Monday, January 4, 2010

Questions You Don't Ask

Wow, it is cold as a witches you know what in a brass bra as she flies through the air on her broom. Baby, it is cold outside so come on in the house and get warm. Have a fire in the fireplace and the heat on so we are warm and toasty. We are very blessed.

You have heard me talk about Southern manners and how old fashioned I am but being raised by a good, Southern mama and watched by the "mama police" in my small, home town, I am what I am. Mama was born and raised by a good, Southern mama and grandmother and taught me well. Part of the Mama Police's duties in a small town is to watch all the children in the town and report bad manners, rude behavior or any other shady deeds to the town and then to the parents and we had a bunch. This background has made me an older, Southern mama but I try not to be a Mama Police.

We were taught some basic manners which we were supposed to follow at all times. This included respecting anyone older than we were or in a supervisory position over us. We learned to say maam and sir and the need to be kind to everyone even if you didn't like them. Mama always reminded me that honey collected more bees than vinegar so we learned how to be "honey sweet" even if we didn't like them. Mama said that to charm them was much better than making them mad and she taught me well.

I had to work with a man in remodeling the school library where I worked several years ago and people told me how rude he was. They also told me he was arrogant and hard to work with and I was a lot intimidated until I remembered what my mama had taught me. The first time I met him I dressed as prettily as I could, walked to meet him with my hand extended to shake his with a great, big smile on my face. I told him I had heard he was a wonderful cabinet maker and how I was looking forward to letting him show me just how good he was and how I just knew he was going to do a great job for me. I flattered him, blinked my eyelashes, smiled oh so sweetly and stroked his ego until he was puffed up like a toad frog.

The outcome of pouring on all this honey was some of the best cabinet work I have ever seen in that library. He went over and beyond what he had to do and gave me his very best and we became friends through it all. Now don't you tell me that respecting someone and pouring on the honey doesn't work for I know it does. This is especially true if it is a man so try it.

Now to get back to our discussion. There were some questions we were never to ask or facts we were not to express. You did not ask a lady her age or weight and you never said the word pregnant or sex. You knew how old they were and you could see if they were overweight and sex and preganancy were private matters. You also didn't ask how much anything cost or volunteer how much anything you had cost. That was considered bad manners for it was rather obvious if you had on expensive clothing and it was not necessary to ask such a personal question. It might hurt their feelings and it would show your lack of breeding and embarass your mama and that was a huge no-no.

I worked with someone one time who would examine all that I had on, comment on whether she liked it or not, inquire where I got it and how much it cost. She would even reach out and touch the item to see what it felt like and that was invading my personal space. It would just fly all over me and I had to remember the bees and the honey before the vinegar spewed out of my mouth. It didn't take me long to realize that she had not been taught the good, Southern manners I had and all I could say was "Bless her heart." When I wouldn't tell her where I bought it or how much it cost she would just sniff loudly and walk away as if I had hurt her feelings. Finally one day I told her I had been taught that was rude and it was none of her business. That stopped those questions although I could see the battle going on in her mind after she examined me every morning.

One of the cardinal rules mama taught us was not to brag about how much anything cost. Now at our house it didn't cost a whole lot for mama made most of what we wore and she made the drapes, upholstered the furniture, painted the furniture and did anything else that needed doing. This meant we looked good but it didn't cost a whole lot. In fact, if you had any raising or breeding of any kind you just didn't brag about what you had or how much it cost. Again we were taught that was private information and was nobody's business but yours.

Where we were raised there are lots of plantation, Ante-bellum homes and people who owned huge amounts of land and some had a lot of money. Many of these families however had once been wealthy but had fallen on hard times or spent all that their daddy and granddaddys had made. This didn't stop some of them from continuing to live like they had been raised but it did mean they owed a lot of money.

I remember asking mama why some of these ladies worked and their husbands played at farming, hunted and fished and mama said somebody had to make the living and some of these men just never found a job worthy of them. It took me awhile to understand what she meant but I finally realized that the women in these families were the strong ones and the men, well you know what I think about them. Some worked at working but just never pulled it off and many of these lovely old homes were falling apart but still full of beautiful antiques and were sitting on some of the riches farming land in the world.

It was also a fact that many of these families owed the merchants in town a lot of money. After all they had to keep up the front of living the lifestyle they were accustomed to. Those days were before credit and debit cards and you just told the store owner the "Charge it" and they would write it out in a little pad and give you the receipt. At the end of the month you would get the bill for the purchases and at our house you paid it off. A clerk told mama, in confidence of course, that many of these families owed them money they would never be able to pay off. I was shocked for mama and daddy hated to owe anyone a dime.

Now don't get me wrong for not all of the old families in our town were like this for many of them worked very hard farming and being good stewards of what had been left to them. They lived just like their good Southern mamas raised them and did not brag about what they had or how much it cost.

Being Southern is more than just the location where we live and it also includes some basic manners. These manners are based on respect for yourself and for others and the need to not think you are better than someone else because of money you have. These basic rules are slowly slipping away and it makes me sad for it means our society is not as kind as it used to be and respect for others is fast disappearing.

Tomorrow I am going to write about a wedding write up in a small paper I read today and about fell off the couch laughing. It is quiet evident that these families had not been taught not to brag and brag loudly about what they had or what they owed. As mama would say, Bless their hearts, they just don't know any better but I would add maybe they just don't care.

Drop by tomorrow and I will give you lowdown on this affair.

Ya'll come back to see me and stay warm.

Nuff said,

The Georgia Peach
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