This series will cover seven essentials all Southern girls must do to earn their keep. While we don’t much care for rules, we do believe there are certain things one simply must accomplish in order to call oneself a true Southern girl. This is just one.
As a West Coast girl who moved to the South, I’ll be the first to admit my manners may be somewhat wanting. (I like to think I make up for my etiquette deficit with extra charm.) As a mother of two, I have aspired to instill in my children the home training my Southern sisters received during their formative years South of the Mason Dixon line. (And who are we kidding, I’ve lived in Texas and Arkansas, which many argue are not even in the South, but that’s another argument for another day.)
I’m happy to report my children have developed in to VERY well-behaved teenagers (as teenagers go), excelling at three out of four key Southern manners markers.
Saying “Please” and “Thank You”
This is not Southern so much as decent human behavior, but we have to start somewhere. The basic please and thank you is how most children everywhere learn humility and gratitude. And we could all use more of that.
Say “Hello” to Strangers (or at Least Smile for Goodness Sake!)
There’s nothing that points out the aliens among us so much as not acknowledging strangers on the street, in an elevator or in line at Walmart. Being an extrovert helps with this trait, and hopefully my kids will simply watch and learn from their friendly mom that it’s okay to chat up the checker, and expected to say hello to everyone at a party. Cotillion, while not for everyone, has certainly helped my children learn how to behave with strangers of their own age.
Send Thank You Notes
Remembering to be grateful is one of the most important habits to cultivate, and sending a note of thanks is such a lovely Southern expression of gratitude. I won’t say my children quite yet take the initiative to write thank you notes on their own, when I force them to the task I’m always impressed by the details and sweetness of their sentiments.
Address People as “Sir” or “Ma’am”
I respect all the Sirring and Ma’amming, but this might be one only true Southerners are able to adopt. Perhaps this is the tribal marker that my family is not really “from around here.” While my children are certainly respectful, and address their elders by proper titles such as Mr. or Mrs., we haven’t gone all the way to Sir. A girl born in California can only assimilate so far.
Use Proper Table Manners
Happy to report that my children, who may strap a bag of Doritos to their faces at home, and lick the bottom of an ice cream bowl like a shelter dog, display impeccable table training out in public or when their grandparents visit. That’s all a not-really-quite Southern girl can hope for. Sometimes when I watch my daughter’s delicate handling of a knife and fork, I almost want to send her a thank you note.
Note: These are only the bare basics of Southern manners. What would you add to the list?
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