Southerners tend to be practical folks, at least those of us raised in rural areas that have seen their share of hard times.
I was raised in the midst of practicality, and find it as hard to shake as a bad cold in the middle of January. Mama used to fix up sausage and homemade biscuits, left over from breakfast, for Daddy to take to work with him. She would wrap them individually in a napkin or paper towel, then put them in a loaf-bread wrapper she had saved, twist the top into a knot and send him off with them. Every time I go to throw a loaf-bread wrapper away, I think of her practicality.
That must be why I find it enjoyable to live vicariously through those who are capricious and whimsical. Sometimes, I long to be that person who buys a brand spanking new car without a second thought, or doesn't wait for the sale to buy that dress she wants. Practicality sometimes hangs like a stone of heaviness around my neck.
Cleaning out my jewelry box, I found four watches that date back to my high school years, each with a story. One was yellow gold and delicate, given to me by my parents when I was 17. Another was a gift from a woman once important in my life, now passed on. There was a black, dainty but sporty one that I had bought and wore constantly when I worked in NASCAR. Then, finally, the tiniest, most feminine one was purchased in Hawaii and given to me by a man who had loved me like a mighty river shortly before that river of love went dry.
Being the practical person I am, I decided to take them to the jewelry store for new batteries so I could wear them all again. It was there that practicality met whimsicality. I wish you had been there, for it was a sight to see.
I was sitting at the counter where the diamond engagement rings were, waiting patiently as the batteries were replaced. Two blonde, pleasant-looking women walked in.
The younger one grinned. "I think I want to trade this ring in for a bigger one," she explained to the clerk, holding up her left hand.
They came straight to the counter where I was, so I moved down a chair and halfway listened. The sales clerk pulled a gorgeous, glittering ring from the showcase. The women all chattered over it when the younger one turned to me. "What do you think?" She held the sparkling stone up for me to examine.
She sighed. "I only have one payment left on this one. I've been paying it off for two years, and now I'm thinking of trading up."
Turns out that she had been engaged for two years and, though not married yet, was ready for a bigger ring. She explained that it was her that held up the matrimony, not him.
"I'm several years older. I want to be sure that he's sure." What I wanted to tell her is that with men, there is no sure thing as "sure." But that would have been too practical. No need to mess with whimsical.
They finished with my watches, and I allowed to her how I hated to leave. "It's fun to live vicariously like this." I did not explain further. Again, no sense in having practicality rain on her ring. No need to tell her that I could never be so financially whimsical.
As I was paying, she glided over to me. "It's only going to cost $30 more a month than my payments now." She winked. "That's a case of beer. He can give that up for me."
Poor thing. She doesn't know. To men, diamonds are whimsical.
Beer is practical.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should). Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.