I come from a long line of head strong, persistent, unbending, determined, unshakable and even sometimes stubborn, vain and obstinate women. These traits are as cultivated and propagated in Southern women as energetically as our “famous” manners. We grow up being taught that saying pretty please, thank you and I’ll pray for you is of the same importance as lip gloss and mascara.
We are coached early in our little lives how and when we pray for the neighbors, when saying bless their hearts is appropriate (nicely or not so nicely), you don’t leave the house without makeup and most importantly when and where to wear waterproof mascara. There isn’t southern woman alive that doesn’t have the “special” tube of mascara for funerals and maybe a wedding. You can bet your bottom dollar if you see a Southern woman crying that wasn’t prepared with waterproof mascara someone has messed up really bad and there will be HELL to pay. I would suggest to run…..
Southern women are reared knowing there are only a few acceptable reasons to show weakness and cry and even then you best not be sobbing in public. That’s reserved solely for those closest to you who can’t run away. This is typically our poor husbands who is completely screwed regardless of what direction he chooses. This poor testosterone filled man who typically is married to the Rock of Gibraltar now finds himself in an non win situation. He really has no good options. If he tries to fix it he is condescending and if he comforts he is babying (and you DON’T baby tenacious) The smart ones just quietly help around the house, hug us tight and send us to the friends for a good cry until it’s out of system.
We need a good cry as much as the next girl – we just DON’T like it!! Somehow we think it’s disrespectful to all those strong women who we come from to fall apart. It’s like we’re disappointing them or we will make them roll over in their graves. The most scary option is they’ll come haunt me. I can’t have that – if my granny came visiting and saw how messy my house is she wouldn’t just role over in her grave she would do somersaults and never leave. I already hear my momma in my head all day- I really don’t know if I could take her too…….
So after telling you all this – you can imagine my surprise the other day as I was driving alone to pick up a parasite (children for those nicer than me) when I found black mascara tears rolling down my cheeks. I have always prided myself on being a “tough ole broad” I don’t cry often and hate it sincerely. If I cry it’s usually a built up explode. Either my feeling are really hurt or I’m mad and trying NOT to kill you, but this was different.
These tears didn’t come from anger or my feelings being hurt, they came from a different place. My first thought was “damn menopause hormones”, but the honest truth is I think they came from a different place. These tears were coming from the sadness of the “light at the end of the tunnel”
I remember when I had three parasites, all in diapers, and I would speak to people who had teenagers and be jealous. I felt like my life was crazy and I saw no end in site. It was a constant life of “diapers, dinners, momma and honey” I remember saying “you have light at then end of tunnel and I’m not so sure I’ll survive til I get there” I never understood their looks of longing at my jealously.
As I sit here today with that light getting so bright in my eyes I need sunglasses I understand. I look up at all my parasites (they’re all taller than me now) and realize I have so little time with them left. I keep thinking it went too fast! Did I do a good enough job? Will they be a good citizen? Will they be good to their fellow humans? Will they be good parents some day? Did they hear me and will they pass on at least a little of what I taught them?
What I realized is the tears came from the realization that my “job” as a parent is almost over. It’s the understanding that this is the most significant job and role I’ll ever play and the only one that may have an impact in 100 years. The tears were rolling down my cheeks because they’re typical teenagers and sometimes I’m so proud my chest may bust and sometimes I’m so scared I can’t breathe. (if you haven’t ever had the experience of teaching a teenager to drive or gotten the call “mom I had a wreck” yet- my advice is your best bet is to keep them in diapers)
The tears were rolling because I’m at the point where I can only maneuver the people I’ve helped develop – good or bad. The heavy lifting of right and wrong and good and evil are past. Their basic emotional and ethic makeup is set. Now I can only pray they heard and choose to live the lessons I tried to teach.
The black mascara tears rolling down my cheeks, which were against every thing I had ever been taught, came from that blinding light or maybe it was only the menopausal hormones . Yep- I think my southern stubborn and unshakable self is going with menopause so the parasites don’t have hell to pay or need to run away any faster than they already are……………..: 😦
Oops- I watched the news again!!! Now I know better and am well aware that watching our new sensationalist, ratings driven, and politically slanted (pick a program based on which side you already believe) news media makes my head spin around and look like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I know this to be a fact, but sometimes I decide to give them the benefit of the doubt and try it again. It’s never a good idea, but my optimistic soul over rules my brain and the result is….. oh a reaction something similar to an atomic bomb of words such as those my southern mama would disown me for actually writing publicly so you will just have to guess.
Now the latest that has seemed to of “Gotten My Goat” (yes gotten my goat is a southern term and it’s appropriate-and no I don’t know the origin so go look it up) is a news special on the college spring break in Panama City. Now this news channel (let’s just call it the channel for the fundamentalist right which for our purposes we’ll just call the Al Jazeera of America) If you are Chicken Little and believe the sky is falling then “By George” this is the channel for you!!
