterns that are quite obviously not so important in other parts of the country. In my adult life I am genuinely shocked when I observe an acquaintance wearing white shoes in February. Number one rule on the list: Never wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day!
Easter in the Deep South is much, much more than a celebration of the resurrection. It is also a celebration of the beginning of spring. Nature chooses that opportunity to restore its plumage. Trees are beginning to sprout leaves. Jonquils push their way through the warming earth with their yellow glory. And someone please tell me how the dogwood trees always know its Easter, since it falls on a different day every year.
Easter is nature’s way to let us know that winter is not forever. Life begins again. In the Deep South this is cause for celebration. Planning begins well in advance. One must always visit the local department store to obtain a new frock and shoes for the morning church service. In the time of my youth the ritual also included a hat and white gloves. The shoes must, of course, be white and NEVER worn before Easter morning.
Southern sorority girls are regularly subjected to manners boot camp, which instills even more deeply ingrained behavior patterns. It has been almost thirty five years since I graduated from my Southeastern Conference alma mater but the rules instilled in sorority “charm school” are still overpowering.
It seems a perfectly ordinary thing to offer one a stick of chewing gum. But my immediate reaction to this type of offer is to recoil in horror with a deeply offended “No”. I can’t control myself. It just comes out. Of course the party offering the gum is somewhat surprised by this reaction and does not understand that their innocent offer is as abhorrent as if they had offered illegal drugs. “Ladies do not chew gum!” That statement, forever repeated in sorority boot camp, has been ingrained into my being for time eternal. Should I ever be captured by terrorists the perfect torture tool would be to force a stick of gum into my mouth.
“Ladies do not walk with a cigarette in their hand.” This is Rule #3. Of course I have never smoked. But if I ever choose to I certainly know the rules.
There are other important behavior patterns not completely understood by those who lack the great fortune to be born in the Deep South. But I can’t give away all our secrets, can I?