10 Things people say when they learn you were born in Alabama

YES, it’s true: I was born in Montgomery, Alabama back before the state was using calendars. Entered the world in  a double-wide trailer while my daddy waited on the front porch and my momma screamed Holy Jesus. Three hours later Preacher Jimmy stopped by and christened me–I was a weak baby so they wanted to make sure I got baptized so I wouldn’t go to hell in case I caught diabetes and died.

Just kidding. I was born in a hospital like everyone else.

But sometimes, given people’s reactions when I tell them I was born in Alabama, it seems like they expect to hear a birth story like the one above.

Alabama
10 ignorant innocent things people say when they learn I’m from Alabama

1). But you don’t have an accent!

That’s right! I’m amazed you managed to deduce that. I know this is a big surprise, but not everyone in Alabama sounds like the folks on “Duck Dynasty,” just like not everyone who lives in New Jersey sounds like the cast of “Jersey Shore.” Not that there’s anything wrong with talking that way. I mean, Matthew McConaughey is one sexy man, am I right?

2). Well that’s embarrassing.

To some extent, yeah. It is embarrassing. Because Alabama has made a name for itself due to racist stunts like Governor George Wallace’s Stand in the Schoolhouse Door and the nastiness of the Jim Crow laws and oh let’s not forget the horrible Birmingham church bombing in 1963. But I hate to tell you that racism is rife in all 50 states. People think Chicago is cool, but the city is more or less de facto segregated, as the South Side of Chicago is overwhelmingly populated by people of color and the wealthy North Shore is mostly white. Let me link to that illustrated map of segregation that the Huffington Post published last year.  This is not to excuse Alabama’s past or reputation — not at all. But it is important to think about it in context.

3). Do you own a gun?

Funny you should ask. Yeah, I “inherited” a shotgun from my grandfather. It sits in the back of the closet at my parent’s home in Texas, unloaded and unoiled. And no, I have no desire to ever use it.

4). That explains why you say weird stuff sometimes.

What do you mean? What do I say?
That thing–that thing you say when you’re upset.
Gracious!
Yeah. That. And the horrible thing you say whenever it’s raining and the sun is shining.
The devil’s beating his wife!
<Cringe.>

5). Have you ever been to a megachurch?

Yes, I have, but I should clarify something. Megachurches are really more of a Texas thing (and Florida and Tennessee and Arkansas…). In Alabama, churches tend to be smaller and closer to the community. Not that there isn’t a lot of homophobic, sexist hate speech being hurled over the pulpit every Sunday morning in Alabama’s countless churches. Unfortunately, my first megachurch experience was in Texas… and I wouldn’t go back if they paid me.

6). Oh…. so did your family own slaves?

Wow. Way to uh… wow. Um, yeah, they probably did. No one in my family ever ran a plantation, but yes, historically my family does have a rather squalid stake in that socially, culturally, and economically evil institution. I think it’s good that I’m able to acknowledge that, but I’m not sure talking about it any further helps anyone very much.

7). Does your family live on a farm?

Struck gold! Yes, my mom’s side of the family owns a piece of land by a creek that used to be an active farm. Now the only person who lives there is my spry 80-something aunt, who I once watched kill a snake with a garden hoe.

8). Are you really conservative or something?

Quite the opposite. I’m almost embarrassingly liberal, at least according to my grandparents. There is usually one major fight disagreement every time I go home. They should have known better–they sent me to a liberal university in Chicago! (Actually, I insisted on going there).

9). Heck yeah! Tigers or Crimson Tide?

By that I presume you mean: Do I support the football team of the University of Alabama or am I an Auburn fan? Neither. I don’t give two licks about football. No, strike that. I actively despise that skull-bashing, concussion-causing glorification of virile masculinity and gladiatorial spectatorship.

10). Really? I thought you were from New York or something.

You know what? It’s ok. I’m comfortable with the fact that I’m originally from Alabama. As nice as it is of you to leave me room for plausible deniability, I’ve learned that I can do more to change people’s perceptions when I’m honest about where I’m from.

******

So why write this post? Well, it’s a bit of fun, and I’ve gotten asked these questions countless times over the years. Alabama has a reputation of being a hot, humid, and backward place, and while the humidity accusations are 100% true, I always find it ironic how backward other people’s reactions are when they hear where I’m from and make a snap judgement about me. There’s lots of types of folks living everywhere, people.

Bless your hearts and thanks for reading. Do yourself a favor and try grits sometime.

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40 thoughts on “10 Things people say when they learn you were born in Alabama

  1. From Alabama but moved to Hawaii over a decade ago…No one has ever said any of these things to me except #s 1 and 9…but they say those two things EVERY SINGLE TIME.

  2. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.

    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

    1. There are people in Oklahoma? I thought it was just dust. Jk!
      I used to live in Wichita Falls, Texas, which as I’m sure you know is very close to the OK border. It was dry, dusty, and insanely hot, like living inside a hair dryer. My impression of Oklahoma is that it’s basically the same!

      1. There’s a few of us left 🙂

        Yep – I’m familiar with Wichita Falls 🙂 And yep – it’s hot and sucky here sometimes!

