January 25, 2013

Southern Drawl

Hi.  My name is Liz, I'm a 35 year old divorcee from the deep South.  I come from a tiny little dirty spot in the middle of the woods where old traditions are still the heartbeat of the community.  I was raised by a couple who have been through fire over the course of 43 years, they have slept at separate houses but never left one another.  I have 2 brothers who have been married multiple times and a sister who is creeping up on 20 years with her husband.  I had an aunt who never married and an uncle who married a woman with 5 children and an ex-husband.  I come from a household where my mother worked for 22 years from the time I was 4, while my father stayed home and drew a disability check.  All of these factors have given me the groundwork to figure out what I wanted out of relationships, marriage and my significant other.  I discovered one thing about me, I'm more of a traditionalist than most folks would peg me for.

I started pondering on this yesterday evening, when it comes to Southern women, we can be cast into two very basic categories.  Yes, I know there are tons of sub-categories but we are going for the base right now.  The two categories I named, "The True Mamas" and "The Runners".  The True Mamas are the ones who have been nurturers from jump, you know the ones--used to "save" frogs from "drowning" or had baby dolls that were better dressed than their friends.  These women plan to have those children, or at least something as close to that life as they can get.  They might work, but they are often nurses or daycare owners or home health ladies.  They aren't the party animals, yeah they like the occasional girls night out, but they don't live for it.  They are loyal to a fault and will defend their man, their home and their babies with everything they possess.

Then there are The Runners.  There's a song by Sammy Kershaw that I have always found apt when thinking about these women: "Queen of my Double wide Trailer".  He has to chase her down from time to time because even though she likes her double wide, she likes drinking beer and chasing good looking men in tight jeans too.  They drive fast cars or big trucks, wear jeans, always have a job or a hustle, something to keep cash in their pocket and they are feisty.  No doubt they are just as capable as a True Mama when it comes to taking care of children, often times they are the mama bears the PTA has to watch out for.  They work hard and play even harder and make no apologies.  The thing that separates the two types of woman is that you will never pin a Runner down.  A True Mama has no problem with a gilded cage, a Runner will find a cutting torch and blow the door off that bitch. 

A Southern man knows, when he's out dating and looking, that he will get one or the other.  He also knows which one he prefers.  Some men need that lady who can take care of them, some need that partner in crime.  The problem comes in when he begins to believe he can change one into the other or when he thought he had one and in reality, he's got the opposite.  You either love them for their calm demeanor or you love them for that passion that won't quit.  If you have a woman who attracted you because she's feisty, a little wild, and drinks you under the table..well guess what, she probably isn't going to change anytime soon.  She might slow down a little, but she won't change.  Same with a mama, you can't take a woman who loves to love and nurture and turn her into a bar-hopping broad. 

Getting divorced in the South is a unique thing.  A few years back in Louisiana, in an effort to combat the growing divorce rate, the government gave an option for a "Covenant Marriage".  This is different from a standard one in that you can't just divorce for irreconcilable differences.  As a matter of fact you only have one or two options that get you out of that contract, one being major physical abuse and I'm not even sure what the other is or if there is anything else.  I was all for it when the idea was first publicized.   Years later, I'm glad I didn't opt for that when I married my ex, when it was over it was over.  I do still have twinges of pain about that though.  I get sad over the fact that after all that time, and everything we went through, love wasn't enough to hold us together.  Maybe my heart was stronger than his, or maybe neither of us was strong at all.  Either way, it hurts.  It hurts even though I've moved on and begun the ground work for a new relationship and future. 

As Southern things go, we don't look kindly on married couples splitting up, especially if there are children involved.  You never, ever run away from your children; sure run from the spouse but never your kids.  Even if it means living in a city a couple hours away, you stay close enough to maintain contact and close ties.  It's no secret that any man who ditches his child and skips out on any support or help is deemed the lowest form of filth, not just by the ex-wife/baby mama, but by local society as well.  Again, I'm talking in broad terms, there are always contingencies and situations where that man should never come within 100 feet of his child again.  To quote a friend:

Though I'm not a father, I can't understand a man who could willingly go from being a good father pre-divorce to a long distance money flinger post-divorce. If you love your kids, why wouldn't you want to be as close and involved as you can? New woman and gender roles be damned.  Jesse B. Alabama

During my marriage I worked as much as my ex did.  We shared a lot of things in our household, chores, taking care of the girl, etc.  It worked for us fairly well, until the day that I joined up, bled green and he got to stay home and take care of our little one.  I spent a total of about 2 years without her, he got to see her tie her shoes, he got the milestones that I didn't get.  He was a good daddy.  We settled into that routine, me the worker bee and him the homebody.  I did enjoy the independent side of things, I knew that I wasn't filling that typical role that most Southern folks have in mind for their daughters.  As a rule I enjoy it, and I encourage my daughter to be independent and educated.    I had to chuckle at something another friend said:

The first year Terrin and I were together, my career was popping. He went to school, cooked, and we cleaned it together. He was still the owner of a penis. (TMI) And I was still a woman. Bothered every damn redneck we knew, like we were emasculating their dreams. Whatever. Bet we had better sex than them.  Seba O'Kiley, Alabama

I don't think I felt as though mine was still "owner of the penis", at some point that masculine/feminine thing got skewed for me and I've been trying to recover it ever since.  I still work in a male-dominated field, but I am not the bread winner in this household.  I like that.  It's probably a silly thing to some, but to me it's a big deal.  It's just one of those things, for me and my new fella, it works.  No one needs another person to take care of them, but if it works, let it ride.  To quote another friend:

I think family is what we make it... there are no hard & fast rules, and sometimes the best relationships are those that are completely unexpected. Your heart knows what's best for you - to hell with what "they" say.  Maddie L. Georgia

Ok, all of that is leading up to this:  In all those years with that man, working, loving, being, struggling, I was the Runner.  He assumed that once I was married and with child, I'd become a True Mama.  I didn't.  I did things that folks would classically expect from Bubba, I ran around, I drank too much, stayed at work too long because I didn't want to go home, etc.  He had enough of the b.s., and left me.  Now I'm not saying I didn't deserve it, or that I didn't see it coming, I'm just saying that it hurt.  Like a son of a bitch, and it still does.  Even as a Runner, I had the notion that I'd sooner widow myself than get a divorce. Divorce is the easy way out, it's a lot harder to find hungry alligators this time of year. 

 I've hit the third year, true colours and life patterns have set in with me and my new one, old wounds are trying to shed that scab that's been protecting that gap for the last 3 years.  Well under that scab is a still tender flesh, it's new, it's pink and it's not as tough as the rest of the skin around it.  It's been implied that I need to get over my past and my ex, move on and stop being bitter.  Yeah, I know I do, but it won't be over night and it won't be until I'm damn good and ready to let go.  Damage was done on both sides of that house and I won't sit back and just get over something that took me a decade to build. I've made amends with the one I hurt, he has done the same.  In the meantime, I will stick by my "Old South" attitude, because it is what's familiar and comforting to me.  I have someone who can handle me at my worst, my best, my most outlandish.  He knows what he got and has no intention of turning me into something I'm not.  It wouldn't work anyways, I'm too set in my ways at this point

Whether one has the right, or not, to be brokenhearted DOES NOT MATTER. The heart breaks, either way. And no one can "just get over it." Love doesn't work that way. One moves on when one can move on. Heartbreak doesn't care if you have ownership papers or not.  Seba O'Kiley, Alabama


  1. Yep. That's how it's done. You'll just get keep getting better until you are. Your writing already is. Brava!



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