Calling Their Dawgs And Their Hogs: Southern Women And College Football

Recently I was talking with one of my friends about trying to schedule a get-together so she and I and our husbands could catch up. Lisa and her husband are considered some of our dearest friends. We were all in the same circle when our kids were attending the same schools, Scout troops, and sporting events. We may not see each other as often as we used to because our kids are now older, but after raising kids together, like Army buddies who have braved combat together, the bond between us is eternal, and our social times together are prioritized—unless it’s college football season.

For example, this time of year my conversation with Lisa might go something like this…

What about September 1st?”

No, can’t. Tennessee plays at 7:00 that night. What about September 8th?”

Georgia plays at 1:00 that day, we’ll be tailgating all day and depending on how the game goes, if we lose then we won’t feel like going out. Let’s look at September 15th. What about that day?”

Clemson plays that day and we’re going to the game.”

You get the idea. And as much as we try, we honestly may not be able to work anything out on our calendars until December.

And we’re both ok with that.

We know how passionately each of us feels about our football teams and totally understand when every Saturday is socially roadblocked. There’s no hurt feelings, animosity or resentment for arranging our lives around our Bulldogs, our Volunteers or our Tigers.

I can’t speak for women living in other parts of the country, but I can speak for Southern women. If they like their football, which true Southern women do, then you aren’t going to get between them and their favorite team on any Saturday from August through Thanksgiving.

Don’t schedule your kids skating party or your all day barn wedding– where the nearest tv is eight miles down the road– in the middle of the Ole Miss game. If the Duke game gets changed to the same time as a Southern woman’s hair appointment, that appointment is getting rescheduled. Don’t invite them to a baby shower that starts at the same time as the Alabama game or they will wake up that morning with a sudden case of “something” that feels like “it could be” German measles, mumps or whooping cough, but definitely not a germ that should be around a mother-to-be. Being a nice Southern girl she will have the gift dropped off in time for the shower though, and it will be extra generous, of course.

When my kids were young, I cannot tell you how many Saturday baseball games, soccer games, or dance competitions I went to with a very sour attitude, because my beloved Georgia Bulldogs were playing at the same time. I would watch my kid out of one eye while asking anyone who I thought might know “Do you know what the score of the game is?”–and yes, it was referred to as “the game.” If that person answered with, “What game?” they immediately got scoffed with a dismissive arm wave.

My Southern family has always scheduled our fall birthday dinners around college football games. We’ve even timed many a Thanksgiving meal between two critical games. We’ve put Saturday yard work and housecleaning chores off. And I will admit we’ve opted out of the occasional Sunday morning church services, because we either partied too much the night before or we were so despondent over our loss on Saturday that we, as Southerners say, “took to the bed.” Of course, God might overlook us missing church now and then since we do so much “praying” during the games.

Southern women just get this phenomenon. They don’t question it. They don’t fight it. It doesn’t hurt their feelings when someone else doesn’t get it and wants to plan something. If that happens, they just won’t go. They will still watch their most important game and take “the offended” some leftover buffalo wings or spinach dip the next day. I mean who can stay mad at a person who comes to your door bearing chicken wings? They’re the olive branch of snack foods.

In addition to having them memorized, Southern women have their teams’ football schedules on their calendars, on their phones, maybe even written on their bathroom mirrors. They lay out their lucky game day clothes the night before. They wake up with butterflies in their stomachs on game days. They start texting things like “GO DAWGS! Woof, woof, woof!” to their friends at 7 a.m. who are already up mixing something called “turtle shots” for celebrating every thrilling touchdown–they sound weird, but they’re delicious. They strategize with their fellow game watchers on what food to bring for game day. And if a field goal is missed after someone changes seats on the couch, they will immediately order “get back in your seat!” and they will mean it, because college football is serious business for Southern women.

Everyone knows the stereotypical Southern woman is demure, but strong, prim but assertive. They have a way of cutting you to the quick with one sharp comment, but it’s said with such refined precision you don’t even feel the blade. They can put you in your place, but cushion it with a “Bless your heart,” and no one is the wiser. Unless their team is on the field.

At that point they morph into the most foul-mouthed, shameful, name calling creatures that ever carried a Kate Spade on their arm. They will shout obscenities mirroring a mudslinging desperado while dressed in their monogrammed sweater and matching Ralph Lauren culottes. And yet, afterwards, while everyone else around them is all wide-eyed from shock, all is forgotten–until next Saturday. Of course, the beer consumption often helps fuel this angry fire, but my theory is if God hadn’t wanted us to drink beer, He wouldn’t have created Clydesdales.

