Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Speak Southern


Speaking Southern has great drawbacks in this country.

When I was 19 years old, Dad, my brother Carl and I drove from Jacksonville, N.C. to New York City on business.  
The three of us rode in the front seat of a pickup truck. 
I suppose we looked like country bumpkins, but I was up for an adventure.

While Dad was doing business, I went shopping. 
He gave me his American Express card and turned me loose in Macy’s Department Store to bring back some souvenirs for Mother and my three sisters.

I had never shopped in Macy’s but I knew of it from the wonderful Thanksgiving Parade, so I was thrilled.

I was 5’9”, with black straight hair down to my waist, wearing hip hugger bell-bottom jeans, a baby doll top just covering my navel, dangling earrings, and stacked red velvet flip-flops- I was fashionable for the 70’s.

My sonar guided me straight to the jewelry counter.  Within moments, a middle age woman approached me from the other side.  “May I help you?”

“Yes ‘mame, I'd like to look at these necklaces.

“Wait right here!”

Not knowing what I had done or said, I stayed in place thinking that perhaps my underwear was showing, or that I had something dangling from one nostril and was totally unaware.
  The time passed so slowly.

The woman appeared in front of me again, with another middle-aged woman by her side.
“Ok, speak southern.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Talk southern.”

In my mind, I knew that she was going to make fun of me, so I thought I’d really do it up.  “Whaaat would yoouu liiike meeee to saaaayy?”

“You can say anything; we just want to hear you talk.”

My mind began racing.  
She wanted to verify that I was Southern, slow talking and stupid.  
What an insult.  
I couldn’t let her perpetuate that misconception; she needed to be taught a lesson.

“Well, I’m 19 years old and a junior in college, studying Biology and Chemistry, and I plan to do field research when I graduate.  
My Daddy, brother and I drove up here from North Carolina on business and while they are in a meeting, I thought I’d do some shopping.  So, If you would be so kind, I would like to look at these necklaces.”

The women’s mouths were open, and when consciousness surfaced, the first woman robotically handed me the necklaces. 

I said, “I’ll take these five, and I’d like them wrapped please,” handing her the American Express card.

Again, her mouth flew open.  I knew what she was thinking- You, have an American Express Card?  

I smiled and waited for the wrapped packages. 
I could hear Gomer Pile saying Surprise, surprise, surprise, in my head.

When I turned to leave, I said “Thaaank yoouu.”

Both women were still silent.


Have you been stereotyped lately?  I'd love to hear about it.  Email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com


Have a wonderful day.


1 comment:

  1. Oh my! This is the best one yet! Keep it up, Helen, and you will be in one of those newfangled big-city newspapers in no time! Have a great day ya'll!

    ReplyDelete