Smelly Socks: The need for some 'politic-in'
Lately, there have been numerous television shows and books revolving around Southern culture, manners and quirks. Whether you were born in the South or have just adopted the Southern culture as your own, the South is definitely unique.
Knowing that each region has its individual differences, everyone can agree that the South is extremely colorful - with Texas in particular having an extra heavy-duty helping of good old Southern charm and manners.
I have several Northern friends (whom I affectionately refer to as "my favorite Yankees"). When they come to visit me in Texas, they always comment that even strangers are polite and overly courteous. With just a few words, mere strangers can melt your heart and bend your will into doing what they want.
"Honey," they will say, "I'm awful sorry, but would you let me go ahead of you in line? I just have a few items, and I am in such a hurry."
The imposing stranger would have the softest mannerisms and sweetest eyes. Something just tugs at your heartstrings, and you would feel so bad saying no to them.
"Um, sure. No problem," you hear yourself saying before you can stop yourself, completely bewildered about what just happened.
It has suddenly dawned on my 13-year-old, Austin, that manners really do make the man. Since birth, my boys have been instructed to always say the requisite "yes, sir," "no, sir," "yes, ma'am" and "no ma'am."
Respect your elders, do not interrupt people while they are talking, table manners, look people in the eye and have a firm handshake are a few of the manners that John and I vehemently try to instill in Austin and his 10-year-old brother, Jamison. My boys do these required social graces without even thinking about them; they are simply ingrained as a benefit of their strong South Texas heritage.
During spring break, Austin spent some time with his grandfather, Popsy. They ran some errands, and then Austin patiently sat in Popsy's office reading some car magazines while Popsy finished up some work. When they met up with me later, he recounted the day's events. With a newfound appreciation, Austin explained how Popsy would meet people, shake their hands and look them in the eyes.
"Mom, he would just immediately develop a relationship with them. It was like he was running for a political office. He was politic-in."
"Politic-in?" I questioned.
"You know, like he was a politician running for office."
Laughing, Austin included, "But he didn't kiss any babies."
Popsy overheard his explanation and saw a valuable opportunity to reinforce an important lesson about getting along and working with people. He explained to Austin that most importantly, it is having people want to work with you. Social graces and manners are needed and so important to promote yourself and open some previously shut doors.
Austin summed it up by adding, "Politic-in is working with people and getting the people to work with you."
He then looked up at me with a honey-dripping smile and asked, "How do you learn how to politic then?"
I informed him that some people have this gift naturally, some people have to practice and cultivate it, and sadly, some never grasp it.
"Well, if they don't figure out how to politic, it must be hard to get things done." Austin surmised.
Somehow, it just seemed appropriate for me to say in a mock southern drawl, "Why, bless their hearts."
Jamison is a natural at "politic-in." My youngest son is easygoing, polite and always seems to have things work out his way. He smiles a wide smile and will carry on a conversation with nearly everyone - especially if it is about his favorite subject, Legos. Since Austin's sudden "politic-in" realization, he looks at the way Jamison gets things done with a newfound respect.
Recently, we had the opportunity to go to brunch at the Victoria Country Club. Both of my children handled themselves very nicely. It was interesting to see them talk with people they ran into, smile and introduce themselves. I noticed Austin was paying extra attention to what Jamison was doing and saying.
After they finished talking with a woman, she kindly remarked about their "such nice manners." Austin looked over to me with a smile as wide as the famous Cheshire Cat, and with a twinkle in his bright blue eyes and a new bounce in his step, he went on his way.
Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom at email@example.com.