I’ve been here almost two weeks now, and as I prepare for my first official Thanksgiving as a North Carolinian, I’ve decided that even if I can’t be expected to totally embrace my new surroundings, I can at least do my best to help my son acclimate.
After all, there are certainly some lessons he could learn from his fellow (gulp) Southerners.
Like their kindness. Or at least their courtesy.
Because I’m not talking about real kindness.
Ask anyone who has ever spent any real time down south and they’ll tell you that the kindness evinced by the locals ain’t nothin’ but smoke and mirrors. Whereas north-easterners won’t say a thing to you because fuck you, southerners will say nothing but nice things to your face and then say “go fuck yourself” behind your back. Or they’ll say “bless your heart” which actually means “go fuck yourself.”
Southern kindness boils down to “if you can’t say anything nice, fake it.” And that’s not a terrible lesson to teach a kid. I have always preferred the whole “face value” thing that is practiced where I grew up, but there is something to be said for the random hello on the street, or the exaggerated courtesy of the sales and customer service people you encounter down here.
I don’t even care that they’re definitely cussing my dumb yankee ass out afterwards; so long as they don’t cuss me out in front of my son, it’s a win. Because I’m already having trouble easing up on the swears around my son, the last thing I need is all my painstaking work to be undone by a few strangers who don’t like my Red Sox hat or my politics or the fact that I let my wife drive sometimes. So keep the kindness coming. Especially when it pays…
For example, the other day, as we walked by a bus station that would give Port Authority a run for its money in the sketchy-ness department, a flamboyantly homeless man, apparently liking the cut of my son’s jib, greeted the kid with a hearty “what’s up, my man!” My son responded with his typical enthusiasm, prompting the homeless man to laugh and GIVE MY SON A DOLLAR.
I repeat: A HOMELESS MAN GAVE MY SON A DOLLAR. And not just because his hair is such a mess. Amazing! Now, the transfer of that dollar into mainstream society probably kick-started a global pandemic which will leave our civilization in ruins, but still. It was so nice! (Actually we promptly burned said dollar, along with all of my son’s clothes.)
While this atmosphere may be totally foreign to me, my son has a blank slate, and there’s no reason for me to block out all the good influences while I’m shielding him from the bad ones. Raising him in a culture of courtesy, disingenuous though it may be, is a good thing for his early development. He can learn sarcasm and cynicism from his dad’s side of the family when we visit back home, and he can learn the superficiality and fake friendliness that is the stock and trade of successful, churchgoing people down here.
I figure he’ll be pretty well-rounded by the time he’s an adult, and well-suited for public office. He’s already got a rapport with the disenfranchised.