Monday, June 11, 2007

The Quotable South, Part 1: Keeping Up With The Joneses

Every Southerner alive, at many, many points in his or her childhood, heard the words, "But what will people think?"

--Julia Reed

I love this quote by Julia Reed (author of The Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena). I used to say that the structure of the Southerner's psyche is different from the rest of humanity's in this way: the Southerner doesn't need a superego, the Southerner has neighbors.

I'm not sure that one ever shakes this sense of self-monitoring, but I was reminded of my own proclivity for it on the day that I moved into my new house last week. As my movers shuffled in all of my furniture and boxes, I sat on the front porch (yes, in my front porch swing) checking things off of an inventory list. Of course, the inside of the house was in total disarray, as it always is when one moves. But the only thing I could think about was the fact that the hedges that line my front porch were overgrown and mis-shaped, and obviously had not been tended in some time.

Now, what should I have been doing? I should have been unpacking, organizing, and cleaning up the inside of my new home in order to make it livable as soon as possible. But what was I doing on that first day? You guessed it. Cutting the hedges.

Why did I do this? Well, the only thing I can say is that in the convoluted process of Southern reasoning, I concluded that the neighbors couldn't see the inside of my house, but they most certainly could see the outside. And I knew, looking at the outside, that something simply had to be done about those damn hedges.

After all, what would people think?!

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