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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The best thing about living in the South

We moved to North Carolina about a year and a half ago, and I could assemble a fairly substantial list of things that I either love or find intriguing about living in the South. There are obvious things to love such as beaches with warm, ocean water and seashells, and then there are subtle things such as asking my children to do something and having them reply with, "Yes, ma'am." But there is one thing that I adore. In the South there is a code phrase, "Bless her heart...," that precedes an insult at worst or an unflattering reference at best. So, whenever I hear someone say, "Bless her heart..." my ears perk up and I take it as my cue to look for the zinger.

The first time I heard this phrase we had just moved to North Carolina and were staying in a hotel for a few weeks until our house was finished. I dropped the kids off at school and then proceeded to get completely and utterly lost trying to run a few errands in a blinding rain storm. I found a gas station and got out to ask for directions (to this day I have no idea where I was. It was raining that hard.). I stepped inside and before I could even open my mouth the woman looked me up and down and said, "Bless your heart woman! You look as lost as a goose in a snowstorm." And that was was okay because I felt like a goose in a snow storm. And it really wasn't an insult as much as an accurate assessment of my mental and physical state. I didn't think much of it at the time, but as the weeks passed I began to see a trend with the whole bless-her-heart thing.

Monday I was in Target waiting for a prescription refill. The line was long and there were several customers milling around. I was lost in my thoughts when the woman next to me inched closer and stage whispered, "Umm, emmm! Bless her heart, would you look at that child? If she were an inch taller she'd be round."

She was referring to the overweight woman (not child) shopping a few aisles over.
I didn't know what to say to the woman in Target and, frankly, I'm still speechless. Usually, I mull things over for a bit and then come up with -- something. This time, though, it took me so long to even figure out the whole if-she-were-an-inch-taller-she'd-be-round-thing that the woman had been called for her prescription by the time I got my head around it.

I'm just thankful she gave me a head's up by saying "bless her heart." Otherwise I might have thought she was being mean.

8 comments:

ck said...

I visited your lovely state for the very first time this fall. I was floored by the sheer volume of white Chevy trucks per square mile. Is this the same for all of NC, or was it just Ocean Isle Beach?

Lana said...

Interesting. Here, a "bless your heart" is just that.

"Look at that baby. So cute and tiny! Bless her heart"

or

"Wow. You're really sick. Bless your heart!"

I have to giggle at how it "softens" the insult though!

Gibby said...

That is really funny! Around here the saying is "I know a guy" (pronounced with a South Side drawl) as in...

Yo, see dat fat chick over dere? I know a guy who could take care of dat."

Leigh B said...

Kathy are you sure that wasn't some relative of tony's at target - I mean the woman who said it....because that sounds oddly like something they would say, and like you it would take me a moment to wrap my brain around it. Gotta love the bless the hearts, I didn't know it was an insult oriented thing until I met the in laws!

Undercover-Princess said...

Bless your heart is, indeed, a double edged sword. You can say, "You are so sweet!! Bless your little heart." You could say, "That baby is so ugly you'd have to tie a pork chop around her neck just to get the dog to lick her face...bless her heart!!" Either way - it works.

:) said...

Bless your heart KathyB!, that was funny... Now I don't know if I've complimented you or insulted you!

I was trying for a compliment, but I'm not sure so I thought I better spell it out...

faemom said...

Sometimes you just got to love the South. My mom was born and mostly raised in the South; while, she long ago lost her drawl, I'll pick up some of the "phrases" that come out, especially when she's mad. I mean only a Southerner could get away with "busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest" and making it sound natural.

countryfriedmama said...

"Bless your heart" took me quite some time to figure out, even with help from my Southern in-laws. I still get caught off guard by it. It sounds so sweet, but is often not.