The man from N.J.

Ronda Rich's picture

Not too long ago, I met a nice guy, a renewing of an old friendship actually, and I tried to fall in love with him. I tried, but I couldn’t.

He was from New Jersey.

Now, this isn’t to say that I couldn’t fall in love with a man from New Jersey. I think I could love Jon Bon Jovi. He seems like a very nice man. And though he has departed from this earth, I have always had a huge crush on Frank Sinatra. So, that proves that I do have feelings for at least two men from New Jersey.

But this recent one? This one was really a no from the get-go.

He had lots of good, solid qualities. A real go-getter, nice, and very handsome with blonde hair, golden skin and crystal blue eyes. Oh, and he had beautiful hands, which is something I always notice on men. Long, slender fingers that gestured gracefully.

But, in the end, the South and the North found itself in conflict once again.

Over lunch one day, he listened intently as I conversed with the waitress. Order completed, she hurried off.

He placed his elbows on the table and leaned closer. “Why are you always so polite to everyone?” He asked the question in a nice but curious way. There was no smart aleck tone in his voice. He was genuinely perplexed.

I was taken aback and showed it with my wide-eyed expression. “What do you mean?”

“You always call everyone ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’ and you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for everything.” He shrugged. “I just find that interesting.”

“You don’t call people ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’?” I asked.

“No!” He was emphatic. “And I’m not going to, either. Now, I might call an old man who’s 90 years old ‘sir,’ but I’m not calling anyone else that. No way. They haven’t earned my respect. Why would I call a waitress ‘ma’am’?”

Now, it was my turn to be floored. The words: sir, ma’am, please, thank you and if you don’t mind are so deeply ingrained in my conscious mind that I use them constantly. Regardless of age, gender, ethnic background or job status, I speak with courtesy to people. Unless, of course, they have been blatantly rude to me; then Southern manners are momentarily disposed.

I studied him for a moment with complete astonishment. “When you were growing up, didn’t your mama make you call people ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’?”

He shook his head vigorously. “No, she didn’t. We never had to address people that way. That’s one thing I don’t understand down here in the South. I like the way people treat me here. It’s much nicer and friendlier than up North. But you guys take it too far. Calling someone you don’t even know ‘ma’am’?” He shook his head again. “That’s way too much.”

I narrowed my eyes and folded my arms. This is the moment that any glimmer of hope for falling in love, died. Right then and there in a Mexican restaurant in Greenville, S.C., another budding romance took a nose dive and crashed.

“Well, frankly, I think the least I can do is treat people with courtesy. Especially those who aren’t as blessed as I am. Waiting tables is a tough job. The least I can do is to be respectful.”

We finished the meal with awkward conversation that stayed away from our differences, especially one that seemed as basic to me as breathing. We walked to my car, said polite but distant goodbyes and that was that. Unlike the Southern guys I have known, he didn’t call to make sure I had arrived home safely.

He hasn’t called to ask for another date, and I seriously doubt he will. But if he does, my reply will be succinct.

No sir. Thank you for asking. Please don’t call again.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her newsletter at]

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gratefuldoc's picture
Submitted by gratefuldoc on Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:56am.

Well bless your l'il ol' heart Ronda. lookin' for that "perfect" man. I always thought that y'all knew that no one was perfect. Guess all of us from NJ can be forgiven for not livin' up to your "lofty" expectations. I'll bet that the gentleman from NJ forgives you too m'am.

"once in a while you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right"
"listen to the thunder shouting, "I AM, I AM, I AM"

;>} Have a grateful day ;>}

Submitted by mick613 on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 3:00pm.

Couldn't get the man from New Jersey?

Good. He deserves better than you.

I'm Jersey-born. Raised there for 10 years before moving down south. Still here, unfortunately. It's not to say that I don't like the kind Southeners - they're great. But it's people like you that make me hate this place. People like you who think that "sir" and "ma'am" are the only ways of showing respect, and anybody who doesn't use them are somehow inferior to you. (I also don't like the weather - too humid for my tastes...but that's a story for another time)

Look, I was never raised to say "sir" or "ma'am." I'm pretty sure my parents never even mentioned it to me (can't remember, though...that was a long time ago). However, one thing they did teach me was respect - not through titles, but through attitude. I say "please" and "thank you." I make eye contact when I talk. I'm kind and courteous. Hell, I'm a lot nicer than some of my southern friends. I only give respect to people who deserve it, though - and you definitely don't deserve it. That's what I was taught.

Now, and I mean this in the nicest way possible: get off your high horse and quit with the goddamn stereotypes. Smiling

Thanks for listening..."ma'am."

Main Stream's picture
Submitted by Main Stream on Tue, 10/21/2008 - 4:28pm.

Oh, Ronda Rich, you are destined to be alone forever, living your days out as a lonely spinster, watching your skin sag and your wrinkles grow deeper, aching for the love and companionship of a man, but too picky and self-absorbed to see the genuine character in so many of the men you have tossed aside for stupid, idiotic reasons.

I was born and raised out west and geographically speaking, westerners aren't raised to say "ma'am" and "sir" but are still respectful of people, regardless. When I met my southern man, from Atlanta, I looked past his peculiar ways of saying "ma'am" and "sir" and his love for sweet tea, collards and BBQ'd pig parts. I fell in love with his genuine character and looked past, what I considered, oddities. It IS possible, Ronda, to find love and happiness in this just have to look beyond the surface.

Oh's so sad that you continue to pick these poor men apart and then have the nerve to even write about your middle age shallowness - are you for real, or just a figment of our imagination? Who is this lady, Cal?? She is sooooo emotionally retarded.

jonnycat's picture
Submitted by jonnycat on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 2:21pm.

Now if that isn't calling the kettle black, I don't know what is.....Laughing out loud Main, I am now 100% sure that your mother smoked crack before, during and after her pregnancy.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Tue, 10/21/2008 - 7:16pm.

The recent column is not her best work, but she does shine once in a while. She is not emotionally retarded - that is a cheap shot.

Cal will keep her because she is usually entertaining. She will be at an Edward Jones event in PTC sometime soon - go see her. She is actually very funny in person.

Submitted by AtHomeGym on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 1:53pm.

Actually, MS make some good points. Born & raised in rural NC, I have most of those habits of addressing people that Rhonda likes. But the perception here is that she is looking for absolute perfection and I've only got one piece of advice for her: "He ain't out there Honey!" No Maam,you need to either fish for something else or change your bait!

Submitted by AtHomeGym on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 1:56pm.

I guess that was really two pieces of advice. Numbers always did give me trouble.

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