belle epoque

A consortium of visitors have come and gone, dropping by for old times sake as much as to uncover the incontrovertible truth that is inherent in my current environment. Culture shock is an understatement. Dually represented is an understatement. My friends came with high expectations of what they would see, and left with a broader, deeper understanding of the region via close observation of its people and its customs. No provocation from me was needed; the course of events played out flawlessly, like my friends were invisible actors inserted into an alternate reality. And from them, I have learned. Thus came an apt time to post a long-forgotten article in an ever-so-appropriately named magazine called Garden and Gun. (Now there’s a fitting publication if there ever was one — it encompasses all aspects of the culture!) I couldn’t have planned it better myself, these words ringing even more true than upon first reading. The images are of a quintessential Southern railway; the beauties in them are some of the most vibrant people one will ever meet. The writing in these excerpts, well, they speak for themselves.

“Southern women, unlike women from Boston or Des Moines or Albuquerque, are leashed to history. For better or worse, we are forever entangled in and infused by a miasma of mercy and cruelty, order and chaos, cornpone and cornball, a potent mix that leaves us wise, morbid, good-humored, God-fearing, outspoken and immutable. Like the Irish, with better teeth.”

“To be born a Southern woman is to be made aware of your distinctiveness. And with it, the rules. The expectations. These vary some, but all follow the same basic template, which is, fundamentally, no matter what the circumstance, Southern women make the effort. When you are born into a history as loaded as the South’s, when you carry in your bones the incontrovertible knowledge of man’s violence and limitations, daring to stay sweet is about the most radical thing you can do.”

 

“Southern women can say more with a cut of their eyes than a whole debate club’s worth of speeches. Southern women know the value of a stiff drink, among other things. For my mother, being Southern means handwritten thank-you notes, using a rhino horn’s worth of salt in every recipe, and spending a minimum of twenty minutes a day in front of her makeup mirror so she can examine her beauty in “office,” “outdoor,” and “evening” illumination.”

— Excerpted from Garden and Gun Magazine

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