Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Celebrating Southern Mamas

I found what I thought to be the perfect Mother's Day card in Hallmark last was pink and bedazzled and simply said, "Mama" on the front. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and saw it was a Spanish card! I had no idea that anyone other than Southerners called their mothers "mama." I'm still pretty certain no one quite lives up to the name like Southern mamas do. After all, these are the women who are the stage moms, who impart etiquette in their children like handwritten thank you notes and using "sir" and "ma'am," and who pass down the art of the casserole to future generations. Mamas are the glue that holds our society together, and thank the Lord for them.

My mama taught me that even the most natural beauty can still benefit from a sprinkle of pretty. The truth of the matter is that we could all use enhancements. Never underestimate the importance of a swipe of lipstick (note to Northerners: Chapstick does not count) or a pair of earrings, or that holy grail for my mama and me--hairspray. Because no one can take you seriously when your hair is just flopping in your eyes, your ears are naked, and your lips are pale.

Along those same lines, Southern mamas will not allow you to leave the house with wet hair. It is simply not done. I suppose an exception could be made in the event that your house caught fire and there was no time for an emergency blowout, but even then, some quick styling would be appropriate. Wash and wear is not something that Southern mamas can condone. (Note: this does not apply to men and boys--in the event of a cowlick, mamas will lick, spit, and slick down your hair by any means necessary and send you right out into the world, wet head and all.)

Beauty is more than skin deep, and that's why our Southern mamas have always stressed the importance of not "acting ugly." We learn at an early age to tease our hair, not each other. Down South, we much prefer to kill with kindness, and so we've been taught to treat each other as sweetly as we do our iced tea.

Mamas firmly believe that one does not chew gum or cry in public, nor do we wear strappy sandals before Easter or show too much cleavage, ever (Southern mamas much prefer the Dickie to a plunging neckline). Committing any of these acts would be tacky, and tacky is something Southern women try to avoid at all costs. Roll your shoulders back, suck it in, and don't embarrass the family.

Another mama-ism I was raised on is that "nothing good happens after midnight." Imagine my (sheltered) surprise when I arrived on my college campus and my new friends made plans to go out at 10:00. At night?!? I questioned this in disbelief. I thought only big city club kids and DJs kept those kind of hours. Even though I have admittedly had my share of late night fun, but I will admit: midnight is a pretty good boundary to keep a girl away from bad behavior. Let's call this the Cinderella rule and vow to keep an eye on the clock.

Mamas down South have the uncanny ability to shut down any kind of misbehavior with a simple look, but sometimes, mama feels like being vocal. I can't tell you the fear it would strike in my heart to hear her say, "You just wait until we get home." I would pray for divine intervention to keep us from ever reaching our house again, just to stop the horror that was ultimately waiting there. "Let me tell you something" was also a terrifying close second. You would be best to stop and listen, wide eyed, to the knowledge bomb your mama was about to drop on you and then nod your guilty little head while humbly saying, "yes, ma'am." Then do yourself a favor and don't say anything else. Back talking your mama is harmful to your health.

Southern mamas' prime real estate is the mall, the beauty salon, and the spa, and probably in that order. These are places which are a weekly ritual for many a mama. You have to look good to feel good...and if you doubt that, please refer back to the mama guidelines on lipstick, earrings, and hairspray. This is the South, where even the girls in the trailer parks paint their nails.

Anyone who is called "mama" makes sweet tea with a sugar content that rivals rock candy, owns a deviled egg plate, and believes without hesitation that macaroni and cheese is a vegetable. These women teach the importance of church on Sunday morning and of family always. It's from Southern mamas that we learn to never meet a stranger, give a smile to everyone you pass, and that the best answer to "How are you?" is, "Fine, and you?" They believe in an appreciation of good china, perfect meringue, and a proper monogram. It's true that we do things a little differently here in the South, and thanks to our mamas, we know how to do them the right way--just not after midnight or without a fresh coat of lipstick.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there--Southern or not. I don't know what we would do with you, but I'm afraid it would be tacky.

1 comment:

  1. There is so much truth to this, I love it.


Remember: brains and looks will only take you so far, but flattery will get you everywhere.