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The balance between well-behaved and not
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Mama has always tried to instill some sort of ladylike qualities in me.

Telling me not to say bad words in mixed company - meaning, not to say the words that are my Irish native tongue in front of menfolk.

Always wanting me to be polite and cordial.

A genteel proper Southern belle is what Mama hoped I would be.

Those are the character attributes Mama has always wanted her precious Kitten to have.

Unfortunately, I was exposed to my grandmother from birth and that left its mark.

Granny was far from being refined.

Now, Granny was a fine, upstanding, God-fearing woman but she was far from some genteel little Southern belle sitting around hoping not to break a sweat.

And she was no one's little waif sitting in the corner waiting to be addressed first.

While Mama was polite most of the time, Granny didn't care who she offended.

Granny was free with her opinion, her scorn, and her disapproval regardless of who it was.

And, unlike Mama who would never dare utter a bad word in the presence of a male, Granny could make a strong man cry when angered.

Somewhere along my childhood development, I tried to strike a balance between the two.
Mama's kind, compassionate, trying-to-do-the-right-thing stance and Granny's Katie-bar-the-door no regrets unabashed candor was a tough compromise.

I am not sure I have found a happy medium.

I tend, if anything, to find myself teetering from one side of the scale to the other.

Either I want to offer the compassion in a situation or I want to unleash locusts.

Locusts usually win.

"You know what your mama's problem is?" Granny said to me once.

I mentally tried to narrow it down: could it be her endless chain-smoking, her being ridiculously overprotective, or, was it the fact Mama's idea of groceries was Famous Amos cookies and a case of Diet Coke.

"She don't know what it's like to have to fight. She's had it easy compared to what I had to put up with. She ain't had to sit in a manufacturing plant making production. She's been paid for being nice - and that's part of her job."

And Mama was nice. Mama won awards for being nice. It may cause physical harm to my
Mama if she was anything else.

But Granny found that to be odd. How could someone not want to get the last word or invoke some sort of vengeance?

"Why is that some kind of problem?" I asked.

"Because," Granny began.

"Not everyone is nice. Not everyone plays fair and not everyone is gonna do the right thing. You may - and your mama always does - but not everyone else does."

I asked Mama about this once.

Why did she try to be nice in situations that called for anger?

Why did she offer understanding when hate would have been warranted?

Granted, if someone did something to her Kitten, she could make Granny seem mild but those instances were rare. She was a redhead, after all. But most of my life, when I would find the outrage in something, it has been Mama telling me to look for the middle ground.

"Granny says you are too nice," I said.

Mama nodded slowly. "I can see her thinking that," she said. "It's not that I am too nice; I try to behave. Your grandmother hasn't exactly ever worried about behaving for the most part. She thinks if she is upset about something, the world needs to know."

I asked Granny if she thought she was misbehaving.

"I'm not taking no cuff off anyone. If that's misbehaving, so be it."

Who was right?

Granny got things done - some people did what she wanted because they were scared of her.

Mama could accomplish the same thing by talking to people nicely.

Can't we have both?

Can't we have the politeness, the compassion?

And can't we be able to stand our ground and rebel rouse when necessary? Even if it means causing a ruckus?

I'm not sure which one I have finally decided on as a foundation.

There's times I see Mama's tact and compassion is the better choice and others, Granny's locusts are the only way to get things done.

Maybe, maybe, one day, I will find a happy medium between the two.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."