Guilt, Southern Style


No, I didn’t say Grits, y’all. I said Guilt.

It’s the Spin Cycle topic of the week. I started out thinking that I just couldn’t write about this. I was born in the 50’s, in the South, and as such, raised in a culture where women are set up to feel guilty about everything. Really, y’all. We were put up on a pedestal of The Perfect Southern Belles – obedient, little, polite and always smiling, pleasantly pretty wives and mothers. We weren’t supposed to have an opinion, speak our minds, get dirty, look disheveled, or care about anything except attending to our husbands’ needs, first, and then assuming all the chores of raising children and keeping the house tidy. It also helped if we could make a banana puddin’ every Sunday and grow a few rows of turnip greens and tomatoes….in our spare time.

Southern Belles certainly don’t raise their voices, argue, drink alcohol, act ugly, know more than their husbands, swear or forget to fold their laundry. Their husbands expect a good hot meal, obedient children, a cold beer and a fresh wife when they walk in the door every evening. She was supposed to be interested in his day, offer cute little anecdotes about the children and remain silent while he watched the news.

While all this sounds real peachy, it just doesn’t happen in real life, y’all. Not even down here in Dixie. So when we didn’t measure up to the Perfect Southern Belle Image, our southern men conveniently had a right handy person to blame. And yes siree, we got blamed for everything.

I think all this collective guilt kinda rolled and trickled down through the generations and by the time I was born it was just in me, like a disease. My mother and her mother were experts at playing the role of the Failed and Blamed Belles, and so I learned from them how to quickly apologize for anything and everything, and how to internalize everyone else’s problems and make them my own.

All my life I’ve been apologizing. I’m sorry for talking too much, not talking enough, calling at the wrong time, or not calling when I should, wearing the wrong thing, not saying the right thing, having a bad day, having too much fun, eating too much, not eating enough, being tired, being broke, having trouble understanding, expecting to be understood, having to ask questions, not asking the right questions, not doing enough, sleeping, drinking, being emotional, getting upset, having a headache and ever, ever hurting anyone’s feelings.

So, I couldn’t figure out how I was going to write a blog about everything. But there’s some southern gals in the Spin Cycle that are a lot smarter than me, and they figured out how to explain what I was feelin’ pretty darn well.

My girl Debbie, over at Buzzin’ By, from Southern Maryland, said she has guilt about bein’ a workin’ mom and spending time on herself and just about everything else in the world: so deeply imbedded that it is just part of who she is. Well said.

Sandie, at Sandie Simply Says, in Georgia, says she feels guilty for every little thing she’s ever done wrong in her life. “Little” is a word we southern woman seem to use a lot. I think it makes us feel a little less guilty, when our issues are small. (There. I just said it again.) Sandie has a lot of “mom” guilt, or as Arwen, over at Spors in the Desert, calls it, “mommy guilt”, which seems to be a common thread of every mom, no matter where we hail from.

Heather, at Riding the Short Bus, sums it up this way – she asks, has there been a more pervasive emotion in my repertoire since I became a mother? She says motherhood is synonymous with guilt, and the prevailing theme of her blog.

Ve, over at Getting Older… And Still Neurotic, broke my heart with her story about the guilt she feels over losing an unborn child. She’s in Texas. Y’all should swing by her blog and show her some love.

Rachel, at Burning the Soufflé, from Tennessee, took us all the way back to a friendship she had in kindergarten and had us weeping along with her as she enveloped us in a blanket of guilt. Only a true southerner can tell a story like that, y’all.

Laufa, at Morgan Madness, claims to be in the Midwest, but said she is from a long line of women who mastered the art of the Guilt Trip. Definitely southern. So, I did some snooping on her blog and discovered that her family in in Florida, and her son’s nickname is Bubba. I’m going to claim her as southern, y’all.

Jan, over at Jan’s Sushi Bar, a darling southern gal if I do say so, took the words right outta my mouth when she started talkin’ about her ex-husband, the “Grand Master of the Guilt Trip.” I had one of those, myself. You know the type. A good ole boy. Mine even managed to make me feel guilty for gettin’ cancer before he had time to go out and buy a life insurance policy on me. Jan, bless her heart, came to the realization that dragging around a shitload of guilt served no purpose in her life. And she even used the “F” word. (Pretty gutsy for a southern girl. I love her for that.)

Heather, at Geez Louise, said she was BORN guilty. Oh my, how southern. I started chiming right in, agreein’ with that emotion.  But the first thing I see on the top of her page? Colorado Girl! And she’s Catholic, not Baptist. That hushed me right up. She says being born Catholic makes her automatically guilty. Huh?

Well, huh.

Rikki, at Cowgirls like Me, (from somewhere in the desert, y’all) said that guilt was as much a part of her daily life as trying to decide which pumps to wear with her tweed skirt. And Amber, at Travis and Amber, in Utah and new to the Spin Cycle, listed seventeen things that she feels guilty about. (She must have at least a couple of southern roots there).

Meli, at Meli’s Rambling Randomness, really blew my mind. She said she had so much guilt that it was oozing from her pores. Her pores, y’all. You can’t get much more southern that that. But guess what? She’s in Canada! Yep, all the way up there in God’s snow country.

Michelle, at It’s a Dog’s Life, is in Washington-I’m-guessing-State. She says she’s guilty of being the biggest idiot on the earth, EVER, for also being married to a jerk. So that’s not just something us southern women do!

Phhst, at Pseudonymous High School Teacher, lives in Hawaii. She says she used to wake up in the middle of the night and worry about details left undone. I’ve done that one, too. She says it took a trip through cancer territory to teach her to stop beating herself up over things. Then she goes on to completely blow us all away with a story about a teenage prank that practically drips with shame and emotion. I was transported back to bein’ fourteen and awkward, y’all.

A South Dakota girl, Jennifer, at Whoa My Horses, made me go, “Whoa,” when she said she grew up listening to her mother say she was sorry about things, whether it was in her power or not. So she’s constantly apologizing for things that are not her fault! She thinks her guilt could come from being raised in a church, or from a past relationship flop, or from simply being a woman and trying to make everyone happy.

Mo, at The Daily Snark, had me laughing my southern fannie off at her blog about how she’s guilty for everything because she’s Catholic. She says she can think of a million things to feel guilty about, without even trying. She describes her mother as being nagging, over protective, controlling and more than a bit manipulative on occasion. She has just described every southern, biscuit bakin’ mama that I know. Where’s she from? I had to know. Philadelphia! And grew up in San Francisco! And lived in Taiwan for two years!

Michelle, over at Michelle’s a Mom, tells us an amazing story about her grandmother, in a blog about guilt, which she calls her demon. Rather strong language, I thought at first. She cautions us not to let it pull us into it’s clawing vortex that will rob our soul. She’s Jewish and I don’t know where she’s from. It doesn’t matter….she’s got a fabulous attitude .

Leslie at Captain Crazy, who’s mother gave her every Southern Woman’s Secert Weapon –the silent treatment – says guilt is a member of her family, because she’s Italian!

Here I was, convinced that we Southerners, and the ones reared up in the Baptist persuasion in particular, had the market cornered on the Guilt Thang. This week I learned that I was wrong.

Thanks to y’all, I learned that Yankees, Italians, Catholics, Mid westerners, Canadians and just about everybody else, especially mothers, all have the same inner struggle with this demon called guilt! Who would have thought – we’re not that different, no matter who we are, or when we were born, or where. Guilt is just a human condition and not a southern affliction, like I had believed.

Unless, of course, all of y’all are really southern and you’re just pullin’ my leg.