As a recent (female) Yankee transplant to the south, I can’t speak of past southern manners, but I can speak of what I’ve seen and experienced since I’ve been here. It’s been nothing short of culture shock, in a wonderful way. I work in a retail store where it’s occasionally required of me to help customers out to their cars with heavy packages. I have no problem with this, but I have yet to seen a man let me take the heavier box, and if I try to, they won’t let me. My male co-workers won’t curse in front of me, or even discuss “inappropriate” subjects without first saying “excuse my language” or “pardon me for this”. I routinely have customers tell me not to worry about helping them with heavy packages, and that I should make the guys carry them. I’m called “ma’am”! (And occasionally, “darlin’”, which is also perfectly acceptable.) I’m treated like a lady wherever I go, not just another random customer. I rarely have to open a door for myself, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been offered assistance to my car when my arms are full after grocery shopping, from both men and women alike.
And the women are no less polite and warm-hearted. They’re happy to have a quick chat or offer an opinion on something if asked by a random stranger. They’ll politely catch your attention if you’re dropped a penny or a piece of paper from your purse to return it. They seem to have a big, wide, authentic smile and a kind word for everyone. They say “Please” and “thank you”, and mean it. And most shockingly, those mothers who bring their young children with them into the stores actually discipline them to make them behave, and will even apologize to the employees if their kids are being unruly.
I’m amazed and grateful for a culture that teaches such manners. If this is a decline in southern manners, then I can only imagine what they were like at their peak.Amazing thought, isn't it? That a culture might put its childrens' self-esteem behind courtesy to strangers? Why, that's probably child abuse, these days. Some Federal agency surely needs to do something about this, so as to teach those barbarians how things are done in the United States. I trust the New York Times will have an update for us soon.