1. You pronounce things like the locals again, even if it’s not grammatically correct.
New Orleans becomes “N’awlins” and Biloxi is “Buh-luck-see.” Even though you learned better in high school French, you call Gautier “Go-tee-ay,” not “Go-shay.”
2. You’re getting a lot of advice you don’t need.
You’ve done laundry at Mawmaw’s for 20 years, and she still demonstrates how to get your whites whiter. A cashier at Walgreens once said, “Abstinence is the only safe form of birth control,” before ringing up your box of condoms.
3. You’ve started running every day because you’re eating too much.
Healthy options are available in Mississippi, but you can’t pass up deep-fried seafood platters, fried chicken and waffles, fried okra and fried green tomatoes. Plus, Mawmaw says you’re getting too skinny (she’s always right) and is trying to fatten you up with biscuits and gravy every morning.
4. Your weekend meals revolve around praising the Lord.
You are a non-churchgoing heathen who can’t have dinner before 6:30pm on Saturday night because half of your family is at Catholic mass. Eateries don’t open on Sunday until Baptist service and Bible School is over. And no one eats back home in Mississippi without first saying a blessing.
5. You’ve noticed that residents refer to time as “before” Hurricane Katrina or “after.”
Reminders of the devastation are everywhere, and resentment lingers since New Orleans got all the press. Biloxi and Pascagoula beachfront lots remain empty. Neighbors who lost everything never returned, permanently transplanted to Texas.
6. You’re calling your grandparents by their real names again.
While away, you described them as your grandmother and grandfather. Now you can comfortably call them “Mawmaw” and “Pawpaw” in public.
7. Drink choices have gone back to iced tea or Coke.
If you answer Coke, then you have to clarify Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper or Barq’s. You usually stick to iced tea — nowhere does it like the South. Drinking a tall glass of iced sweet tea and listening to the humming cicadas on a shaded front porch is divine.
8. You’ve remembered that the best restaurants are in shacks and gas stations.
Fayard’s BP in Gautier prepares the best crabmeat po’boy on the coast, and it’s easy as pie to get gas and grab lunch at the same time. Lines start before opening at the awarding-winning Shed BBQ, located in a tin-roofed, plywood-walled carport in Ocean Springs.
9. You’ve become a part of the “People of Walmart” phenomenon.
The selection at Jerry Lee’s is lacking, and there aren’t any Super Targets (pronounced Super “Tar-shays” so it sounds fancy) near you. You’re witnessing worse than the videos and photos on Peopleofwalmart.com, but you shop there anyway.
10. Mayonnaise has become the main ingredient in your salads.
There’s a tub of Hellman’s full-fat mayo (Kraft isn’t good and Miracle Whip isn’t an acceptable substitute) in the fridge for tuna salad, chicken salad, crab salad, potato salad and broccoli salad. When you go out to eat, you expect mayo unless you order a green salad.
11. You get dirty to eat “good.”
You’re proud to clean your catch, shuck oysters, and devein shrimp. Half the fun of crawfish boils is getting tingly fingers from the spicy Cajun seasoning while peeling by the pound.
12. Saturdays in autumn mean one thing: college football.
People wear maroon and white for Mississippi State, not the strikingly similar crimson and white for the University of Alabama. You root for MSU, or you can’t go to tailgate parties.
13. Your lips have become tighter than bark on a tree about politics.
You’re a liberal in a state of conservatives, and you don’t have the energy to argue. When asked how you will vote in the presidential election, you respond that you’re going to write your name in on the ballot — it’s legal here.
14. You won’t get within 10 feet of a creek or pond unless you’re in a boat.
From the time you could walk, Mom warned you about the risks of the marsh. Plus, you’ve seen enough alligators in your day to steer clear.
15. You pay attention to the forecast if the meteorologist names the storm.
When you’re away, you look out the window to find out the weather. Storms south of the Mason-Dixon Line are serious business. You remember George stranding a schooner down the street from your house. The gulf reached your back door during Katrina, and your aunt had to rebuild.
16. Family friends are cutting your hair and fixing your car.
Your parents have been going to the same mechanic, hair salon, fish market and church for years, so you get special treatment and discounts. Sometimes, you pay in casseroles instead of cash.
17. You never use the good Lord’s name when you’re mad.
You know “dern” well it’s disrespectful. God made this great state, and you’re thankful to be home.