Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kinetically Speaking...

Kinetically speaking

My awkwardness with southern manners was first evidenced when I was in the Air Force.

  I was in the mess hall carrying my tray and spotted my southern friend, I'll call him John, at a table.  As I walked over to the table to sit down, he stood up.  I sat down and then he sat back down.   I thought I might be holding him up so I told him that if he needed to leave, to go on ahead, I'll go sit with some other folks.  He just smiled at me.  I then realized that I needed some napkins so I got up to get them.  John stood up once again.  Once more I told him that if he needed to go, to please not let me hold him up and to go do what he had to do.  When I returned to the table he stood up for the 3rd time.  Obviously he was in a hurry to be somewhere.  "John", I said, "Please, please go to wherever you need to go. You are making me nervous standing up and sitting down.  I'm a big girl, I can eat my lunch alone". 
Yet again he sat down and he said he didn't need to go anywhere.  I had no idea what was going on and had never seen anyone behave so strangely.  Later I asked him what he was doing and he told me that a gentleman is supposed to stand whenever a woman sits down or gets up from the table. It's funny now, but apparently I had never been around a gentleman before. I found that sort of thing tedious, annoying and unnecessary.

When I moved to the south years ago, I fell into all the fun, linguistic traps that have been described elsewhere, so I won't bore you with them here.  What I found more confusing than trying to figure out which parent I favored (But I love them both equally!) was body language.
 I know, I know, I know that men are taught from a young age how to be "polite", and I know it's with all good intentions and I know and there's no "evil" inherent, but some things still drive me more crazy than hearing someone say Nuke-YOU-Ler.
When I'm in a public place, in an elevator with a man I do not know I like to keep them in front of me.  It's about being safe and aware of my surroundings.  Here in the south men are trained to herd women and it's led to some awkward moments because I refuse to be herded. They seem compelled to insist that I go first which may "seem" polite, though from my perspective, its dangerous.  I don't know you, I don't want you sneaking up behind me and I want your hands where I can see them.  And why is it considered polite for them to let you off the elevator first, but when you come to any other door they get in the way as they rush to hold it open for you? There must have been great confusion with the old fashioned elevators.
I will refuse to be the one to move first, if I am not the one closest to the door.  It doesn't make any sense for the man in front to stand there, partially blocking the way, under the notion that they are being polite by letting me go first.  I am not buying it.  I love to watch them scramble as the elevators doors begin to close and they then have to choose between getting off at their floor, or being polite.
I'm all about whatever is the smoothest, most sensible action. Whoever is closest to the front, gets out first.  Whoever gets to a door first, should hold it for the next person.  Just go with the flow, no need to impede.

It's been my observation that the gallantry dissolves, indoors and out, while walking down a corridor or sidewalk.  I will see men walking 2-3 abreast, while I'm walking alone.  They rarely if ever, consolidate and step either in front or behind each other to accommodate a woman passing.  I've tested this a few times by coming to a complete stop a few feet from them.  I'll find a reason to stop, perhaps to check or adjust my watch and frequently they walk right into me as though they just expected that I would magically give ground.
 I don't.  It's kind of fun to take the charging hit just to watch the look on their face.  I wonder if it's because so many southern women are brought up to be passive and constantly yielding that the men become accustomed to it?  I don't really know the answer here, but it often provides me with entertainment. Over the years I've come to love the south.  Those who know me, know that I truly do and I write this with all the love and humor I can muster.
I know what I'm describing amounts to stereotyping and that there are exceptions to everything... I'm just reporting my experiences....I highly recommend you conduct your own social experiments and report back in.  Let's compare notes. 

 Chivalry is just chauvinism with a high polish.

P.S.  Attention all southerners...When there is a power outage and the street lights are blinking YELLOW...It is neither safe, nor polite to stop at the intersections.  The side streets have blinking RED lights and those vehicles must stop. YELLOW means proceed with caution.  Stopping confuses the process for everyone because the people that remember the rules will continue through the light while the people that think they are being polite stop for no reason and cause more problems. I feel better now.


ehowton said...

Yep. That's about the crux of it.

Michelle said...

Funny post.

Not quite the same, but when I moved from California to the midwest, I had one community college teacher address me as "Ma'am" when I'd approach him to ask a question. Being all of 18 years old, this confused me. I had the feeling that I should turn to look for the older lady that must be standing behind me, even though I knew there was no one there.

It took awhile, but it finally dawned on me that he was being polite!