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Growing Pains: NOLA dat

Elizabeth Kukla

Elizabeth Kukla

A few weeks ago, I pondered how New Orleans functions as a convenient, genuine, and reliable ice-breaker when meeting new folks. In the weeks since then, it has struck me how adept New Orleanians are at finding one another, wherever they may be.

Maybe we just get more excited about our hometown than other people, maybe we are just a little bit louder than other folks, or a little more “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” in our approach to life. Whatever overt or covert signals we're sending, New Orleanians can find one another just about anywhere.

Two weeks ago, I was running down the street, here, in Charlottesville, and saw a couple walking. The guy was wearing a black and gold number 9 jersey -- Bless you boys, one of my people. I dutifully shouted, “Who Dat?!?” with a smile and wave as I ran by. It was returned by an equally friendly wave from the couple. That is an overt signal of a New Orleans lover.

However, there are always the less obvious signals of a New Orleanian. At a festival in Charlottesville last April, I saw a guy walking around in a white linen suit and a street-tile tie by Vineyard Vines. This was my first hint at having found another of my kind. Then he got really excited about something and burst out with, “Yeah, you right!”

Yeah, you right. One of my people. We had never met before, but  as is so often the case with New Orleanians, I knew his: brother, aunt, father, mother, and cousin.

More than the Saints Jerseys, Perlis dress shirts, or subtle NOLA accessories, New Orleanians can find one another by our essence.

We are a little bit different, perhaps even a little weird. We march to the beat of a different drum, perhaps that of good ole Rebirth on a Tuesday at the Maple Leaf. We have unique mannerisms, unique sayings, and we move a little slower than most (especially in the summer).

We know what “bless your heart” really means; we know that dancing in the street is 110 percent a good idea; we understand that outbursts of “Who Dat?!” and “Yeah, you right!” are perfectly acceptable forms of expressing joy.

However, our most distinguishing attribute, which manifests itself throughout all of the New Orleanian essence described above, is our joyful, unapologetic, fervent love for this little bit of time called life.

Native New Orleanian Elizabeth Kukla is a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She writes about being a NOLA girl from afar in “Growing Pains,” a weekly column at NolaVie.