Saturday, July 17, 2010

Six Degrees - Make that Three

When the idea of "Six Degrees of Separation" came out, down here we found it a bit perplexing. First, there would never be six "degrees" between us, most likely three, maybe four. And, what was news about this? When we meet some one new, the first ten minutes is spent finding out who they are and who their folks are so we can we see what our connection is. Because if they are true southerners there is going to be at least one. And, we'll find it.

Now, it may take some time figuring it out, but if you're from a "good family" (like my Mama always says) then our paths have crossed. Before we are through we have figured out that your mama's sister's husband's little sister was in the same sorority as my daughter (which means your cousin-in-law is in my daughter's sorority - three degrees- BINGO!). Heck before you know it, we'll be kin. But it doesn't stop there. Next you have to catch up on what all those connections are doing. And, the trick is to get more information than you give and make sure all the family skeletons are safely in the closet.

All this game malarkey about Kevin Bacon is for amateurs, down here it's not a game. It is a long standing ritual that follows "It's nice to meet you," with "Now, who's your mama?". Parlor games aside, these are things we need to know. Contrary to popular belief we don't marry our cousins down here and you need to know who you are talking to. And, there's always that "Ah Ha" moment when the connection is made. "So you're Louise's daughter? Well I'll be. We were in school together and she taught both my sons. You know her nephew married my cousin and they moved into a house next to my best friend. Well, it's a small world."

The goal is to dance through the mine field of black sheep in the family. Hopefully you can establish a safe connection avoiding any low life characters that would bring about some form of disgrace that you may never know has been afflicted upon you. (A good southern woman would only show her disgust in the most subtle way, so you may never know.) In your ignorance, your social reputation could easily be impugned. And, all you did was mention your Aunt Mary. (Your mama never bothered to tell you about her sister's unfortunate first marriage to the farm foreman's son. You did, come to think of it, always wonder about your cousin Paul's red hair).

Of course, the winning strategy is to get them to show their hand. Show me a family down here with no black sheep and I'll show you some folks in a witness protection program. We all got 'em some where round the table. It's what makes the gene pool interesting. You know that smudge in the family Bible that no one wants to explain. Well, Aunt Julia had to come from somewhere - our family is special but please don't try to tell me we had an incident of immaculate conception half way down the line. We're Presbyterian for God's sake.

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