I’m a closet redneck. I like my grits drenched in butter and my chicken heavily fried. And whenever I get in the car to run an errand, I switch the dial to country music.

I love songs about the real-life, down-to-earth truths of human nature. There’s the heart-rending one called “Who’s That Man?” about the divorced guy who drives by his old house, and sees his wife and children with another man.

“That’s my house and that’s my car,” Toby Keith croons. “That’s my dog in my backyard.”

Then there’s the song about a father who’s shocked to hear his toddler utter a four-letter word. Later, he sees the boy get down on his knees before bed and say his prayers. Of course, the little fellow is just imitating dad.

I doubt you would peg me for a wannabe redneck in a million years. I have a decidedly Italian nose and olive skin, and my accent is laced with more Bronx than Birmingham.

Still, there is something about the Deep South that fascinates me.

I was only seven when my family moved to Miami from New York, but the Yankee intonations of my speech ran deep. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t adequately imitate my classmates’ “yawls.”

During college days in Gainesville, Fl., I was surrounded by hard-working country folks and their trappings: pick-up trucks, big hair, biscuits and grits.

As a philosophy major, I didn’t quite fit in, but in my heart of hearts, I longed to be counted among the Southern belles.

Talk about impossible. Belles had blonde hair and blue eyes hinting of their Irish-English ancestry, while my dark-eyed forefathers were solidly Mediterranean.

Still, the men I was drawn to were down-home, good-old boys. It was fine if a guy knew the deeper implications of Kant’s categorical imperative, but that wouldn’t help him change a tire for me.

Years later, I married a man whose roots are solidly Southern. His father’s folks hail from Mississippi and his mother’s from Georgia.

With a graduate degree from Georgia Tech, maybe he doesn’t qualify as a bona fide redneck. But he has traits that make him a close second.

He makes delicious wine from Muscadine grapes, knows how to use a gun, and isn’t afraid of snakes.

In fact, when a copperhead slid into our parsley patch, instead of calling animal control, he captured the viper himself.

I know I will never make it as a real redneck woman. I still have trouble making my “yawls” sound convincing and my biscuits could double as door-stops.

Still, I have great respect for people whose necks are red from hours toiling in the sun.

Such folks never stop saying “Yes, ma’am” to their mommas and “No sir” to their dads. They know a wedding band is expected when a man and woman fall in love.

City slickers often disparage country folks who live in trailers. They think small-town Southerners are somehow deprived because they don’t get a chance to sample the snooty cultural offerings of metropolitan life.

But when it comes to solid living, hard working and the wisdom to get down on your knees and thank God for your blessings, the sophisticates often fall short.

As for me, give me a redneck any day of the week.

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