And then there’s the Southern woman’s theory that THEY are the only ones blessed enough to experience the best football in the country. To the women of the South, no other football counts.

I remember a Southern girlfriend telling me that one Saturday her neighbor was in the yard looking forlorn. When she asked him why he said “Syracuse lost today. I’m a big Syracuse fan.” She promptly followed that with, “Well Good Lord, no need to admit to that!” Southern female football fans “have heard” there are some solid football programs in other places, but preferably their teams are comprised of young athletes who grew up eating their mama’s biscuits and gravy.

I remember the precise moment when I was taken over by the college football infatuation. My first year at The University of Georgia, first game of the season…

I’d never been to a college football game in my life, and suddenly I was “Between the Hedges” in the student section of illustrious Sanford Stadium submerged in a bounty of screaming Georgia red and black.

It was intoxicating—and a lot of intoxication.

I’d never seen so many people, 92,746 to be exact, consumed with such emotion over anything, much less a football game. I watched the esteemed Georgia Bulldogs run out onto the field being led by the SEC’s most perfect Southern gentleman, Coach Vince Dooley. I was so moved by pride, excitement and the beauty of that stadium–if you’ve never seen it, I promise you, you’re missing something–and the rich history of the college football greats, such as Hershel Walker, that had come through those locker room doors. The Redcoat Band played “Glory, Glory.” My eyelids embarrassingly began to rim with tears, and I was thankful for my sunglasses. I knew I was hooked. This was my team.

These were my Bulldogs.

And that’s how it happens. They can’t help it, those Southern women and their love for college football. It’s in their veins to love their Bulldogs, their Gators, and their Gamecocks. They can be adorned in the most fashionable, ladylike Razorback “cardinal red” ensemble down to their mini-skirts and matching boots and still “call the Hogs” without shame and with the perfect pitch of an opera singer.

Some of them attended the college they cheer on and some did not, but they will still love their “adopted” teams with zeal. Maybe their daddy went to The University of Kentucky. Maybe their husband went to Georgia Tech or their daughter goes there. Or maybe no one ever went there, but growing up they were just “an Auburn family.” It doesn’t matter. When it comes to Southern women and their college football, love is love.

And of course, GO DAWGS!!!

Arkansas Is Known As The Natural State; Marriage Is Not

One of the most interesting comments my mother-in-law ever made to me was many years ago, when I had recently married her son and was still in that “starry-eyed phase.” If you’re married, you remember that phase. It was when you thought it was cute, as you patiently waited at the sink for the water to get warm, for him to come up behind you and just turn the faucet off because you were, as he put it, “wasting water.

Yeah, that one. Remember it? So cute… (teeth gritted).

Anyway, one day I heard her say,

“Marriage is not a natural state.”

I remember thinking at the time that she, having had two husbands in her lifetime, might have just had a different or more challenging experience than some married people, but that surely marriage was indeed a most natural state.

It was for me! I mean, look here, I had just married a man who was allergic to chicken (chicken, not chickens. There’s a big difference). So I was willing to give up fried chicken for him, and those of you who know me, well you know—that’s real love right there. Catholic nuns and priests give up marriage for God. I gave up fried chicken for marriage–same exact thing in my head.

Early on, marriage is pretty easy. Luckily, nature gives you blinders to the crappy parts, and you’re both just so in love and excited about your new life together that you can’t image anything ever changing.

Then you start to pay bills with this person, decorate a house with this person, share a closet with this person, and rely on this person to nurse you through the flu.

This person.

This person, who you stood before God and a room full of people your mother made you invite, and promised to love forever, will start to show little shortcomings here and there. They won’t jump out all at once like a jack-in-the-box, but rather they will ooze out like a tube of toothpaste that someone left the lid off of—and I go on record here, that if your toothpaste lid needs to be screwed on with a lug wrench then you are buying the wrong brand of toothpaste. Putting the cap back on with a half turn is enough to do the job.

no matter what he says.

I’ll continue–the shortcomings will show themselves subtly at first. So subtle that you will be able to talk yourself into denying that they are even there. But eventually, like a burr under a saddle, they will wear on you until you explode and kick the trash can around the kitchen, because for the 814th time, someone didn’t put a clean trash bag back in it, and you just dumped a pound of shrimp shells in there.

