It has been exactly a month since I moved in. I’m not pining for my family. I don’t miss my dog. (Does that make me a terrible person?) And I don’t feel like my suite is someone else’s room.
I just really want someone to hold the door.
Honestly, I never considered myself a true Southerner. Sure, I was born and raised in Dallas, but my parents are both transplants, so I spent vacations shuttling coast to coast. I never acquired even the slightest tinge of a Texas drawl, and I always choose black coffee over sweet tea.
One night during Camp Yale, someone asked me if I was from New York. I took it as a compliment and almost bashfully corrected him. It felt a little like revealing some deep dark secret.
My uprooted state has not awakened some latent desire to purchase cowboy boots or return to three-digit temperatures or hang a Texas flag above the mantelpiece in my common room. And yet I miss the little things I never really noticed.
Like having someone hold the door.
When a high school friend’s father attended Yale in the ’70s, bringing his yes ma’ams, no sirs and careful Southern manners to the newly coeducational campus, a female student confronted him: “I can hold the [expletive] door myself!” He was left standing on the landing, sputtering apologies, promising it would never happen again.
And I get it — I’m a card-carrying “no really, I’ll pay for dinner” feminist. But I’m not above what I previously believed to be common courtesy. Men of Yale — and sure, why not, women too — can you honestly not wait the five seconds it takes to let me through?
To be clear, I don’t truly think less of those who unintentionally slam doors in my face. I have learned to be okay having to swipe myself in to the Berkeley courtyard when my lunch buddies have passed through the gates without so much as a backward glance and are already halfway to the Tofu Provencal — a dish so un-Southern it may stifle any door-holding inclinations.
Yet what’s really so surprising is not the absence of the gesture but the fact that I notice its absence.
When I graduated from my all-girls high school in full-on Southern belle regalia — floor-length white dress and white hat adorned with fresh flowers — I thought I was leaving behind a tradition where advertisements for engagement rings once ran in the commencement program and shooting your first deer was a typical rite of passage.
But — and here I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — somewhere along the 18 years of Tex-Mex Sunday night dinners and drives down bluebonnet-lined highways, a little bit of Texas seeped into my being.
It shows when I smile at people I don’t know when I pass them on the sidewalk and they give me a look like, “Do I know you?” and when I’m taken aback when my suitemate’s parents introduce themselves by first name rather than Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
It shows when I accidentally refer to Shake Shack as Steak Shack and when I try to explain the agonies of this summer’s moral dilemma — to eat or not to eat at Chick-fil-A.
It shows when I take my toothbrush and toothpaste out of my monogrammed shower caddy, when I fill up my monogrammed water bottle before class, when I take notes in my monogrammed notebook and hang up reminders on my monogrammed magnet board, when I come back from my shower wrapped in my monogrammed towel and when I leave for the weekend with my monogrammed suitcase.
(Apologies to my monogrammed picture frame — I didn’t know how to fit you into the narrative — and any other monogrammed items that I may have unintentionally left unmentioned.)
Up to this point, I never knew that this Southern side existed, and I certainly didn’t think it would present itself so clearly. I expected to come to college to learn new things and have new experiences that would shape my character, but in my first weeks I’ve instead realized that a daily interaction I barely noticed at home is a part of who I am.
So call me a Southern belle, or call me old-fashioned, but please just hold the door.
Caroline Sydney is a freshman in Silliman College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.