  3. Well done. Not all the chocolates in the box are same – the boxes aren’t even the same. 🙂
    I recently did a post that included some questions tourists have about Canada. I put much of the blame on skewed mass media presentation of the world. A constructed reality shaped by values, beliefs and ideology instead of facts. A large portion of Americans think nothing happens their because most events are never reported on by the American news media,……. unless it is a certain Toronto mayor. 😀

    1. Ha! I know that Toronto mayor you’re talking about 😉 Would you mind commenting again with a direct link to the post you were talking about? I’d like to read it, but you have 4 blogs under your Gravatar profile, so I wasn’t able to find it! Cheers.

  4. Thanks for the great post! I encounter those things almost every day in New York, being from Alabama as well. The lead up to bringing my girlfriend (from Albany) to my best friend’s wedding back home was particularly brutal/funny. I’m glad there’s someone else out there who’s dealing with it with a decent sense of humour. (However I disagree with the football comment, I played and still love Bama football). But you’re right, not everyone loves it. (I view NASCAR with the same embarrassment that you seem to view football).

    1. Ah yes, NASCAR. I don’t think very highly of that sport, either! But football always seemed like the worst to me, partly because of its prevalence throughout my middle school/high school years. I do think football can be a fun experience, but the injuries that the players suffer are too serious for me to overlook.

      I’m not surprised that you have a tough time in New York! Chicago’s challenging enough. (And I refuse to introduce my boyfriend, who’s from Cleveland, to my grandparents, so I feel you!) Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. There are some negative assumptions about the American South, but we have also heard about Southern hospitality and politeness, and the fact that so much great music comes from there…!

    1. The Southern hospitality and politeness is 100% real! I was shocked when I moved to Chicago for university. I had to learn not to look at people when I was walking down the street. I was used to smiling or saying hello to most people I encountered, but in Chicago that’s considered weird. A real shame.

  6. Ha ha, love this post! And I think it’s always necessary to set people straight. I’m guessing, too, that many of the people asking you these questions are those who hail from more “sophisticated” states? I’m not from the south but I’m raising my child now in the south. I’ve only gotten one ignorant remark from a girlfriend about it (come to think of it, she’s also the one who makes ignorant remarks about only children (I have one child)), and I wonder if my son will get these types of questions and comments as he gets older and travels outside the state.

    1. Yes, unfortunately, he probably will! But I’m glad you enjoyed this post. As long as he responds to probes like this with a sense of humor, he should be fine. You’d be shocked how pervasive these stereotypes are, even outside of the United States. When I’m traveling, I’ve learned to always tell people I’m from Chicago, as that seems to make them more predisposed to like me. But yes—usually folks from “sophisticated” states will make derogatory comments about the South, but then people in Texas/Alabama/Georgia/Oklahoma will make derogatory comments about the North! So to be fair, it goes both ways.

      It makes me wonder about the term “liberal,” which implies open-mindedness. When you’re just as set in your beliefs as someone who’s described as an ultra-conservative, then you’re not giving the label the credit it deserves.

  7. I like #8 the most. And Megachurch, wait til they get to Asian countries. No, never mind. They’d be too ?discriminative? even more. 😀 Loving your humor post. Ow, I swear you will love Persepolis. The book, not the movie. The book has the same wit and humor like yours. The movie came out more serious.

    1. Not a real person. 🙂 Just an idea of a preacher. Jimmy’s a pretty common nickname, as I’m sure you know already! Quite satisfied that I had you fooled, even if only for a few seconds. hehe

  8. I actually hear a lot of these when people learn I was born in Florida. Especially the accent thing. But I could not be less typical Floridian.

    1. Huh! I’m surprised that being from Florida would carry a stigma, too. When I think of Florida I think of “Burn Notice,” Cuban culture, and Disney World (or is it Land?). Just goes to show that we all make huge assumptions about places. ha!

  9. Really fun to read! I was born in Alabama/lived there for only 3 years before coming to “The North” (it seems like only ‘Southerners’ call it that), but since both my parents and family are from AL and the FL panhandle, some of these things ring true for me too. Would love to be a fly on the wall for the ‘disagreements’ of #8…if they’re the grandparents I’m thinking of, we only see them for short but always fun visits!

    1. Yes, it is the grandparents you are thinking of! When I’m there visiting by myself, usually things go pretty ok. Had to restrain myself from arguing with my aunt about gun control, though. haha. Generally the more people in the house, the more disagreements—but I think that’s pretty true in any situation. Glad you enjoyed reading this, and thanks for the comment, Jeff!

  10. Lucky! I’d love to be from Alabama! I love Texas and the southern states, they all seem so cool, coming like I do, from the rainy old UK, and yeah, Matthew McConaughey is from those parts which is good enough for me!

  11. BTW: Being that I am the worst proofreader EVER, and post typos all the time, I hope you don’t mind if I point this out. In this sentence, “But I hate to tell you that racism in rife in all 50 states.” I think you mean “is rife”. (please delete this when you fix it… or leave the it in and blame it on coming from Alabama.)

    1. Aha! Fixed! Thanks for pointing that out. I ALWAYS prefer for people to tell me when I’ve made a mistake. Otherwise it just sits there and gives multiple people the impression that I can’t type/write.

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