Prior to my recent purchase of chickens, my sweet mother-in-law asked me if I was interested in biddies. I had no idea what that was, which made her giggle. She then explained that biddies were baby chicks. It was in that moment that it hit me-is this city girl gone country thing really going to work out for me? And I’m not just talking about the chickens.
Spending most of my life only minutes from Manhattan has really shaped who I am as a person. I absolutely love who I have become as a result of my environment. I am confident, bold and really don’t care what people think about me. However, it has been brought to my attention that due to the cultural differences between where I come from and where I now live, people here in Florida may not fully understand or appreciate my tactlessness when it comes to speaking my mind. Most people from my neck of the woods are blunt, honest and direct, and if you are extremely lucky, we will give you a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” dose of sensitivity.
Here are a few examples for your enjoyment.
1. When you have broccoli in your teeth, we are going to tell you. And instead of sounding sweet, it might sound something like this, “Go check a mirror and get that shit out of your teeth.”
2. When my cousin doesn’t want to talk to me anymore on the phone, he doesn’t make excuses. He just stops, sometimes mid conversation, and says, “Yeah, I’m done. I’ll talk to you next time.”
3. My old boss used to love having me around because when we were done with a long day and someone wanted to get an after-work cocktail, instead of coming up with fake reasons why I couldn’t, I just said, “Nope. No thanks. I just spent ten hours with you. I’m good.”
And the best part about being from this area is that no one gets offended by abrupt truths! It’s just the way it is. As long as you are honest, regardless of your tone, people respect you. Growing up, my friends and family always told me the truth, rather than sculpting words into something nicer, but further from what I actually needed to hear. I didn’t have any friends who kissed my ass. And to this day, I am thankful for that.
But now that I no longer live in a tough as nails environment, it hasn’t occurred to me to try to adapt. I am what people would describe as a hard person. Not much affects me in a significant way. Sympathy and empathy do not come easy for me. I’m not affected by what people think of me. When someone doesn’t like me, their words, however vicious, simply have no meaning to me. Now, I do have my version of kryptonite, but no one has ever guessed correctly on what it may be.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because being a hard person in a softer environment is not an easy merger. When I first moved here, I felt like I was trying to decipher the DaVinci code when it came to meeting new people. Why do they smile so much? Are they really that interested in my life or are they just being nice? Their tone sounds too upbeat-are they telling me the truth? Do I have broccoli in my teeth?
Over time, I have come to admire the differences in the people I have met here. Luckily for me, I have found some really wonderful people who are just the right mix of sweet and blunt. These people make me believe that I am capable of obtaining a better balance with regard to my extreme personality traits. Although I waver back and forth like a seesaw on whether or not Florida is the right place for me, they have made it easier to adapt. You see, I’ve learned that people from the south have something that my northern brethren simply don’t have-and that is, patience.
After having that conversation with my mother-in-law, it dawned on me that buying chickens isn’t going to make me more southern. I’m not going to morph into a softer person. The people in my life now have been patient with the process of learning who I am. They have been open to understanding that what I say, I say out of concern, rather than to just be a rude jerk. And although the cultural differences are not always pleasant for anyone who deals with me on a regular basis, the South prevails in accepting me, flaws and all, into their lives with open arms.