Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Southern Belle Rules

I got The Call a couple of weeks ago. I knew it was coming. Yes, it’s that time of year when the snowbirds fly away home, and we are a convenient stop and watering hole for the snowbirds we happen to be related to – my mama and stepdaddy.

So The Call came. The one where I am informed of the intended departure time from Snowbird Central and intended arrival time at our house a/k/a The House Where Your Daughter Has Been Dusting Light Bulbs and Scrubbing Corners With a Toothbrush and Forgot To Do Her Nails. The call which leads me to ask my husband, “Do you think we can find a new house, get all new stuff, and get moved before they get here? It would be easier than tackling this mess. This place is no Tara.”

Now, please do not get the wrong impression here. My mama is the least critical person I know. She has always been my biggest fan, and I am one lucky girl to be able to call my mama my friend and mean it. She’s the best. Yep, she set that bar pretty high.

And therein lies the problem. She’s the best. The best cook. The best housekeeper. The best dresser and accessorizer. Hair and make-up always done. Nails always perfectly manicured and polished. She speaks softly with just the right amount of Southern drawl. She doesn’t tolerate injustice, is never afraid to speak her mind, but she is never loud, not even when provoked. She also sews, crochets, and makes all kinds of things from scratch. In short, my mama is a Southern Belle. Me? Eh, not so much.

For your enlightenment, here are a few of The Southern Belle Rules and how I measure up:

1. You are not to so much as go to the mailbox without hair, make-up and nails being done. You never know who might be out there. {TRIPLE Fail!}

2. Jeans are acceptable. However, in no event are holes or fraying of any kind acceptable, and they should always be paired with a cute top or blouse. (Bonus Belle points for cute t-shirts with embroidery.) NO sweatshirts. {TRIPLE fail!}

3. Handbags and shoes should be season and occasion-appropriate and color-coordinated for the outfit you are wearing. For example: No striped wool-blend handbags with flower print dresses and high-top Reeboks. (Yeah, like I wear dresses.) {Fail!]

4. Accessories (jewelry, scarves, etc. - color-coordinated of course) are required but should be understated. Too much is just tacky. Note: Nose and uh, other body part rings are NOT jewelry. See #7 {Check minus! Not quite a total fail.}

5. No one is EVER to leave your house hungry. (I have been told the road to hell is littered with the bodies of those who left your house hungry.) {Check!!!!! This one I got!}

6. Green beans are to be cooked for a minimum of one hour. Longer is preferable. In short, there is no such thing as overcooking green beans. However, due to dietary considerations, you are no longer required to use bacon and bacon grease. Bacon bits and the appropriate zero trans-fat margarines are now acceptable. {Check!}

7. In general, body piercings and tattoos are frowned upon, most especially if the tattoos are large and are not spelled correctly. However, it has recently become acceptable to have two holes in your ears. {Check!}

8. Except under dire and extreme circumstances, you should always be Miss Congeniality. {Fail! I have been known to tell people to kiss mah greeyuts.}

9. If it should become necessary to express yourself in a more forceful manner, you should employ the Oh, You Poor Sweet Thing, I Put You in Your Place and Made You Like It tactic. Also known as The Big Stick That Talks Softly, this is the Southern Belle way of charming someone and telling them off at the same time. When done correctly, people will be so charmed they will not realize until much later they were KO’ed. Delayed reactions are quite common. People have been known to yell “Ouch!” and fall to their knees up to 14 days after being on the receiving end of one of these mint-julep zingers. (My mama, of course, does this effortlessly.)

SPECIAL NOTE: Successful implementation of this tactic will get your professionally-painted portrait in the Southern Belle Hall of Fame on the same wall as Scarlett O’Hara.

Now, the degree of difficulty on this one is extremely high, and I have never been able to pull it off. When I express myself “in a more forceful manner,” it falls more closely within the “pitchin’ a conniption fit” category. See #8. {BIG Fail!}

10. If cornered and you have no choice but to say something less than flattering about someone, always follow it with “bless her/his/your heart.” {Check minus}

11. Secret family recipes are just that – secret! It is extremely bad manners to ask someone for a secret family recipe or to give one out. Violation of this rule will result in a two-event no-tiara penalty and snubbing at the next Women’s League meeting. {Check! You will have to pry my granny’s chocolate pie recipe out of my cold, dead hand!}

12. The wearing of tiaras is limited to: graduation parties, coming-out parties, prom royalty, engagement parties, weddings, wedding showers, baby showers, participation in parades, those who have been voted or deemed the Princess or Queen of any festival, fair, party, or group consisting of at least 3 members (i.e., Ya-Ya Sisterhood), after a break-up, bad news/good news of any kind while commiserating/celebrating with your Southern Belle buds and eating ice cream, and divorce proceedings. (Please note it is highly recommended that you wear only rhinestone tiaras in court during divorce proceedings.)

The tiara rules also include several subsections, the most important of which is how to care for your tiara.

Subsection A: It is strictly forbidden to wear a tarnished tiara. Tiaras must always be kept absolutely spotless and as shiny as possible, so as to reflect any and all available light. (Otherwise, no one will notice you, which defeats the true purpose of the tiara. Duh.)

Subsection B: When not in use, a tiara is to be kept in a velvet-lined box in a climate-controlled environment. It is not a toy. Please give it the respect it deserves.

{Quadruple Fail! I often wear my tiara at non-sanctioned events such as when vacuuming or doing dishes. I do, however, remove it when cleaning certain unmentionable porcelain parts of "necessary" rooms. I thought I'd better point that out. That would just be too gruesome for words!)

I think it was obvious very early on that I was not quite Southern Belle material. There are a whole lotta pictures of me in my Sunday/Easter-best ruffled and frilly dress (made by my mama, of course), perfectly accessorized with patent leather shoes and purse, ruffled socks, gloves, and a precious little hat. Yes, there I am, the very picture of miniature Southern Belle perfection until you spot the band-aids on my knobby little knees and elbows. I can almost hear my mama sighing in the background when I look at those pictures.

By the way, in case you are wondering why I still call my mama “mama,” that’s just something we Southern-types do. Your mother and father are called “mama” and “daddy.” This is not something you outgrow and suddenly one day they are “mom” and “dad.” They are always and forever “mama” and “daddy.”

Of course, this is only a small sampling of The Southern Belle Rules. I can’t tell you everything, or I’ll be tossed out of the program and forced to give up tiaras forever. I am hanging by a thread as it is. I’m pretty sure the only reason I’m allowed to claim any Southern Belle status at all is because my mama is such a well-respected member. I am closer to the Carol Burnett Scarlett O'Hara. And I'm quite sure when I am spoken of by other Southern Belles, those conversations include a generous dose of "bless her heart."

Oh, the visit? I’ll save that for the next installment. For now I’ll just say my mama arrived looking spectacular, after an 8-hour drive, and carrying homemade fudge. {Sigh}