All of these little annoyances could probably be withstood fairly simply by some calm discussions and some compromising, but no. Unfortunately after years of letting the resentment grow into a healthy fervor, this seems to be just about the time you decide to add a bouncing six pound terrorizing manipulator with the nocturnal biorhythms of a hamster to the mix. Born out of love of course…

Uh-huh. Love. Believe me, there were times at 3 a.m. I would have “loved” to have left her in a dumpster (I love you Rachel).

So now, you’ve got a little selfish, screaming,  “pot-roast” of a person thrown in whose only purpose in the universe is to deny you anything you want at anytime you want it, including showers, sleep, privacy, conversations at restaurants (conversations period), meals at restaurants, (meals period), sex, television, coffee table knick-knacks, working out, pee-ing, naps, time with friends, (friends period)…and for this stage, just to survive, you play a delicate game of sometimes banding together against “Enfant Terrible,” and at other times just wanting to shank each other.

Marriage is not a natural state.”

Right about here you feel that comment down to your core. You could wear a “marriage is not a natural state” t-shirt.

Oh hell, you could get it tattooed on your neck.

Everything that your spouse does you could swear he or she is doing out of spite now. Exhaustion has set in and you are too tired to explain why you dumped the dirty dishes on his side of the bed. So when he drops his naked ass into bed on top of a pile of cold greasy dishes at midnight, he just understands.

And in case you’re unsure… “Don’t leave me at home with a baby and a sink full of dirty dinner dishes and then go out to meet your friends at the bar,” is clearly what that says.

But now the little things are all there, and they’re all fair game. Nothing is overlooked at this stage. And this stage lasts for YEARS.

He will put the pillow cases on the pillows inside out.

He will hang his coat on the antique hall tree that is CLEARLY not really for coats.

He will clip his toenails while you are sleeping six feet away.

He will chew his mashed potatoes loudly.

He will cancel your satellite radio in your car and not tell you, but he will say he did tell you.

He will wrap your birthday present in paper that the stray dog you took in for one afternoon, peed on (the cat will take one whiff and let you know).

He will use your fancy new linen tablecloth as a drop cloth in the garage.

He will order “just prime rib” at a restaurant. No baked potato. No salad. Just. Prime. Rib. (Is he a werewolf? Eat a vegetable.)

He will never, ever, bring home the right item from the grocery store.

He will snore….Oh boy, will he snore….and you’ll be having thoughts of that dumpster again.

This will go on for years and years…this burr in the saddle stage. And you will be doing the same types of annoying things to him—for sure! “Marriage is not a natural state” will never be more apparent as you exercise daily restraint and take lots of deep, cleansing, anti-homicidal breaths.

But then, as the years continue through this unnatural state, and Travelzoo continues to send “runaway” offers to your inbox, and some days you think you’ll surely lose your mind, you start to notice more aspects about that person. Little patterns will start to reveal themselves, but at this time in your marriage you’ll pay attention.

You’ll realize that he brings you coffee every morning without you having to even think about it. Or how he rushed right home when you called him at work to tell him that your grandfather had died. And how he sat up in a hard plastic chair all night in the hospital while you slept comfortably in your Demerol haze with a kidney stone. Or how, after you celebrated too much for your 50th birthday party and pretty much made your bathroom uninhabitable, he took care of you AND the bathroom—and never mentioned it to you. He will turn the car around, without even being asked, because he knows you will worry about that damn turtle crossing the road all the way to Alabama. And those little burrs in the saddle that you’ve always had will eventually start to fade some. They will be more like background music, because you will stop letting them sing the lead.

Maybe it’s age, and you are both mellowing. Maybe it’s because the little freeloading, emotional extortionists have grown up and gone off to college and your brain fog from eating all those Go-Gurts and oatmeal cream pies over the years starts to clear up. Or maybe you’re too tired to care about squeaky toenail clippers anymore. I don’t know, but I do know if you let them, if you wait for them, those old fond, familiar feelings will come back around.

Thirty years later you will just see him getting out of the lake one day and you will notice how handsome he still is after all these years, and you will be consumed with that feeling that only teenagers are supposed to feel. Or you will feel his arm in the middle of the night—clearly overstepping its boundary and on YOUR side of the bed—and instead of shoving it back because he’s snoring again and you’ve had two hours of sleep in a week, you will catch yourself running your hand over it in the dark. You will feel the little smooth hairs and weathered strength in his arm and find a comfort in its existence in “your space.” And one night at 3 a.m. , as you lay there listening to him snore for the third agonizing hour, in that moment, in that most unnatural state of marriage, you will pat that intruding hairy arm and be overwhelmed by how natural marriage feels.