By Sam Burnham
I was part of an interesting exchange on Twitter Tuesday night. We were discussing one very unique Southern phenomenon. We were discussing how The South is viewed as, and rightfully so, a conservative region. But we do have a particular genre of people that sort of stick out. I hesitate to call it an archetype or anything like that as they don't really shares common thread...except for the title that identifies them. The Eccentrics.
So the theory we are working off of here is that Southerners aren't automatically antagonistic toward everyone who a not fit into the mold of social acceptability. It is possible,even likely,to fly your freak flag(as the kids say) and still not become a social pariah. I'm not talking abut folks who eat ketchup on their scrambled eggs or use instant grits. I'm talking about the Lady Chablis, Baton Bob, Deacon Lunchbox, our legendary Goat Man, and the dancers at the Clermont Lounge.
So I want to share the gist of the chat with y'all. Below you'll find comments made by "KeepCalmAndDrawl" (@FormerlyFormer) with my comment in this portion of the exchange not in bold:
I'd maintain that both the English and Southerners have always done "eccentric one pretends not to notice" better than almost anyone.
We do weirdness well. South has never really been about *conformity*, but about *belonging*. If you belong we'll pretend not to see a LOT.
Word of advice for moving to a tiny little Southern town: Establish some "belonging" FIRST, and you'll find them gracious as the day is >> long re: difference. Come in waving difference in their face before you've got any belonging established? It will not be good.
This is often mistaken for hypocrisy, but it isn't. "We disapprove of drunks, but Joe there is OUR drunk, so that's not the same thing."
Joe can't pick the kids up from school but he's welcome at Christmas dinner.
Yep. And our acceptance of Joe is in no wise going to get us to make a blanket statement approving of drunkenness in general. If you try to insist we do so, we'll balk. But we still like Joe.
This is how we wind up with places like Savannah and New Orleans. We do weird well when we feel like that weird is part of us. It's our weird.
It's how my gay cousin and his partner were welcome at every holiday and reunion in one of the most conservative Baptist families in the South. They had that belonging. They were part of the family. My cousins has been dead almost 20 years but his partner is still considered part of the family. He belongs there.
It's not about conformity or being "normal" or even meeting conservative expectations. It's about belonging.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire