1. Thou shalt do your fair share of household chores.
She isn’t like her mama’s generation. She cooks, then you clean, or she picks up dinner, and you take out the trash. She does the laundry, and you mow the lawn. She goes to the grocery store, but you grill the burgers. She has given you the time of day and has expectations beyond good manners.
2. Thou shalt be a southern gentleman.
No matter where you’re from, you need to charm her parents. You need to be confident without being arrogant, and you need to give a firm handshake. Keep your elbows off the table, and pass serving dishes to the right. Start with silverware farthest from your plate and work your way in on every dinner course. Pour her drink first and hold the door open. Say “sir” and “ma’am.” Wear your Sunday best for anything other than a football game or crawfish boil with her family. The Mississippi School of Protocol & Etiquette can give you more pointers.
3. Thou shalt know your intentions and get your story straight.
She may be OK with your casual relationship. Her parents won’t be — unless they dislike you and hope you won’t be around for long (in which case, you’re screwed). Have a few lines in mind so that when asked how serious you are about their daughter, you respond without stuttering, “We’ve been dating a couple of months, and we have a bright future.”
4. Thou shalt love her mama as much as she does.
Her mom is her best friend and the most important person in her life. She calls Mom every day, even though she moved out a decade ago. Asking her to pick you over her mother is the fastest way to be kicked to the curb. Insulting Mama’s accent, driving, cooking or ANYTHING is almost as bad.
5. Thou shalt put her family first.
Mom is at the top, and the rest of her family is her second priority. She acts like a 10-year-old when goofing off with her younger brothers. She enjoys a few nights camping out in her grandparents’ living room, giggling until the early morning hours with eight of her 20 cousins. To love her is to spend lots of time with her big, loud family without complaining.
6. Thou shalt not break her heart.
If you do, her daddy will shoot you with his Remington hunting rifle and feed you to the bayou gators. At least that’s what he said he’d do, and he is a man of his word.
7. Thou shalt eat everything you’re served.
Unless you are deathly allergic to something on the plate, you better finish it out of respect. Your preference to avoid gluten or hatred of okra is not an acceptable excuse for leaving food behind after Mawmaw (Grandma) spent hours in the kitchen. You will learn not to waste a morsel of shellfish — there are techniques for extracting the last bit of shrimp from the tail and sucking crawfish heads.
8. Thou shalt compromise frequently.
She is stubborn and hates to be wrong, so she’s not going to let you win an argument. Go to bed angry or find a solution you can both agree on; you may have to say you’re sorry first.
9. Thou shalt be a handy man.
She may be a southern belle, but she knows a thing or two about cars, plumbing and wiring — so should you. She can change a flat tire, but she’s not going to do it in her white eyelet dress on the shoulder of I-10 in August.
10. Thou shalt go to church on Easter and Christmas.
Whatever your religious beliefs — or lack thereof, which you should never bring up — you will attend church on the two big holidays. Get plenty of sleep beforehand because nodding off is frowned upon. Be ready two hours before the service starts because if you don’t arrive at the church at least 45 minutes prior, you will stand for the next two hours.
11. Thou shalt love the water.
If you get seasick, slap on a Scopolamine patch and man up. She has an infectious smile you will only see when she’s on a boat, her hair tangled by the salty gulf breeze. Deep-sea fishing, water skiing and body boarding are her favorite hobbies.
12. Thou shalt make a decent living.
You better have a steady, good-paying job with benefits. Otherwise, her mom and dad will not consider you as marriage material. She has a career of her own, but her parents still care about yours.
13. Thou shalt ask her daddy before proposing.
Come hell or high water, you are ready to commit to your Mississippi gal. You better get her dad’s permission, or she won’t be walking down the aisle.