Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Divas and romance


The game of love and all it entails, would be much simpler if men played by the rules of gracious Southern womanhood. This would require men to unfailingly treat us with courtesy, respect and thoughtfulness.

They would politely ask for a good-night kiss, then show appreciation for it the next day with a flowery thank-you note, an envelope addressed by hand and decorated with a love stamp. And, if they turned the love stamp upside down, we would be sweetly reminded of how much we were being missed. Of course, these expectations are way too high but a little common courtesy, on the other hand, is not too much to ask.

The years of my friendship with Steve have spanned a generation. In the year we first met, children were born who are now adults, some who are in college, some who are married with babies of their own.

He is tall, handsome, polished, smart, successful and as solid as the red clay of Georgia after a long summer’s drought. We have the kind of friendship that finds a precarious balance between his practicality and my capriciousness.

Besides that, we are bound by a mutual love for Andy Griffith and the folks of Mayberry and as any Southerner knows, there is no tie that binds tighter than that.

We are the kind of friends who eat from the other’s plate without asking. That is to say, there is a deep trust and strong admiration between us.

The other day over lunch I was complaining about a date who had cancelled out at the very last minute. As an aside, just know that many of the dates I have are bad, but I persist in this folly in hopes that the odds will play out and I will eventually have a terrific one.

I was particularly disturbed that the most recent failure in my line of suitors had bailed out after I spent an hour trying to tame my curly-turned-unruly hair and that he had not called in the days that followed.

“If you cancelled out at the last minute, what would you do the next day?” I asked, sinking my fork into a mound of chive mashed potatoes on his plate.

He shrugged casually. Not because it was a hard question but because to him, the answer was so easy. “Send flowers, of course,” he answered brilliantly, cutting a piece of salmon and taking it from my plate.

Why are there not more men like that? One diva said she thought it had to do with the way that guys are being raised while another worried that the influx of non-Southern blood in our breeding ground has tainted the DNA. I disagree with both.

First, I refuse to believe that Southern mamas are not raising their sons with the kind of manners that has made the South the standard of courtesy by which all others are judged.

As far as the second theory is concerned, everyone knows that Southern blood is dominant over any it is mixed with, so that is simply not an excuse.

I theorize that we have been done in by a small, insidious group of our own gender who, in recognition of the fact that females outnumber males by an almost 2 to 1 margin, have lowered their standards to the level of a bayou swamp. Desperate, these women in question are willing to accept discourteous treatment, last-minute cancellations and, horror of horrors, no flowers or thank-you notes.

Not me. I’m holding to my high standards. Of course, I’m not having many second dates but I’ve got my high standards to keep me warm on a cold winter’s night.

[Ronda Rich is the author of “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)” and “My Life In The Pits.” She lives in Gainesville, Ga.]

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