If you’re a boy, and you’re thinking of marrying a Southern woman like I did, you’d do well to understand how she thinks first.

Take for instance, my wife, Jamie. I’ve spent years in training beneath her tutelage. I’ve learned a few things. Not a lot, but a little.

And I’d like to share some tips to help you on your journey, my friend.

1: Even though your Southern wife appreciates you trying, you are much too simpleminded to wash dishes. In fact, you couldn’t even make ice without a recipe. Loading residential dishwashers is only to be done by card-carrying members of the Junior League — or their mothers.

2: Do your wife a favor and familiarize yourself with the federal laws of Southern female fashion. They aren’t difficult to remember. Here’s one: females shall not wear white between Labor Day and the SEC Championship. Unless it’s a leap year. In which case, women are not allowed to wear chevron-print, flip flops, corduroy or expose tattoos to members of the Rotary Club on Tuesdays.

3: Grocery lists can be fun. Lists written by your Southern wife will contain cryptic shorthand only intelligible to certain members of Navajo tribes. Furthermore, you’re a terrible supermarket shopper. All that cheap toilet paper you bought? Your wife could sand a boat with that stuff.

4: At night, it is permitted for a Southern woman’s bedside lamp to remain on while she catches up on Russian literature. Yes, it might seem as though you’re falling asleep with aircraft lights aimed at your wispy thin eyelids. You can always try cussing.

5: Remember the good old days? When you used to tell stories to buddies, and they’d die with laughter? That’s over now. A Southern debutante, like your wife, has legal authority to question your bull-hockey in public. Once she shuts you down, she will then prove that you don’t even know how to spell debutante.

6: You used to pick out your own clothes. Nowadays, you couldn’t dress a scarecrow worth a cuss.

7: Always remember that your honey-do list will be written on your tombstone and in your obituary. Your mother-in-law already knows this list backward and forward. So do members of your local Junior League chapter.

8: When out for dinner, it is grounds for divorce to order a salad if your Dixie Belle orders steak, pork or chitlins. She will think you are making a passive aggressive statement and confront you with, “Salad? Are you trying to say I’m fat?” Similarly, never, under any circumstances, go to the gym together.

9: If you should ever eat peanut butter with a spoon, please see rule No. 1.

10: When your Southern wife asks, “Do I look fat?” any response (including involuntary twitches of your trick eyelid) will be your last. Try this: tuck a five-dollar bill into her waistband, then tell her to walk slowly around the room while you holler and whistle like a fool.

However, if your wife is like mine, she won’t even bat an eyelash for anything less than a fifty.


From Feb. 28, 2019:

Dear Superman, 

I awoke way too early this morning. It was still dark. This morning, I was missing my late bloodhound. 

Last year around this time, she was still alive, and she would sit beside me while I fiddled with the coffee pot. But she’s not here. Pancreatitis took her. 

I’ll never forget it, last year we checked her into the pet hospital, they put her in one of those cones. They locked her in a cage. They shoved needles in her. 

I was able to wedge my hand through the kennel door to pet her nose. It was the last time I ever saw her. 

My mother always told me, “Don’t just tell someone you love them, write it down for them, then they can remember it always.” 

Too bad dogs can’t read.

But then, Mama was full of country wisdom. I think she was a little like your Mama, Clark. 

She’s the one who told me: “A bumblebee is faster than a John Deere.” 

And: “Never judge a family tree by the nuts falling off it.” 

And: “If you ever start to think you’re somebody, try telling a house cat what to do.” 

Anyway, the reason I am writing you is because yesterday afternoon I opened the mailbox to find several bills, junk mail, real estate advertisements, and one manila envelope with no return address. Inside was an Action Comics comic book. 

“Great Ceasar’s Ghost!” I thought to myself.

It took me back in time. I used to subscribe to Action Comics when I was a boy. I kept my subscription until I was 27 years old.

You were my childhood obsession. This began in earnest the week after my father’s funeral. My friend brought me a stack of your comics he’d gotten at a flea market for a few bucks. 

There must’ve been a hundred of them. They dated back to June, 1938. God, the smell of those wonderful books. They were the greatest. You were not just a hero to me, you were an escape from my real life. 

During that hellish year of grief, I read those comics a hundred times over. I knew every picture, every word-bubble, and I could get lost in the colors. 

There’s one particular drawing I remember. You were swooping from the sky to save a dog from an explosion at a gas station. You were just in the nick of time. 

And that’s what gets me about you, Clark—or do you prefer Superman? How does a man who can fly, who sees through walls, who can bench press a middle school, decide to help dogs? You didn’t have to do that.

You don’t have to do a lot of things. You don’t have to dress in street clothes, or be so humble. You don’t have to act like a meek reporter, or wear eyeglasses, or work a nine-to-five job, or watch your cholesterol. You’re Superman. 

You could be king of the universe, you could be rich, political, all-powerful, or you could appear on this season of The Voice and blow the competition away — literally, I mean you could use your heat vision. 

But here you are, caring about dogs. What a guy. 

I was 12 years old when I sent off for a subscription to Action Comics. I filled out a little postcard and sent my money via U.S. Postal Service. The cost was 9 bucks for 24 issues in the mail. 

Batman didn’t do it for me. Spiderman was nothing special. But you. You were worth 9 bucks. 

I can still remember one night, years before my father died, when my mother hosted a bunco tournament at our house. She’d outfitted the den with card tables and invited a hundred million church ladies over to eat finger food and play cards. 

That night, my father and I stayed out of her way. We sat in his shed with a radio on his bench. 

I remember this evening very clearly because it was a leap year, your birthday, Feb. 29. The local radio station played Superman serial shows back-to-back until midnight.

When it was all said and done, my father fuzzed my hair and said, “Old Superman was something, wasn’t he? All that power, and he always helps the little guy.”

Then he hugged me and said, “You always be sure to help the little guy, you hear me?” 

I wish you could’ve met him. He liked you, too. 

So right now I am reading a comic book, sent to me anonymously, sipping coffee, thinking about little jewels in life that have meant a lot to me. Like the way my dog loved me. And the memories of my father. 

I just wanted to say that I’m grateful for you. People might not thank you enough for all the times you’ve saved the world. 

You probably don’t get many letters from adults, but my mother told me that if I loved someone, I ought to write it down. And well, I guess that’s what this is. 

Happy birthday, Superman.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist, novelist and stand-up storyteller known for his commentary on life in the American South. His column appears in newspapers throughout the U.S. He has authored 15 books, he is the creator of the Sean of the South Podcast and he makes appearances at the Grand Ole Opry.