Sunday, May 6, 2012

Southern Charm

by Leann

Last week I had fun traveling to Bethesda and the Malice Domestic Conference. It was so great to meet up with writer and reader friends face-to-face. My panel assignment was "Southern Mysteries" and during our discussion I reflected on why a woman born in New York writes about the South.

Moving to Texas was pure culture shock for me thirty-seven years ago. I honestly had trouble understanding what people said--and more often what they really meant. You will hardly ever hear a Southerner say "no" to anything. If they don't want to do something, the route they take to tell you so is circuitous, to say the least. In Niagara Falls, where I grew up, we didn't have a simple "no" either. More like "hell, no!"

Why write about the South, then? Because I have been a student of this culture and the learning curve is gigantic. I find it fascinating and most often, pleasant. Truly, I was surprised the first time I went to the grocery store and people nodded and smiled and said hello to this stranger. Nice. There seem to be more secrets in this part of the country, too. What better way to build a mystery than to explore one of them?

My knowledge of the culture came to fruition while at the airport on my return from my trip. The luggage carousal with my suitcase chugged by and I was so very tired. I saw three men in cowboy hats a few feet to my right and I pointed and called, "Could one of y'all grab my suitcase?"

"Yes, ma'am," came their unison reply. The biggest man took over, hefted it off the conveyor. And believe me, he did have to heft. With a smile, he pushed it my way. Then, in pure Texas fashion, he said, "Ma'am, you've been on quite a shopping trip."

Yup. That's Southern charm in action.

14 comments:

Aurian said...

Lol, who said chivalry is death? I do enojoy your books very much, especially the Abby Rose books with all those quaint sayings. I had to ask for translation a few times :)
Somehow, the pace of life seems less hectic in the South, which is why I love reading books that play there.

Books by Heather said...

Love that story, Leann! How many books did you have in your suitcase? ;)

Ramona said...

Louisiana native reporting in:

I'm surprise you had to ask! Most guys in a cowboy hat will say, "Let me catch that for you."

It doesn't matter if you throw it or not, they'll still offer to "catch" it.

Leann Sweeney said...

So true, Ramona, except it hadn't gotten to them yet and they didn't see me. Besides "catching" things, here in Texas we are always "fixin'" to do something, too! :-)

Mare said...

How can you not love it.

Lori Cimino said...

What a great story Leann. Sounds like a great idea for a "meet cute". My mom returned a month or so ago from a winter in Tennessee and she says the exact same thing. That everyone is so much friendlier, and that it is genuine. I am not saying it does not exsist here in Michigan, but sometimes even town to town I see a difference.
I think I am one of the more friendly people. And even more so as I become more and more comfortable...more in love with who I really am.
And my husband Anthony, who grew up mostly in Ohio but moved to Texas; when he came here in 2001 one of things that amazed me is how he would strike up entire conversations with strangers. It is one of the things that I love about him. And I think I learned some of it from him.

Lori Cimino said...

PS)
I absolutely LOVE reading books set in the Southern states.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Lori! If you married a Texan, you understand!

Katreader said...

I grew up in WNY, but moved to Texas and lived in Austin for 10 years. However, I knew I had to get back above the Mason Dixon Line-I got tired of the heat, but also the prejudice against Yankees. I'm glad I'm back in WNY...although I do enjoy reading about the South.

Leann Sweeney said...

Kat, there are a lot more yankees in Houston than in Austin (my daughter went to school in Austin, so I know what you are talking about). I think this bigger city is more accepting--though I am more bothered by the 4 million people than anything else. TOO MANY!!! :-)

Vicki said...

As a Texas girl relocated to VA, I miss the conversations with strangers, the smiling and waving at strangers and mostly the men in cowboy hats!! I've been here since I was in high school, 28 years and they still make fun of my accent and think I'm a little slow-lol! Thanks for the story which reinforces what I try to tell people here all the time.

Leann Sweeney said...

Vicki, you can take the girl out of Texas but you can never take Texas out of the girl!

Aryn said...

I was born in West Texas, went to school in Austin and now live in Dallas. I am too biased to really comment in this blog post. Just know that when I was 8 months pregnant I refused to travel to Arkansas because I was horrified at the thought that my child might be born somewhere other than Texas. I still can't believe I married someone from Louisiana (but he was living in Austin at the time and agreed to never move away from Texas).

I'm sorry, did you say Texans were snobby about their heritage?

Leann Sweeney said...

I totally understand, Aryn! After living her for 37 years, I am ALMOST a Texan. And since my daughter was born in Texas, that gives me bonus points!