I have lived my entire life (35 years) in the South. Sure, I’ve traveled the world, spending weeks at a time in Thailand, South Korea, New Zealand, Trinidad, and Equator… but as far as permanent residence, I was born and raised in Fort Payne, Alabama; and only lived in the South.
After I graduated high school, having just turned 18, I went to college in Hudson, Florida and then Lynchburg, Virginia. Then I moved to Nashville, Tennessee; where I’ve been for over 11 years now.
The very first “record” I ever heard was by the Country group, Alabama (who happen to be from my hometown). It was their 1984 Roll On album that I would lip sync to as I walked around on my parents’ bed, pretending it was my stage.
I am a Southerner. It’s true.
But… how Southern am I?
Here’s the evidence I’ve got going against me.
First off, I don’t have a strong Southern accent. It’s there if you’re looking for it, but it’s never been enough to convince anyone I’m actually from Alabama.
Then I explain to people: My mom moved from Buffalo, New York (which is near the Canadian border) when she was 15. Eight years later, when she was 23, I was born. In other words, I was pretty much born to a Yankee mother; at least, she was at the time.
Plus, her parents were the grandparents I was around the most, as they only lived a few miles away: A full-blooded Italian grandfather named Alberto Victoro Metallo from Kenosha, Wisconsin and a full-blooded Mexican grandmother whose maiden name was Delores “Lola” Gonzales Mendez from Buffalo, New York. Growing up in proximity to such Old World influence and foreign culture, it undeniably watered down the sweet tea of my Southern raising.
It ultimately gave me the ability to hear everyone else’s Alabama accent, which I likely disassociated myself from, subconsciously.
The Southern Accent became as noticeable to me as the Midwestern Accent, like I had heard on TV; meaning it sounded theatrical, not natural, to me.
But it’s not just in my more neutralized accent, it’s also in my detachment from Southern culture. I didn’t grow up watching sports, since my dad (who actually is a full Southerner himself) was into karate instead. Therefore, I wasn’t too interested in playing sports. Admittedly, I barely understand the basic rules of football.
Instead, I was interested in exploring the woods and riding my bike. I grew up in the mountains of northern Alabama, surrounded by DeSoto State Park, DeSoto Falls, and Little River Canyon.
However, going back more the way of the Southerner, I regularly attend monster truck shows. If I could own any vehicle, I would either choose a Toyota Tacoma or a Jeep Wrangler.
I’m in the midst of a minor identity crisis. How Southern am I?