Everyone knows that Southerners are the epitome of good manners, breeding and decorum, but ... We can be bitches, too. We just do it with a smile, a lilt in our voices, and bourbon on our breath.
We don’t mean to be rude, we don’t wish to be rude, but there are times when you need to put people in their places and so here are some ways that we do it, south of the Mason-Dixon Line:
“Bless your heart.”
This is an old standby, used when you’re listening to someone drone on and on about something you don’t care about; you smile, and say, “Bless your heart.”
But it works best when you want to gossip about someone but don’t want to seem undignified:
“Joe Cafferty’s car was parked in front of Rebecca Loomis’s house all night. Bless her heart.”
Which is followed by the unspoken: “She’s a whore.”
“Well, look at that!” or “Well, isn’t that nice!”
There are times when someone is complaining, or worse, bragging, about this or that, and you just don’t want to know about it.
Smile, say, “Well, isn’t that nice,” and then change the topic.
“I’ll pray for you.”
This is one of my favorites ... Let’s say you’ve been discussing your problems, telling me all about your bad news and hard times and I, well, I really don’t care; I’ll smile and say, “I’ll pray for you.”
And change the topic. Or, take a loooong sip of my Mint Julep and look the other way.
Now, if, say, you’re Rebecca Loomis and we’ve all found out that Joe Cafferty stayed the night at your house, and not at home with Missus Cafferty, we’ll say, “I’ll pray for you,” take a looong sip of a Mint Julep, and then wait for more details.
“Thanks for sharing.”
If you tell a Southerner—and that’d be me ... Mississippi born, South Carolina living—an elaborate tale and, to be honest, I don’t quite agree or approve of your actions or point view, I’ll smile and say, “Thanks for sharing.”
If I find it especially boring, I’ll smile and say, “You should save that story and tell it at parties.”
“Oh I couldn’t pull that off, but look at you!”
True story: at an event in town a few years back, I got to talking with Jill, one of our horse people, and a very wealthy woman after her husband passed. Now, Jill has had some plastic surgery, but the good kind where she looks fabulous and not like skin stretched taut over bone kind; and Jill has exquisite taste and is always looking dressed to the nines.
So, I said to her, “You look fabulous. I think you could teach a lot of these women a thing or two about dressing.”
And Jill sighed and said, “I know,” took a sip of a Mint Julep and looked toward Rebecca Loomis who appeared to be wearing a combination Italian restaurant table cloth and car wash fringed curtain in red-and-white checks.
“Bless her heart.”
“Well, aren’t you a peach!”
This one, like many people I know, swings both ways; it can be a compliment, a real compliment, or, if you’re having a difficult conversation with a moody Southerner in public, and they call you a peach, well, you’re not a peach; you are far worse.
It goes like this: someone gets me a glass of punch at the church social, I might say, “Gosh, thanks. You’re such a peach.”
If someone gets everyone else a glass of punch at the church social and forgets me, I might say, “Gosh, you’re such a peach.”
It’s a subtle difference but you can hear it.
“Y’all ain’t from around here, now are ya?”
If you’re traveling through the South, you’ll get this a lot. And then you’ll get a lecture about the town and the people and where to go and what to, and who’s who and who’s that.
I still have people ask me, “Are y’all from here?”
And I usually lie and say, “Born and raised.”
And they’ll look at me askance and say, “You don’t sound like it.”
And I’ll smile and reply, “That’s because I graduated from the fifth grade.”
They’ll say, “Bless your heart, you’re such a peach.”
And I know exactly what they mean.