Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bless Your Heart

I am a pure Southern girl, born and bred. I know the Beverly Hillbillies would suggest that we are a shoe-less, possum-eating, overall-wearing, uneducated bunch of hicks living off road kill and milk fresh-from-the-cow. However, that is simply not the case.

As a rule, most Southern ladies (true ladies, that is) love their fashion, their shoes, and their cuisine. Growing up in the South in the 1980's, I would say we had a way with "big hair" that rivaled the New Jersy girls. In fact, if you look at photos of different parts of the country, you will note that Southern girls still have a very distinct look: great hair, bright smiles, tanned bodies, cute clothes and great shoes. We have a fresher look than our West Coast friends, and a softer look than our NorthEastern counterparts.

Our fashion is notably different than what's in Vogue or Elle. But it's beautiful all the same.

One of the things that will always be a trademark of the South is our hospitality. We have an easy-going style that is punctuated by our accent and our unique vocabulary. Nothing says "Welcome Home" to me more than hearing, "How are ya'll today?"

Due mostly in part to the hospitality of the South, we were Politically Correct (PC) long before the term even existed. We didn't necessarily go so far as to require people to say, "That person over there has an appearance that is pleasing to me." We still say, "That girl over there sure is pretty," and no one is offended by that.

We understand that Women's Lib and Southern Hospitality can co-exist, without intruding on either side. One of the ways this is possible is by a little phrase that is as much indicative of the South as "ya'll".

Southerns can say just about anything about anyone and follow it up with, "Bless his heart," and it erases any maliciousness perceived by the preceeding conversation.

For example, an actual conversation you could hear in the South might go something like this:

"Melba and Johnny are havin' troubles again."

"Oh, I hate to hear that! Is he cheatin' again?"

"Lord, you know his is. That boy couldn't stay faithful to a woman if she shackled him to her ankle and put blinders on him, Bless his heart!"

"Oh, I know. And you know, it's not like Melba's really a looker or anything anyways. She really could wear something other than a housedress every once in a while and it wouldn't kill her. And I can't believe her sister works over at Flo's House of Hair and lets her walk around with that mess on her head she calls hair. But that don't excuse Johnny none for cheatin'. Melba's got a sweet soul, Bless her heart."

"She is just about the sweetest thing around. You hardly even notice her lazy eye or the fact that her right leg is a little longer than her left leg, Bless her heart."

"Yeah, good thing that Johnny likes her money. That should keep him around for a while. Despite his gambling' problems and his drinkin' problems, I think he truly loves that girl, Bless his heart."

See how that little phrase just erases all the "stuff" beforehand? It's the way Southerners have stayed civil for centuries.

Now, as a note, there are true instances where "Bless his Heart" means just that. When you feel genuinely bad for a person, sometime that's the only phrase that fits. And when said with reverance and sincerity, it packs a whollup.

"My mama's havin' troubles sleepin'. She's all worried about daddy and his job. Bless their hearts, they don't deserve such troubles. They are such good peoples."

It is well known that the English language is notorious for taking words and/or phrases and having multiple meanings, which are only discernable in context. As a matter of point, there is one more way that "Bless his Heart" is used in the South on a fairly regular basis: It is a substitute phrase for "He's so stupid," but it sounds nicer.

"Johnny went out four-wheelin' the other day and found him a grizzly bear up in the woods. That boy tried to get a picture of him and the bear with his cell phone. His funeral is Monday, Bless his Heart..."

The South has many fine institutions of learning, fine art centers, and other high cerebral places for high minded people. We have come a long way from "barefoot and pregnant." And a large part of that evolution is due to our phrase "Bless his Heart."

It allows us to be PC, feeling, concerned, a little catty, and extremely hospitable all at the same time. I don't know of any other culture that has all that with just three little words. That's just one of the many reasons to love the South, Bless Ya'll's Hearts...

1 comment:

Jenny Girl said...

I find myself saying Bless MY