Volume XXIX Issue 23  April 11, 2002

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  Any true Southern belle knows the unwritten rules of the South
Sally Lynch - Reporter

Real southern traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Sally Lynch began learning about customs at a young age.

Photograph submitted by Sally Lynch

There are rules in the South. I donít mean the simple rules like all iced tea should be sugar-shocked. I am talking about the rules any good Southern belle knows. These are the rules that separate those who move to the South from those who come from the South.

These rules, like many in life, are not written. A Southern girl learns them by watching and listening to her doting mother, aunt or grandmother. The real Southern traditions are passed down from generation to generation.

For those of you hoping to pick up a few tips about how to be a Southern belle, remember this: a belle is born, not made.

To be a southern belle is to live life with subtle nuances of tradition and good manners that never go out of style. Itís not the soft Southern drawl that makes a girl a belle; itís the quality of her traditions. In the South, it is not so much what you do, but rather how you do it.

The most important thing to a Southerner is not money. In fact, some of the best families in the South have not had money for generations. I would rather have my grandmotherís teapot collection than a Gucci bag-and I want to work in the fashion business. What Southerners put above all else are breeding and manners. When a person puts money above manners, they deserve and receive the worst of all possible insults. They are called tacky. No one ever wants to be called tacky.

My roommates are Midwesterners. When I explain different aspects of my life to them, I can see their minds going blank. I can only imagine that they think a Southern belle is a woman who drinks iced tea and eats grits. However, there is much more to a Southern belle than that.

First of all, we do not just drink iced tea; we inhale it. If I knew a way to have iced tea pumped into my body intravenously, I would do it. I drink iced tea in the middle of winter. This is one of the main reasons Southern belles stay in the South.

When I travel anywhere else and order iced tea, I always get Arizona Iced Tea. This is not nearly the same drink. It is merely a poor representation of the best liquid substance on Earth.

But, more than just food and drink makes someone a Southern belle.

It is a good idea to make sure your pearls and silver are always real. A Southern belle is born with a silver pattern. If she does not inherit one when she is born, her mother and godmother pick it out for her before her christening. I have it on good authority that there are 12 main silver patterns for a Southern belle. I prefer the Strasbourg or Melrose patterns because my mother and her mother used them, respectively. They are similar, but are just different enough to show individuality. In fact, that is why that certain pattern was chosen for my mother.

I will inherit my grandmotherís Melrose pattern. This will allow the family silver to continue for many more generations.

Throughout the South, belles put out silver that is dented and bent with large scratches. The belles just smile and say "My great-grandmother hid this from the Yankees by burying it in her yard during the War of Northern Aggression." They are proud of their great-grandmothers for doing this.

Many outsiders love the charm of the Southern belle. In fact, it is what we are known for around the world. Believe me, many belles are not naturally charming. Some of them are downright tacky and dull. In fact, many belles have to go to school to learn about charm.

Young girls are put into dance classes and later attend cotillions. In these cotillions, the girls and boys learn etiquette but also social dances. Southern cotillions teach the Shag. Many belles grow up learning to Shag far before attending these classes. I remember standing in my living room with one of my fatherís ties tied to the doorknob. I jumped back and forth following the directions I was given. This was how I learned how to Shag-no partner necessary.

Few people can believe how many boys are in these cotillion classes. In the South, you donít cross your Mama. When your Mama says that you will do something, you will do it.

Here is a quick secret about how to be charming in the South. Say, "Bless your heart." No matter what insult follows this remark, it is never considered insulting. Trust me. It works.

Country clubs are a second home to Southern belles. That is where we get married, make our debuts and possibly meet our future husbands. It does not matter what the name of the country club is; it is simply referred to as "The Club." No other identification is necessary.

The Junior League is a longtime tradition for Southern belles. I wonít lie to you. I want to be a member of the Junior League as soon as I am old enough. The league has always been an organization where belles were required to work at a charitable endeavor, just like in all Junior Leagues. However, there is always a special touch in the South. A large part of a Southern belleís life is spent doing good works (volunteerism to you non-Southerners). Even if a belle works for a living, she still commits herself to the well-being of others. This is an instilled value in all true belles.

It is important to understand that wherever I go in life, I will always be a Southern belle. I am, to the disappointment of my parents, considering committing the highest of Southern atrocities: moving to New York City, an area full of Yankees. Although I would never be served good, sugar-shocked iced tea again, I would remain a belle. After all, I never wear white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. I would rather die.

Follow these golden rules to avoid embarrassment:
 

(1) Never ever wear white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter (brides are the only exception).

(2) Always wear white when you walk down the aisle (no matter how many times you do it); It is never too soon to write a thank you note for anything.

(3) Never show your bosom before evening.

(4) Die before you wear an ankle bracelet.

(5) Absolutely never chew gum in public.

(6) Never smoke on the street (if you must smoke at allÖall that tacky smell, you know?)

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