Meet the contributors to Real Southern Men:
(A message from RSM founder Wayne Franklin)
I was twelve years old when it happened the first time. It was at an academic conference at the old Hilton hotel (now a Marriott) in my hometown of Mobile. Educators had come from around the country to talk to us bright and gifted kids – a politically correct euphemism for dorks, geeks, nerds and those otherwise socially inept but capable of rocking a standardized test – about…well, I have no idea what they came to talk to us about. If they intended to empower us to change the world, they clearly failed. Sorry, but no Mr. Holland-eqsue opus for you, folks.
Riding on a glass elevator, marveling at the scenic vistas of the paved-over swamp that is Bel Air Mall, my heart swelled with pride as one of the visiting teachers uttered the words that I would hear countless times over the course of my life.
“You don’t sound like you’re from the South,” she remarked, a bit amazed to hear I was born and raised right there in one of the oldest of the cities of the Old South. “You sound like you might be from California.” California! She may as well have said I looked like David Cassidy…or whoever was the heartthrob du jour that week in 1982.
To me, not sounding Southern became the equivalent of sounding intelligent. Over the course of the next three decades, I mastered the art of being “accent neutral,” robbing my voice of any hint of regionalism whatsoever. Sure, I can bust out a “y’all” or a “fixin to” when it will help grease the wheels of a particular situation. And as with most homogenized Southerners, exhaustion and alcohol will bring out the accent faster than anything.
Ironically, for all my efforts to not sound like a Southerner, I’ve never left the South. In fact, I’ve never lived anywhere but Alabama, the so-called Heart of Dixie. The older I become, the more I treasure those customs, traits and traditions that are uniquely Southern. In a world where you could be dropped off blindfolded in any shopping mall and have no idea where you are – not only what city, but what state or region – embracing our sectional heritage is not merely quaint, but increasingly necessary. It’s up to us to preserve the cultural jambalaya that is the South.
To that end, we on this blog are undertaking a quest to become Real Southern Men, but it’s no easy task.
First off, most of us are about as Southern as New England clam chowder. Being a child of the suburbs who learned to talk watching Sesame Street, I don’t exactly fit the mold of a stereotypical Southerner. Some would question whether I fit the mold of being a real man. Let’s just hope my wife isn’t one of them.
Secondly, before any of us can become a real Southern man, we must define what exactly that is. Our stories here will celebrate the good and “wrassle” with the bad of Southern life, history and traditions. We’ll offer profiles of Real Southern Men, give you some basic rules of what it takes to be a RSM and give you a little slice of life from our own unique Southern perspectives.
It could be an old money Mobile aristocrat or a Cherokee County, Georgia cattle rancher. Or it could be that guy with the tin foil and Confederate battle flags in the windows of his double-wide, which brings me to the biggest challenge…
How do we embrace Southern heritage without seeming to endorse the darker side of our history? Is it possible to proudly wear the badge of Southern man while at the same time condemning slavery and the abuse of civil and human rights?
We’ll try to address each of these issues over the life of this blog, and hopefully we’ll always do so with tongue planted firmly in cheek … right above the pinch of Skoal.