By the time y’all read this, your girl here will be well on her way to New York City.
Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I travel outside of the South, I feel like I have to be a positive example of the South and Southerners. That means no flip flops, no tank tops, and no college team wear. I feel compelled to dress a little better, walk a little taller, and act a little more sophisticated, although my pronunciation of French menu items will fail me every single time.
I feel compelled to joust with stereotypes.
Of course the minute I open my mouth north of the Mason-Dixon Line, everyone knows I’m not from around there. Not even close. A few weeks ago, Husband and I were in Chicago to visit Sonny Boy, and we went to The Field Museum to see a special exhibit of mummies. We stood in a line for tickets with our fellow spring breakers, people from all over the world speaking I don’t know how many languages, and together we wound through the rope maze for about forty-five minutes inching ever closer to the harried ticket sellers. With every switchback in the line I saw new people who had joined, people different from me saying words that I did not understand.
I watched all of these people file up to the ticket sellers, family by family, couple by couple. I watched the ticket sellers churn out tickets, pass out brochures, and swipe card after card after card. They did this quickly and efficiently, barely even glancing up to see who was standing before them. There was no time for conversation in English or otherwise. The line was out the door.
When we finally got to the ticket booth, I said “Two tickets for the museum including the special exhibit, please.”
And I’ll be damned if the ticket seller didn’t perk right up as a big old grin spread across his face. “Do I detect an accent?” he says.
We had a nice little chat about Alabama. Turns out he has some relatives in Mississippi. My accent sounds like home folks to him. Which just goes to show, the Southern accent brings happiness to everyone.
But back to New York. Sonny Boy and I are on our way. We dress in nice clothes to fly even when we are at the airport at 4:30 in the morning like we were today. No pajamas and yoga pants for us. No. Sirree! Because when we do get off the plane at LaGuardia, I don’t want us rolling off the plane looking like a pair of rubes.
While the Southern accent brings joy to most people, I think it also brings judgement to us whether we deserve it or not. That’s why we have to be a little extra — extra smart, extra well-dressed, extra-well-spoken even if it is with a drawl. Just, you know, extra.
Now you might be saying, “Hell with them Yankees and what they think. If I want to wear my Bama tube top and cutoffs and flip flops, by golly I will!” And that’s fine. But I’m not playing into what people think we’re like. I’m going to change their thinking, not feed it.
But I’ve rambled on too long here about accents and stereotypes and buried the lede (or lead … I understand either is acceptable these days!), as they say in journalism.
The reason your girl is going to The Big Apple is because my new book, They Call Me Orange Juice, is going to be on display at Archway Publishing’s booth at BookExpo 2018 which will be held at the Javits Center!! Now I’d be a bald-faced liar (or is it bold-faced?) if I said I wasn’t both excited as can be and as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It’s only the biggest event of the year where booksellers go to network with publishers from all over the world, emerging authors, and industry leaders.
And this little old gal from Citronelle, Ala., will be right there in the middle of it. That just blows my mind. Seriously.
Like a good Virgo, I’ve obsessed over every detail of what to wear, what to bring, and what to say depending on whom I meet. One wants to stand out from the crowd in a good, professional way, not in a country come to town way. One wants to sound intelligent, but not condescending. One wants to sell books and one’s talent, but not appear desperate. One wants to be taken seriously.
At least that’s what I think because I’m one who’s never been there before. And that’s why making a good impression for the South and Southerners is on my mind today. I want to represent us well.
The biggest day of the Expo will be this coming Thursday, so I won’t be posting a blog, but I’ll try to post on social media. You can follow along on Instagram at @theycallmeorangejuice, and if we’re Facebook friends, I’ll be there too.
Y’all be thinking about me, and I’ll tell you all about it when I get back!