A Southern Woman’s Apology

southern woman fence boots apology bless your heart

I was born and raised on the gospel of
bluebonnets and pickups and Friday night lights,
grits and guns floating through my veins
like summer tubes on the Frio,
my tongue attuned to brisket,
my eyes to symphonic sunsets,
my ears to long vowels that languidly stretch in the afternoon heat
and my heart to pride in stories of days and feats gone by.

The endless laces of the corset
tightening, ever tightening, trying to tame me into the
just-so shape of southern grace,
and yet in the end

I never did quite fit.

Apostate, I broke away,
leaving my training in shreds on the porch,
offering a sorry over my shoulder as I went.

I’m sorry I didn’t accept fading into the corner,
cookie tray in hand,
“Would you like a refill of that sweet tea?”

Impossible to be seen behind the veneer of a polite smile,
I hollered instead, laughing wildly, middle finger flashing,
not listening to your stunned silence and stares
loud as Judgment Day as I waltzed away.

I’m sorry my purple-streaked blonde hair is so messy so often,
thrown up on my head, out of my way,
treated as an afterthought instead of
an asset, a billboard, a piece of marketing,
time saved from perfecting roots and curls going instead to the business of living,
makeup saved for special occasions
more rare and less meaningful than the beauty of everyday life.

I’m sorry my body isn’t firm and tight,
my sides bulging past the paper cut-out boundaries of the
debutante doll kit you have passed down
like religion, like tradition, like heritage,
my thighs touching and my butt too powerful to fit into those size six jeans.

I’m sorry I strut my naked toenails around in skimpy flip flops,
that I dare to suggest that my natural
is as worthy and beautiful
as your perfectly manicured.

I’m sorry I don’t care if my hunger for analysis
and knowledge
and debate
and digging into causes and cures
gets in the way of your beer-swinging good time,
for the disquiet that is born from a woman who challenges you,
a woman who refuses to pretend the pedestal belongs to men,
whose mind is as good as your mind and
whose questions are as valuable as your questions and
whose time is as precious as your time.

I’m sorry that you were expecting demure and you got an edge as sharp as my tongue.

I’m sorry the boys I was expected to pick faded into the background,
my eye caught by someone smaller and darker and sharper and vastly more expansive.

I’m sorry I aspired to live a life bigger than my kitchen,
that I sometimes answer the question “What’s for dinner” with
“I don’t know, what IS for dinner?”
and that I have stopped even trying to be
every version
of every woman
from the last three generations combined,
that I looked at the game of doing everything they used to do
along with everything I’ve been told I should do
along with everything I actually want to do
and saw that the rules were rigged from the get-go,
that I would fail no matter which path I took,
and so I just said “no.”

I’m sorry that I left you to sputter and choke on your sweet tea,
that I didn’t rush in to alleviate your discomfort by making it my own,
that my “no” was left to float between us
without apology
or regret.

I’m sorry a juicy, grinning Buddha graces my shelves
instead of a crucified Christ.
I’m sorry I dare to smile in the face of nothingness,
in the midst of a life with an end date,
that I’m raising two kids to know that there is no such thing
as one truth
but rather there is belief
and there is faith
and there is science
and there is space for us all to hold our own conclusions.

I’m sorry I dared to sneak north of the Mason-Dixon
and then dared to call it freedom.

I’m sorry that my treason
left you angry and defensive and confused and discomfited.

All I can say
as you sit there with the storm rising in your breast and
thunder rolling in your throat and
lightning sparking from your eyes is

Bless
your
heart.

3 thoughts on “A Southern Woman’s Apology

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