Lauretta Hannon: On chit chat and making peace
by Lauretta Hannon
March 26, 2013 12:51 AM | 2465 views | 5 5 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Q: I need insider info on what drives Southerners crazy about Yankees…Although I have been here since July, I still feel like I constantly stick out in both formal and informal situations. I am finding that people are extremely kind and pleasant, but they tend not to have very “deep” conversations, and I don’t know if that is what it’s like here, or if that is the case because I am topping out socially before any depth of relationship is achieved. People seem to mostly talk about food, diets, exercise, where they go to church, what is happening that weekend (local festivals or events) and what their children or grandchildren are like. I have observed people who claim to be real/longtime friends, and even their conversations are rather shallow and short, but that could be because of where I am doing the observing. I don’t understand. What should I avoid doing, or do, if I want to “play nice” in this region? What tips do you have for a nearly 50-year-old woman who feels like an awkward teenager, not knowing how to relate?

A: Wow, you have flung the door wide open for Yankee-bashing by asking what drives Southerners crazy, but that is not the root problem here.

First, I’d examine how these Southerners could perceive you. Perhaps there’s something in your manner that is off-putting. Ask a close friend for a candid appraisal. It may have nothing to do with cultural differences, so don’t limit your thinking to that arena.

That said, I’d also join organizations where you’d find like-minded folks keen on deeper discussions.

Keeping good company is important, and I am no fan of extended small talk either. I’d advise you to widen your circle and seek those who have similar interests and concerns. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in a maddening cacophony of chatter.

One caveat: Southerners will always talk about food. It’s such a huge part of our culture. Why not embrace it and try out some recipes for collards, chow chow, or fried cornbread? This could be a delectable educational and social experiment. And who knows: it might even impress some of those Southern friends who’ve heretofore kept you at a distance.

Q: Can Justin Bieber be saved, or is he in a downward spiral? Is he the role model we truly want for our children?

A: We do not discuss Justin Bieber in this column. But I’d reckon that anyone hollower than a chocolate Easter bunny from the Dollar Tree is probably not the best role model. Next question.

Q: What is a good way to make peace with your past?

A: Without knowing the nature of your situation, I’ll have to answer in broad terms.

* Remember that the past is behind you. As any driver knows, you won’t get far if you keep looking in the rearview mirror. In the words of the Staple Singers, “Take the sheet off your face, boy/it’s a brand new day.”

* Your past does not define you or determine your future. It’s not what has happened to you; it’s what you do with what has happened to you. It’s not what you’ve done to others; it’s how you treat folks from this point forward.

* Honor old mistakes and hurts by greeting each day as the renewed person who has learned from those things. Your current thoughts, beliefs, and actions should demonstrate that you are much wiser now.

* Forgive everybody (including yourself) for everything. No exceptions.

* Accept that life is messy, confusing, and contradictory. Keep moving anyway.

* A spiritual grounding always helps in matters such as these. Pray and meditate and ask for guidance. Make time each day to quiet your mind.

* Acknowledge the beauty in what you’ve gained from that dim past. “In life as in the dance, grace glides on blistered feet,” says Alice Abrams.

* Finally, recognize that you deserve a happy, fulfilling life. Even if you’re not persuaded yet, pretend and act like you believe it. Then watch what comes your way.

But be warned. It will resemble the atomic bomb testing in the Nevada desert: flashes of light, brighter than the sun, will begin nudging out the darkness.

Send your questions to

Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen—A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at
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Coker Girl
March 27, 2013
You all are so spot on. Susie I agree that we do not talk about personal matters in a social setting. That is reserved for extremely close friends. And in my case there is usually wine involved too. Or margharitas. A little alcohol in the mix with a bunch of Southern women never hurts.
March 26, 2013
As a recent transplant, I really appreciate all of the comments you readers are making. You gave me some true "aha" stuff to work with. Thanks!!!
March 26, 2013
I agree with Jennifer, but I would like to add one little thing. We love who we are as Southerners, and we talk about what we know and love. The best way to turn off our gracious hospitality is to criticize the South, and talk about all the faults you find with our region. Don't bite the hand that feeds you (AGAIN with the food reference!), and as Lewis Grizzard used to say, "we don't CARE how you did it back in Ohio". In Rome, (Ga), do as the Romans do, and pass the biscuits.
Jessica Nettles
March 26, 2013
Dear Yankee Questioner:

As long as we don't look at you and say, "Delta is ready when you are," what you are observing is not about you. All of the topics you've observed us talking about are things that are important to us and a part of our culture. You want to know us better? Participate in this "chit chat." Share your stuff. If you listen, embrace, and talk, you'll find that we are deeper. Example: Food talk leads to talk about childhood memories or favorite recipes (pay attention to that--recipes are a way to learning about Southerners). Lauretta is right. Food is essential to the Southerner's life. So is family and church (not in all cases, but in some).

Stop thinking about this whole Yankee/Cracker thing. For some folk, this is a deal. For most of us though, we are way beyond that. If we weren't, nothing would ever get done.
Susie Poss
March 26, 2013
I agree with both Lauretta and Jessica. I have a dear friend (for over 50 years), and in a social situation we do not talk about personal matters. However, when we have a chance to visit each other, we talk about everything that comes to mind and lives in our hearts! The questioner needs to develop a relationship with one or more Southern women she can (in time) open up to and spill her guts! Bless her heart! It wouldn't hurt her to learn to cook Southern either! Of course, she might gain quite a bit of weight.
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