Last night I was entertaining myself by watching Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker in "Designing Women." I don't know about you, but Julia represents everything that I know and love about most Southern women. And honestly...there is a lot to love. (And for the record, that was NOT a "shout out" to my big girl sisters either. That was a statement of fact.)
Most Southern women I know fall into one of several categories...and sometimes they overlap depending on the situation. And if there is anyone who can find herself in the middle of a "situation"...it is the Southern girl.
Since many girls are named after flowers here in the South...with names like Lily, Rose, Pansy, Violet, Iris, Daisy, and Ivy, I'm going to use these floral names to describe some of my Southern sisters. I'm even going to throw Magnolia in...although I can't say that I've ever met anyone by that name.
You may find that you are an entire bouquet. I know I am. (And yes, I do realize that I'm leaving out Heather, Jasmine and Fern...but just work with me here.)
The first Southern woman type is the "Lily"...which has so many different types and faces that I couldn't even begin to describe the entire spectrum. I think of these Southern women as the first ones we tend to identify with...our mothers and grandmothers. They may be beautiful and vibrant and demand a lot of attention...or they may be sweet and subdued. But they are strong and glorious and bloom where they are planted.
The "Lily" girls know which fork to use, how to make proper chicken salad, and they know when something is "tacky" but they are often far too ladylike to admit it. They are the girls the mothers want their sons to marry and the ladies that show up when there is a death in the family to accept the food and leave the kitchen spotless. They teach Sunday school and make sure that children who might not have the best home situation are well attended to within the walls of their homes. They love deeply and are loved in return.
The second is the "Rose"...which reminds me of those sweet ladies at church who were always asking after me and whose eyes lit up when I entered a room. I was lucky enough to have a few roses in the garden of my childhood and at least one former teacher who always told my grandmother how smart I was years after she taught me. To hear that she thought I was smart when I was not only making dumb choices but was doubting my ability to impress anyone in any positive way...her words meant more than she probably knew. Or maybe she did. I sent her a letter thanking her for that before she died a few years ago.
I know that a lot of you remember Betty White's character "Rose" from "The Golden Girls" and how she always seemed to be telling some absolutely wild story that made the others think she was a bit of a ditz...but I always loved her sweetness and simplicity. Sweetness and simplicity are highly underrated, you know.
The third type of Southern woman is the "Pansy"...those hilarious and colorful women that have absolutely no problem being exactly who they are. They wear hats to church, drive an old car with the convertible down, and have never been accused of not knowing how to have a good time. They are the ones who don't mind standing out...because they honestly don't have any choice. It is just who they are...for better or worse.
"Pansys" are the kind of women who will get on up there and sing karaoke or can teach the Electric Slide to a bunch of novices. It isn't that they don't care what people think...it is that they honestly aren't aware that anybody thinks anything of them other than that they are fabulous and amazing...which, of course, they are. They may even be the homecoming queens and dazzling beauties that every small town in the South knows how to produce. They are often debutantes, cheerleaders, or the local Peach Queen. They are perfectly at home with a crown on their head sitting on the back of a convertible waving to the crowd. Shoot, they are perfectly at home anywhere.
The fourth brand of Southern woman is the "Violet." She may be quiet and demure, but she knows how to stand her ground. She'll bloom beautifully if you leave her where she's happy, and requires little maintenance other than the sun of your love and the the occasional compliment to thrive. Sometimes she may seem to be a little shy...but occasionally she will show you a ferocity that is extraordinary. These are the ones that you dare not underestimate but often don't learn this until you do. Just keep in mind that there is only a one letter difference between "violet" and "violent"...and if you mess with her family or her friends...she will make the transition faster than butter melts on a hot biscuit.
The fifth type is the Iris. The "Iris" (named after the Greek word for "rainbow" apparently since they appear in every color) is the solid type that "has your back" with a heart of gold and a spine of steel. These are the ones who know how to fix everything and how to make do with nothing. Most of the Southern women I know have a strong streak of Iris in them...they know how to get it done and certainly aren't hothouse flowers. Hothouse flowers don't do particularly well in the South when it is hotter than...well, you just fill in the blank.
The sixth type of Southern girl is the Daisy. She's to the point and may even be little bit country, but she brings with her a strong feeling of home and comfortable and hospitable. She is the one who can turn a boy's head and loves nothing more than being barefoot on her front porch or sitting in the sunshine. As pretty as a picture and can take care of herself. Think "Daisy Duke" and you're there.
The final type is the "Ivy." The "Ivy" seems to be all proper and as perfect as she can be one moment...and a real bother the next. I think of those women who are what is otherwise termed "high maintenance" and "difficult." They are a pain to live with...much like poison ivy. If you are unfortunate enough to have to deal with one of them...and in the South...all of us do...then bless your heart, honey. Think of the person you can't please, who talks incessantly about other people and who lives to make your life miserable...and you've got yourself an "Ivy."
Oh, there are some other types that I'm leaving out I feel sure, but maybe you can see yourself in one or the other. I know I do.
And if you are living with someone (or know someone having the be medicated to survive someone) who is an Ivy...I hope you know that eventually she will run up on the final type of Southern woman...the magnolia.
Julia Sugarbaker was a magnolia. You've all heard about "Steel Magnolias" and probably shed a tear or two at that movie (which was originally written as a play by Robert Harling about his sister, Susan Harling Robinson - a Phi Mu - which explains the blush (pink) and bashful (pink) wedding colors.) And it is true. When life truly "sucks" and you need someone who is going to tell you the truth and stand up for you...you want a magnolia. At least you know where you stand. And in this day and age...there's a lot to be said for that.
Yes, my goal in life is to be Julia Sugarbaker when I grow up. Here's Dixie Carter in her famous speech about her little sister Suzanne to the then reigning Miss Georgia World. Tell it, sister.
Here's a few more that I just love. Enjoy. :)
And this one...
And how about this...