By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
Unmistakable is the drawl, unexplainable is the tone and unfortunate is the target of the Southern Woman’s disdain. As the social barometer rises in the sultry sweet south, one thing goes unaffected by the heightened humidity and lowered productivity. Clearly heard at garden parties and cocktail hours all over the region, is the sing-song voice of southern women telling the world how they really feel. As far back as history can recall, the poetic and polite piercing of an untamed tongue often belongs to none other than the hospitable and often hostile women of the south.
We are taught manners, etiquette and the proper way to write a thank you note for every kind gesture known to man. By preschool, we have blessed enough hearts to rival the Pope. It is a skill sharpened and honed to perfection long before the less desirable or beneficial mastery of literature and arithmetic. A southern woman can walk the line of linguistic laceration as though she were sashaying the red carpet.
As a public service, tourist guide, and warning to the wise, I have collected a few sentiments that quite possibly could save your life or at least your soiree. To understand, interpret and most importantly, avoid an encounter of the unkind exchange it is imperative to be able to identify the onset.
1. Oh my goodness – This delectable phrase can mean delight or detriment depending on which word is stressed. If there is a distinct pause between each word, the best one can hope for is immediate shelter. If ‘goodness’ is drawn out to exceed two syllables paramedics should be notified.
2. Sweetheart – All too often this sugary salutation is misconstrued as endearment. If an eye brow or wine glass is raised, it is not endearing. Not endearing at all. May heaven and Oprah help you should ‘listen here’ proceed this foreboding term.
3. Did she/he really? – If this is muttered someone, somewhere will not be sleeping tonight. Often confused for a question when in reality it is a statement of intent and that intent is not to share a recipe for apple pie.
4. I shouldn’t say this but… – Prepare for an onslaught. This could go on for quite some time. Do not interrupt, intervene or attempt to argue. Simply nod and politely insert and occasionally ‘Oh no’.
5. You’ve done something different to you hair – A confirmation that your hair dresser wasn’t on their A-game at your last appointment. Acknowledge the observation and blame the humidity.
6. I haven’t seen you at church – Obviously you are living a life of crime or at least a life of shame. Quickly clear your Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday evening schedule for the next three months until someone else is missed from church.
7. Awe, look at her – When spoken during the summer months this is a direct reference to how her bikini fits. It is an unspoken agreement that all southern women understand. If you don’t understand, don’t wear a bikini.
8. Isn’t he/she great? – This is a strategic interrogation, not a compliment. Your answer will determine your social fate. The best response is to sneeze or faint and to do so quickly.
9. Where are you from? – The slippery slope of seemingly innocent conversation. If you aren’t drinking sweet tea, wearing top siders or sporting the summer sandbar tan, the answer isn’t important. It is just to buy time until cocktails are served.
10. Last but never least, Bless your heart – I have considered writing an expose on this sole phrase; however, some things are best left alone. Like casseroles after catastrophe, white platters at weddings and girdles after Thanksgiving, some things are just sacred. Just understand that your heart could possibly be blessed or it could be the beginning of your indoctrination to a language where even insults are held in high regard. It is the good, the bad and the southern. Welcome to the sultry south where the days are hot, the nights are hotter and the women are as sweet as can be until they aren’t. Happy Summer Ya’ll.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford, owner of SugarBelle boutique, Celadon Real Estate Broker and observer of all things momentous and mundane lives on Lady’s Island with her golfing husband, dancing toddler and lounging dogs.