I am from Maryland
originally, and the town I grew up in, Ocean City
, lies on the southern side of the Mason Dixon line
that divides it from Delaware. To those who knew me when I was living in Virginia, I was considered a mild Yankee; when I moved to New Orleans
, I was not readily considered a Northerner by definition. The people here think of Northerner
s as being from the New England
states and, Maryland not being one of them, they have a hard time thinking me as one or the other. Considering that such a debate over which is worse, the North or South (at least on the East coast
of the US it seems to be an issue of tireless debate), I always felt that I had to be one or the other, that I had to pick a side and defend it as though we are still engaged in a civil war
Most people regard the North and South's benefits based on personal preference, and that is not always due to where they originated. I've met handfuls of people that have either lived in the South their whole lives or people like me who migrated from the North and neither set have given me strong views in either direction. It really does vary from person to person, so it's hard even for me to make a decision. Having to use New Orleans as my sole basis of North/South comparison doesn't help me, since in itself, the city is not the norm of what to expect of the South. Neither is Ocean City a good demographic for an argument for the North, being not extreme in its accoutrements. This of course makes me wonder why I open the issue for debate in a node at all, but what can I say? I can't leave well enough alone.
The PR secretary in our office and I had a brief banter about it because she had just gotten off the phone with some sales rep who hailed from New York. She lamented how rude and short he was with her, how her efforts to be sweet and conversational had been rebuffed. Her reaction is part of the core problem between the two sides, in that she expects her Southern hospitality to be returned to her in kind by all people, or at least, she contends, if would make the whole exchange more pleasant for her. She also thinks that the exchange would in turn be more pleasant for the New Yorker, if he would only shed the stereotype of his geographical setting. Instead of thinking of the other person, both people involved were likely more annoyed or frustrated by the exchange than was necessary.
It would have made more sense to make note that if you're having to call a total stranger on the phone and are aware of the area code's location, you would keep that in mind instead of giving it the same treatment you would with a local sales rep, I would think. But again, we don't always think that far ahead. Shit, we don't always think period when we open our mouths, so this all comes to no big surprise; it is something we are all guilty of at some point, thinking that how we treat others is how we will be treated and how logical that seems to us.
There are things I like about both sides. When I've visited Boston, I liked the matter of fact responses I got for questions I asked, how things happened in a timely and organized fashion. You had to warm up to people for a little longer, investing more time and effort, but I viewed that as being more natural than having people who don't know me at all calling me honey, boo, or (gasp) cher when I step in to pay for gas at the local Circle K. In the area I was in, Framingham, people were less interested in gaudy display and instead were more down to earth and therefore more approachable than a lot of the people I meet on the street in the French Quarter who I know to be locals by sight. They were not as concerned about the external representation, they weren't distracted by it; they were more interested in things at face value.
From living in New Orleans, I find things I like as well. The families here seem more spread out and interlaced; they don't get scattered across states or lose contact with one another as much as I've seen up North. One joke says that while Northerners put the crazy people in their families in nut houses, the South puts theirs on their front porches, where they can be in full view of the world. The South tends to allow for more extreme behavior, both in public and behind closed doors, than their Northern counterparts. In some areas, I wouldn't doubt that the extreme heat that suppresses them through the majority of the year doesn't also lend itself to the slow and laid back attitudes they are infamous for. In New Orleans, at least, if you want it bad enough, you're just gonna hafta wait, boo. It's a comin'.
The friendships I've made both in the North and South have been equally fulfilling, but still in different ways. My Southern attachments tend to be more emotional, more raw, while Northern friends talk with me figuratively, less about feelings and more about actual, tangible things. Take the two and combine them and you'll have a more complete essence of me as a person, and no doubt, as any person would, finding poles of themselves lying from within the borders.
The conclusion, if you want to call it that, I've come to is that the North and South encompass halves of all of us, different sides of us that are granted full expression at different times, maybe even at the same time, now and then. They are halves of a whole that we often deny ourselves, like the halves of our brains. You can find the trappings (racism, ignorance, social injustice) and celebrations (births, deaths, marriage) in both of them and in neither are you immune to the human condition, the awkwardness and anxiety that comes from being human and trying to find your way through the world with whatever gifts and abilities you have inherited or picked up along the way.
Since I have been here, I have been plotting my escape, looking for opportunities to re-locate closer to the North. While I have had a full and invigorating experience here, it has never seemed like home, more because I can't see the seasons change, I can't see the cycles of life unfolding around me. Time stands still too often for me here, and I never once believed I would settle in the South. But I know that enough people love it here to make it worth checking out, and that it will go on with or without me. And that's enough comfort for me.