Country-Fried Mama

A Yankee “mutha” raising kids in the deep, deep, DEEP South

Friendly, but not nice

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-30-2009

Fellow mommy blogger and transplant to the South Kathy B. wrote a great post recently about that ubiquitous Southern saying, “Bless your heart.“   I thought it was hilarious and informative.  Although we have lived here almost two years, and although Country-Fried Daddy is a Southerner, it is only recently that I have come to understand the subtext of “bless your heart.”  It sounds so sweet, and yet, as Kathy describes in her post, it so often is a pretty mask for an ugly judgment.

This reminded me of how completely I misunderstood my new neighbors when we moved here.  On our first night in our new house, two women, accompanied by several kids, came to our door with warm cookies and milk.  “How sweet!  People here are so friendly,” I said to CFD through a mouth full of chocolate chips.

I realize Yankees have a reputation for being cynical, and I often am, but in this case, I naively equated “friendly” with “nice.”   This was a mistake.

As the days passed, these women would come over and sit in the yard with me and Miss D.  I thought we were having casual conversations and maybe becoming friends.  I was wrong.

Neighbor-lady would ask: “Where did you go to school?”  Unsaid question: “Which team do you follow, and what does that say about you as a person?”

I innocently blocked this one with my alma mater.  No football team there worth discussing.  Ice hockey, shockingly, does not interest many people in these parts.

Neighbor-lady would ask: “Have you found a church home yet?”  Unsaid question: Are you a heathen?  Can I allow my children to play near your home without fearing for their safety?

I provided lots of  material on this one.  “CFD and I got married in a Unitarian Church,” I said, “but I’m Jewish.”  I didn’t get a “bless-your-heart” on that one, but I did hear, “Oh.”  Uncomfortable silence.  “I had a Jewish friend when we lived in Oklahoma.”  Surprisingly, I had never met the friend.  I must have missed her at the conventions.

Neighbor-lady would say: “You’ll love it here.  It’s so conservative.”

I tried not to laugh.  I told her I was proud of my home state, which had recently elected an African-American governor (Democrat, of course), legalized gay marriage, and instituted healthcare reform.

She smiled.

That was our last conversation.

Yankee….strike one.   Wrong church…strike two.   Liberal….strike three, and you are out.

We recently moved a few blocks away from those folks, and I think our new neighbors are probably both friendly and nice.

New-neighbor-lady brought over a casserole after Belly was born.  I was a mess.  The house was a mess.  “Oh, bless your heart,” she said as she handed me the dish.

But I think she meant it in the nice way.

Either that, or I still have a lot to learn.

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  1. Michelle Said,

    Oh that is so funny! It really is interesting to see what people are really thinking when they talk to you — and why they’re saying or asking what they do. But hey, you know you wouldn’t have liked that woman when you got to know her anyway. I really need to incorporate bless your heart into my lexicon though. It’s so rich.

    And thank you so much for coming to visit my blog. Today has been so much fun and so lovely to see the response and fun comments. I really appreciate it. I hope you enjoyed my blog and come back to visit soon!

  2. KathyB! Said,

    Hi CFM! Oh no! You struck out, too! sigh.

    Oh well, their loss and, frankly, your gain. You don’t want to be “friends” with those types of women anyway… The narrow minded types also seem to be gossipy, and that’s never good ;)

  3. Tiffany Said,

    That’s funny, but sad to. We lived in a college town in the south for years. It was hard to break into. The local people saw us as “outsiders”, the college people were judgemental because we weren’t quite “granola” enough. Gotta love people sometimes.

  4. Jamie Said,

    Oh bless your heart! Yes, this is a good one. But it can be meant nicely – it’s all in the tone – with pity or without :) I think you’ll stumble upon more and more of these little phrases as you go about life here. Let’s see theres, “She was raised right!”, “Poor thing”,…

  5. ck Said,

    See, I don’t know. At least you know what your neighbors look like. I’ve lived in the same house for 5 years now and I still haven’t met some of my neighbors. They felt we were too young to move into the area. I found this out through other people…

    At least your neighbors kinda bad-mouthed you to your face.

  6. Amber Said,

    I think with your old neighbors you were dealing with snobbery. Which, unfortunately, is a universal problem. But it is true that in the South sometimes people act faux-friendly, which is annoying and confusing. It would be easier if they were just downright rude from the beginning. ;-)

  7. CountryFriedMama Said,

    Jamie: “She was raised right” is one of my favorites. Love that phrase…

  8. CountryFriedMama Said,

    ck: Neighbors who don’t talk to you would be more comfortable to me. At home, this is the norm. Strangers don’t talk to you on the street there, either. I guess that’s why they say the weather up north is cold and the people are colder.

  9. CountryFriedMama Said,

    Amber: Exactly! If you don’t like me, fine. Just don’t come sit in the yard with me and my child and act like you want to know me. Know what I mean?

  10. Amber Said,

    Yes, it’s done under the guise of being polite, but it’s really not. Although, I will say that plenty of us Southerners can be really nice. :-)

  11. CountryFriedMama Said,

    Yes. Lots of you girls were raised right. ;-)

  12. Gibby Said,

    Ahhh, neighbors. Gotta love them. Or not. I was asked to join a bunco group in our neighborhood, and although I dreaded going, I dreaded NOT going even more. Lord knows what they would say about me if I wasn’t there! LOL!

  13. Ashley Said,

    Oh my! I laughed so hard at this. I am a Birmingham girl by birth but what you have written about is sooo true …. and so aggrivating to me! I am a fairly liberal catholic girl. So, the church question made me laugh. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked my “church home”. The response to my answer has been, “Oh”. Amazing how judgemental people can be with one simple word! The whole football thing is another amazement. In a state where the public school systems are in shambles head coaches get ridiculous amounts for their salary. Bless their hearts!

  14. CountryFriedMama Said,

    Great point, Ashley, about the response to Catholics in this part of the world. Where I grew up, many, many families were Catholic. I was shocked to move here and learn that this, too, is the “wrong” church. Someone once told me she went into a local Christian store in search of a Catholic item and was told to look in the cult section. Wow!

  15. Country-Fried Mama » Blog Archive » Do you like “see-food”? Said,

    […] to, usually on things I don’t need or want.  But I went, because she was trying to be both friendly and nice.   I came home with $100 worth of cute placemats and personalized plates for Miss D. and Belly […]

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