Oops! Your Southern is showing.
I recently had a job interview that began with an unlikely question – “Is that a drawl I hear?” I chuckled in response. Not because it was a funny question, but because like a child playing hide and seek I had been found. Discovered in all my Southern glory. At home in North Carolina it is rare that anyone mentions that I have an accent. – In fact, most Southerners comment upon my lack there of. I tend to over annunciate my words, preferring “ele-men-tary,” to the usual “ella-men-tree” as often said in my native region of the United States.
This encounter led me to think about all the other times since moving to the city that my Southerness has been caught showing – whether that be yelping “y’all” or donning my pearls.
I met up with a contact last week in effort to spread my social roots through the city and was surprised how quickly my lunch acquaintance was able to read me. A fellow North Carolinian herself, she has been living in the city long enough to conceal her soft Southern interior until the most appropriate of moments.
As we sat over Sourdough bread and decorative salads I chatted anxiously about my background and arrival in New York.
“You have a certain Southern politeness,” she said. “There is a very ladylike quality about you.”
I smiled sheepishly. Oops, my Southern was showing! It is not that this was an insult or a compliment. It was merely an observation. But any Southern transplant in the city knows that Carolina graces can at times be a disadvantage in the city. The humble pleasantries can sometimes be interpreted as a reason to be ignored, walked over, or even to be passed over for a job.
In a place where people are often competitive and sing their praises at the top of their lungs, those who are meek do not get heard. I personally have been working on ways to speak up for myself while also remaining true to my learned behaviors.
This is not in the least bit my way of labeling Southern charms as bad, but rather myself noting that New York calls for a certain air of boldness in its residents. Whether that boldness be balancing on the subway without holding onto the rail or calling out your cab driver when he tries something funny with your fare, there is a daily opportunity to learn how to be a little more self-assured.
I still yell “Oh my goodness!” and use the word “lovely” in ironic situations – this is something I will never give up – but I am proud to be learning a few New York mannerisms as well.