When Does a Yankee Become a Southerner?

As my bio state

s, I’m a Yankee. A sensitive Yankee, who has met rude Southerners, but a Yankee nonetheless. I grew up in a small town of 5000 in Connecticut and spent my school field trips wandering around New York City. I have seasonal affective disorder in Virginia summers because it's 90 degrees in May, and I was once told my child was crying because she's too cold in 50 degree weather. I did not know I was supposed to respond: Bless your heart.

However, a strange thing has begun to happen to me. My personal blog, Late Enough, won Top 25 Southern Moms. The website defined southern moms as living and raising children in the South and both my kids are born and bred here in Richmond, Virginia so one of my readers nominated me and more of my readers voted for me. (thank you!)

A few weeks later, a magazine was running a poetry contest for Southern poets only. “Southern” was defined as living in the South half the poets life. A little known secret is that I was born in Washington D.C., and I lived in Maryland and Northern Virginia until I was 5 years old. I have exactly 3 memories of these years and most Southern people don’t consider those areas the South so all agree to continue to call me a Yankee. However, this poetry contest does consider those areas the South. I began to the math. I moved back to Virginia in 2000. It's 2012. I'm 34 years old. I have lived in the South for exactly half my life. I almost fell out of my chair.

Quickly, I began to argue with myself. My formative years were in the Northeast. My upbringing. My ideals and stoic, mind-my-own-business and you-mind-yours, ways. People, who see my pink hair and Obama stickers, agree and point out my liberal-ness. However, I was a Republican in Connecticut. In fact, I didn’t vote for a Democratic president until I moved to Virginia. I may be part of the reason Virginia is a swing state now, but this state may be part of the reason I'm a Democrat now.

Alex on Election Night
Me on Election Night

Honestly, my formative years have been in Virginia. I found God and began practicing Christianity again. I solidified my ideals and political activism here. I met and married my husband and had my children. I began writing again. I have a home here and a life that I love.

Am I a Southerner? I don’t know. I don’t puddle. I don’t bake Pecan Pie or any baked good. But I am pulled aside at least once a week and told how polite my children are. I use “y’all” in every day language, but I don't spell it “ya’ll.” I will never go blond, but my son already plays football. Of course, we are New York Giants fans through and through, and I think college football is eye-rollingly boring. I am proud of Virginia's public university system but not of our state government, and I like Lincoln over Jefferson. I love how often people stop to say hello and how easy it is to find ruffles for my daughter, but I wish there was more tolerance behind each others' backs as there is when looking each other in the eye.

So what is a Southerner today? Is it where you are born? Because I’m in and so are my children. Is it country clubs, monogrammed shirts and do as I say not as I do? Because I’m out and probably won't look back.

What I want the Southerner to be about is kindness and ease and a pace that makes life worth living. The South I am falling in love with is not just stopping to smell the roses, but picking a few and giving them to a neighbor. Because whenever I've ask for help or offer it, no one double-checks where I am from, who I vote for, or what church I attend. They just say, “Yes, ma'am,” and show up.