I am from the South, and I have always been conflicted/intrigued by the rhetorical constructions of what "the South" actually is. Songs like "Redneck Woman" and "About the South", movies like "The Color Purple" and "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Mississippi Burning," books like "The Color Purple" and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Gone with the Wind" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Growing up in Mississippi"... The people and places populating these rhetorics are endlessly fascinating. The South itself becomes a kind of compost heap--of organic protest and racial hatred and historical aphasia. And, the thing is, as fictional as some of these constructions may seem (especially the ones with happy endings), I have met these people. I have danced with them, been to weddings with them, seen them at the carnival and Krystal, listened to their ridiculous politics, gone to class with them, flirted with them at football games... Dear E! told me, this morning, to listen to this song, so I hope you do, too--and read what's written below with these words and images in your head.
My little sister has recently developed a new hobby--she is a dancer in this group that travels around my hometown--at various venues and places. So, last night, to support her in this new (and somewhat puzzling) endeavor, Mom and Daddy went to watch an "Ultimate Fight" match.
No. I am not kidding.
Naturally, I was desperate to hear what had happened, so I called Mom way too early to find out. Now, I just gotta remind (or inform) you that these parents of mine are not the Ultimate Fighting types. They are more the US Open/PGA Tour types. But they love us, unconditionally, and they have always been supportive of the weird things that my dear sister and I do. My dear, dear parents, in their inimitable fashion, had a couple of different things to say about the fights.
"Well, the announcer had dark black hair and that deep announcer voice--you know, everything is sort of a yell. And most of the people (there weren't many people there, altogether) were sitting really close to the ring, getting very excited about the boy that they wanted to win. And sometimes one boy would be on top of another boy, and I would ask your dad, "Does it look like he's winning? I think that boy on top is winning." But then he would give up and throw in the towel and the other boy would get the belt. I really have no idea how they determined who won and when. At one point, the boy on top was losing his pants, so I said to Daddy, "That boy on top looks like he's losing his britches." And Daddy said, "I think that's the least of his problems."
And there were Hooters girls there. And some people brought their children--little boys and girls--and I thought that was unfortunate.
I overheard a conversation between one spectator and another guy, describing a fight that had happened before. He told his friend that one roundhouse punch (I think that's what it's called) looked like the puncher had started from the floor--"that punch had so much power; he swung all the way from the floor up to the other dude's face." And all I could think was--"if the punch started so far away, couldn't the other boy have gotten out of the way?"
"They looked like incompetent gladiators."
There are all sorts of interesting things going on in these stories--about class and race and region and worldviews. Mom and Daddy are very good observers of the world; they notice things (kindly and with reverence) and they have taught me and my sister to do the same. At least, that's what we try to do. Mom and I laughed quite a bit at her understanding and descriptions of the fights, the participants, and the spectators--because these things are funny. I know that they are funny.
But that's not all they are.