Now anyone my age that has ever gone on a college spring break or a graduation trip with friends without parents knows exactly what happens on those trips and if you have forgotten then shame on you!!! If you are sitting in your home 30 years later saying things like “that wasn’t happening then” or “we didn’t do THAT” or the ever famous LAST WORDS “my child will not” then you have either completely forgotten reality or have found that elusive little ostrich hole to put your head in that keeps eluding me. (trust me I have teenage parasites and I really want that hole) 🙂
The reality is-there is drinking. Yes a lot of drinking. That is what college age kids do on spring break. That’s why they go. Yes- to the mama that thinks little Johnny is perfect- the percentage chance of your perfect son drinking a beer during spring break is probably -oh close to 98%. The chance of him actually hugging a porcelain throne during that week is probably over 50%. Oh and mama of perfect Katie- your chances are about the same, but the toilet hugging probably goes up.
If you will all remember back through the fog of adulthood you will remember a few things. This right of passage consists of waaaaay to many of your friends all crammed into one hotel room (you’re in college and it’s all you can afford). There at least two others sleeping on the floor because there isn’t enough beds or it happens to be a friend from another room who that was just as far as they could make it at that particular moment. The refrigerator is completely full (of mixer and beer) and there is a one loaf of bread and PBJ on the counter. The table has been converted into a compilation of drinking games, and there are empty beer cans -oh in every nook and cranny available. It takes 3 hours and an entire box of trash bags just to clean the room before you leave.
I’m not saying I agree with the right of passage, but I still understand IT IS a right of passage. I’m not saying I want my parasites (kids for those new to me) to participate in the right of passage, but I still understand that after 18 they probably will!! I just hope someone who truly cares about her is nice and holds her hair back and protects her as she sleeps on the bathroom floor. That friend who loves you enough to hold your hair back is a friend for life and I’ve been lucky (or dumb) enough to have a few.
So back to why this program “Got My Goat” It was designed to do nothing, but scare the absolute shit out of every parent in America of any child age 10 to 25. They put a blonde woman (who may be all of 30) out in an entrance to the beach in Panama City right in the middle of Spring Break. Now she just stands there and does interviews as the kids pass. I am sure they stood there for an entire day and we got about a whole 5 minutes. We only saw the drunkest and most disrespectful. (oh- they were there then too) We only heard the drug stories (oh- they were there then too and just like us our little blessings will have to determine there own path) We only heard about the nudity (fyi- there have been girls who were willing to flash their melons longer than we’ve all been alive and will still be here long after we are dead and buried and rolling over in our graves)
Do you think they walked down the beach and showed us the kids having a few beers and playing Frisbee? Of course not!! Do you think they showed us the interviews of respectful kids who said we are just here having fun? Of course not!! They showed us only the scariest, most sensational, and ratings driven and then acted like it was the end of the world as we know it!! Suddenly all the youth in America have gone completely off the rails and OH MY- chicken little the sky is falling!!
Well guess what parents – they are doing exactly the same thing college students have been doing for generations!! There have been disrespectful kids, kids that do drugs, girls who flash, and the standard ole drunken debauchery for as long as there have been college age kids and guess what the sky hasn’t fallen yet and probably won’t this time either. Every person still has to pick their own way. I know you want to think it’s obviously worse, but it’s not! I know you want to believe it’s much scarier now, but it’s not! I know you want to think my child will not, but they will!
Wanna know the funny part to me- 30 years ago our parents were saying the same thing. Wanna know the funniest part to me- 30 years from now those exact same kids who we saw in the news cast will be saying the exact same thing about theirs!
So maybe the only true reality is that spring break is the college age right of passage and the middle aged believing the world is going to hell in a hand basket is the middle age right of passage. Maybe we should put it right up there with loss of testosterone and menopause.
I’ve decided I’m not going to fall for their sensationalism. I’m gonna go for a stroll through memory lane. As I remember the crowded hotel rooms, and beer stained carpets I’m gonna smile. One because of all the precious memories and two because I survived. I survived with wonderful memories and lots of life lessons. Not only did I survive – my parents survived (and trust me there was many a day they thought they wouldn’t) I’m gonna smirk at my parasites who think I’m completely clueless and laugh because they have NO idea. I’m gonna “secretly” laugh when I bust them and smirk when I intentionally don’t because I’ve gotta let them think they’re smart sometimes.
The reality is that the sky isn’t falling it’s just time marching on and it happens to be their turn to make those memories. What I’ve learned is those memories will help them raise their own someday and keep a smirk on their face and trust me since they’ll be paying for their own raising they’ll need it!!!