Bless your heart and other southern barbs
Posted by kitkat37
My father has always told me that it isn’t what you say, but how you say it. I’ve learned that isn’t 100% factual. Try telling that to your program director at a radio station after you’ve just announced on the afternoon drive show that the town name of Willacoochee sounds like a porn star. “But I said it with such farce and levity!” I declared. Luckily, I was allowed to keep my headphones for a few more weeks, but I did have to apologize to the locals on the air for making fun of one of their words. It’s not my fault the townspeople thought a dirty-sounding word would look great plastered across their city hall.
But I digress. In many cases, radio tomfoolery excluded, my father was right. It’s all in how you say it. When someone comments about how great a form-fitting sheath dress looks on you, that’s a compliment. When that same person looks you up and down and says, “You’re such a twig; must be nice”…not so much a compliment as a typical hidden Southern barb.
What do I mean by typical hidden Southern barb? Much like a praying mantis, a Southern woman will be as sugary-sweet as she can be, lure you in, and then CHOMP! You’ve been eaten alive before you know it. Case in point: the phrase “Bless your heart.” Anything – and I do mean anything – can be stated at a poor unsuspecting soul’s expense and as long as “bless your heart” is the coda, said unsuspecting soul is not allowed to take umbrage. Example: “I know that Billie Suzette has already gone through the change, if you know what I mean, but that tunic makes her look like she’s about to pop one out any day now! Bless her heart.”
Caution: The Bless Your Heart tactic only works below the Mason Dixon line. Try this maneuver in south Boston and your right leg will be severed from the knee down before the word “bless” is able to leave your mouth.
I, unfortunately, live in a border state. Not as in Taco Bell border, but a border state from the Civil War era and one that relates more to the Confederate side of things and, therefore, the Bless Your Heart rules apply. So when tacky, catty remarks are tossed in my direction, as long as the Coda is tacked onto the end, I have to smile and say, of all things, “Thank you.” Because that is what we Southern women do. We claw each other’s eyes out and thank each other for the privilege of doing so.
- “Of course you’re always cold! You have no meat on your bones. Bless your heart.”
- “Bless your heart, you could really use a cheeseburger.”
- “Your poor little body doesn’t have a curve on it. Bless its heart.”
Think I’m making this up? Spend a day working at a department store in a southern town like I do, in a department that caters to southern women. I stopped wearing a name badge a long time ago for a couple of reasons. 1) I always flash back to that scene from “Wayne’s World” at the beginning when Wayne says, “I’ve had plenty of joe-jobs; nothing I’d call a career. Let me put it this way: I have an extensive collection of name tags and hairnets.” 2) If I finally do go postal and tell a customer exactly where she can put her scuffed-up shoes that she’s trying to return even though I saw her wearing them at 440 Main just last night…well, I’d rather not have the crime scene investigators know my real name. Despite all this, I may begin wearing my name badge again, if for no other reason than to remind ever-well-meaning people that my name is not “Minnie.” As in, “Skinny Minnie.” That makes my skin crawl nearly as much as hearing Kesha. Excuse me – Ke$ha.
When I do get offended, the offender will look at me as though I just announced I’m from Pluto. (Even though Pluto isn’t allowed to hang with the real planets anymore.) “I meant that as a compliment. Must be nice to be able to wear juniors clothes.” Yeah, and it would also be nice if clothes designed for 32-year-olds didn’t hang on me like Carol Burnett’s drapes and I could actually be taken seriously, but one can only dream, right?
I hope my father reads this because it is one of the rare occasions when I will publicly admit he was correct. Aside from thinking most of Hollywood actors should shut up about politics and just, I don’t know, act or something. I would purchase a billboard to announce he was correct about that. But in everyday life, it’s not the words that are coming out of your mouth so much of the time, but the vindictiveness with which you are saying them. If you think an outfit looks nice on me, thank you so much. I appreciate the genuine compliment. But if the venom dripping off your words would kill Cleopatra all over again, it’s not a flattering remark so please – don‘t pretend as though it was. Or I will go fetch my friend Riley from south Boston and get his opinion on the matter. He carries a tire iron and he knows my name isn’t Minnie. Bless his heart.