I live in the south, the Capital of the Confederacy, to be exact, and as a Northerner I am still adjusting to the different ways that Southerners choose to live their lives. To be sure, there's a certain amount of Faulkner-esque sadness and drama, but there is a thread that is equally strong if not stronger: politeness. No, it's something more than politeness. It's more than being civil. It is a code of living taught by Southern mothers, who said to their children as they left for school "Be sweet." Roy Blount, Jr., a marvelous chronicler of a bygone Southern life, wrote a book with that title, celebrating the notion that we live better when we choose to be sweet to each other rather than by being mean or worrying about who is winning. Be sweet.
I thought about this today as I read a FaceBook post by a clergywoman who lives in the North, who was charmed when a TSA agent said "Ma'am, would you feel comfortable removing your sweater before you pass through our little metal detector here?" A little moment of "be sweet" that is quintessentially Southern. I cannot imagine a TSA agent at JFK or O'Hare asking in quite the same way. The corollary, of course, is that when someone requests something in "be sweet"-speak, we are often happy to comply. When we are barked at, it feels like a grudging effort.
It's one of the things I preach at marriages: be sweet. Not a pushover or doormat. Not ignoring problems. No, you can be strong and clear and self-actualized, but the key thing is this: you don't need to be rude or mean to reach those states of being. You can be sweet. Generations of Southern women have made it into an art form.
So on this Friday as Valentine's Day (that celebration of all things cloyingly sweet) approaches, what are the "be sweet" moments that snuck up on you recently?
For me, it was a FaceBook post by my son. I had given him a pewter keyring of a snowboarder for Christmas, and he posted a picture of it hanging from his car's ignition, with "I love you, Mom" as a status. Not what one expects from a 26 year old guy, which si what makes it doubly sweet...
Share your story, and Be Sweet.