Twice this week, I’ve seen something that made me think about my regional heritage and how I used to struggle with it.
The first thing was a line in Miranda Parker’s novel, Someone Bad and Something Blue (which is a really fun read and well researched). The protagonist, Angel, mentions G.R.I.T.S.
The acronym is for Girls Raised in the South. I’m from the South and still live in the South (yes, I’m writing that like I’ve lived somewhere else, even though I’ve always been here). G.R.I.T.S. is something you might see on a t-shirt or cute pink baseball cap.
Very cute. And absolutely describes me. But that little acronym never felt like it could really be something connected to me.
It is accurate, but I felt (sometimes feel) that things marked so clearly as Southern – when it’s the cutesy, good image of the South – have a little tiny label on the backside that says “excluding little colored girls.”
For a long time as a kid and adult, that was no big thing to me. Really, all my dreams were beyond the South and I couldn’t wait to say “bye y’all.” Take me to a place where there are no plantations to visit and the Confederate flag is not an accessory.
But, as Tayari Jones reminded me today (this is the 2nd thing that brought this up), the South is ours, too. That’s not news to me, I’ve known that forever. I haven’t always relished it, though. Maybe I am not quite at relish now, but I do feel differently about the South. It could just be that I never made the leap out of this region, so I had to find a way to enjoy my Southern-ness.
There are still some things that make me pause. When we talk about loving the South, we are sometimes loving the same thing. But not always. Sometimes the love of the South goes in directions that make me cringe (like the time a few weeks ago when I heard a pianist playing Dixie). It’s as though I’ve forgotten something and seen myself as an equal part of the Southern landscape and then I recognize, after a moment, a few bars of Dixie and I remember.