Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Old Rules

My friend K is not from the Southeastern United States, and as a result, often finds humor in the so-called 'rules' of Southern Culture.

Some of our most interesting debates concern fashion, and the often bizarre do's and dont's that seem to exist only in this region of the world. No wearing white after Labor Day or before Easter. A man can't wear a hat inside unless it's a cowboy hat. Only light purple can be worn in spring; dark purple is a fall color. Don't wear black in the daytime...the list goes on and on.

"Who came up with these rules?" K asked me once. "Is there a guidebook everyone reads, or are you all just taught this from birth?"

I had to laugh, because the truth is, I've no idea of the origins of these old fashion rules or why people continue to follow them. But we often follow so-called rules with no idea what logic - if any - lies behind them. We shouldn't date this person because they are younger than us, and we shouldn't date this other person because they are older. We shouldn't wear our hair long after a certain age. We shouldn't try and write a novel until we've had more life experiences. We shouldn't laugh loudly in public. We shouldn't suddenly want to learn to play a steel drum...the list goes on and on, and often, no logic lies behind it.

Instead of a list of shouldn'ts, how about a list of shoulds? We should be bold enough date who we want to date. We should be bold enough to wear our hair the way we want. We should be bold enough to try our hand at a novel, no matter what experiences we have or haven't had. We should be bold enough to laugh from the heart and not worry if it's too loud. We should be bold enough to learn to play a musical instrument at every given oppourtunity. And because it's our life, this list should go on and on, even if no logic lies behind it. After all, it's when logic disappears that joy often comes out of hiding.

The old rules...do they really make sense, or do they no longer apply? Can you be bold enough to shake them up a little?


  1. I see the cover of my writing journal made your blog post! 8-) Like K., I am not from the south either, but unlike K., I am familiar with the rules you outlined converning the appropriateness of wearing white, etc. I'm from the upper Midwest and my mother cited Emily Post (THE leading authority of social protocols and manners) when it came to putting away our white shoes after Labor Day weekend and didn't see them again until Memorial Day rolled around. These rules were handed down from generation to generation and were based, somewhat on climate and economics. In fact central heat and air-conditioning probably had a huge impact on that rule bending so much in the past few decades. In my youth, young people would NEVER wear black since that was reserved for widows or sophistoates to wear to cocktail parties along with their pearls. FYI: Emily Post stopped mentioning the ban on white shoes in winter in the 17th edition of her book on etiquette. If she were still alive, she would probably be quite shocked by the liberties we take in a lot of areas of our lives!

  2. :-) An older family member once told me that when she was younger, she wore pants instead of a skirt and was considered a radical! Because women were not supposed to wear pants back in those days. Or cut thier hair, so she bobbed her waist length locks. I have an aunt who ran off with the circus and came back years later sporting some dandy tattoos...this was in the 1950s. I guess taking liberties is in my blood!!!

  3. I think some people - and I might be one - don't take these "rules" seriously to begin with. What's even better than breaking them is going through life without acknowledging them. That's how ya stick it to The Man!