Southern Girl Syllabus

Recently, two friends confessed the unimaginable: they have never seen the movie Steel Magnolias. They might as well have just spit unsweet tea on the grave of Scarlet O’Hara. I was appalled. One of them is a Yankee by birth, so it’s really not her fault. Her lack of proper home training can really be blamed on her parents. But the other is a debutante, for crying out loud. She went to cotillion, for Pete’s sake. She should know better.

To their credit, they have asked for help, instruction for where they have fallen short of true Southern Girlhood. I want to be clear, none of us are interested in perpetuating the myth of Southern ladies: delicate women who get the vapors, sitting on the front porch waiting for their men to ride up on their steed and rescue them from a life of any actual labor or concern at all in their pretty little heads.

"...as God Is My Witness They’re Not Going to lick Me! I’m Going to live through This and When It’s All Over, I’ll Never Be Hungry Again! ... If I Have to lie, Steal, Cheat or Kill! as God Is My Witness, I’ll Never Be Hungry Again!" ~Gone With the Wind

We are quite beautiful, just ask our gentlemen suitors. We have good manners and genuine hospitality. We believe in being lovely hostesses to make people feel comfortable and welcome. But we are tough as nails. Raised to overcome low expectations and difficult circumstances, we can take all this life may throw at us, and we will look good doing it. Make no mistake, we’ll bake you cake and fix a fine supper, but we. will. judge. you. If we’re doing all this in heels with lip gloss, mascara and a Miss America smile, you best get out your fire baton and join in. Southern Life is no place for the weak of spirit.

I agreed to put together a syllabus for their formal education. This is the first draft. Consider this a working document. Their schooling will begin this fall.

Movies Since the picture show has air conditioning, this is fantastic place to spend time in the summer. If you haven’t noticed, it’s also dark. Young Southern girls have been known to let boys steal a kiss or two. But if you are interested in what’s showing on the screen:

Steel Magnolias
Shag
Fried Green Tomatoes
Driving Miss Daisy
Inventing the Abbotts
Streetcar Named Desire

Books Despite the ill-informed reputation for being dumb as dirt, the best Southern girls love reading. We love books. We love reading books. We are readers. (I make no claim these are the best works of Southern literature, only that reading them gives insight Southern culture.)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
All Over but the Shouting by Rick Bragg

Food Let’s just get this out in the open: we eat meat. While we respect and appreciate those who chose not to partake, Southern girls like bacon, burgers and bar-b-que.

Chicken Fried Steak – I’m partial to the dish as it’s served at Capital Bar & Grill in Little Rock, but others can get the job done
Cheeseburgers – cooked medium with drippy American cheese, pickles, onions (for me hold the tomatoes) there is some debate if ketchup should be included with the mustard, for me either is good
Bar-B-Que – I prefer wet ribs to dry rub, but understand those who like less mess. Pulled pork sandwich from Whole Hog Cafe in Little Rock with #3 sauce dressed with slaw is hard to beat.
Fried squash, okra, onions, pickles – if its vegetable dipped in flour or breadcrumbs and fried in Crisco with lots of salt, YUM!
Breakfast for supper – eggs, bacon and pancakes make a divine Sunday night meal
Cornbread – simple, tasty, old schoolers crumble it into a glass of cold milk
Grits – truth be told with enough butter and cheese, I could eat cardboard, but that is how I enjoy grits
Maker’s Mark – half and half with Coke (not Pepsi or any other abomination) you can thank me later
Deviled Eggs – Learn how to make them, and use the proper tray to serve them. They are required at funerals.

This is far from a complete education. We haven’t even touched on music, funerals, college football or the proper use of the word “y’all.” But it’s difficult to get it all into one post. Send suggestions or revisions. We’ll get these girls on the right path in no time.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Southern Girl Syllabus

  1. I’m looking forward to my schoolin! I’ve already read half the books, so maybe all is not lost!

  2. You got it, girl! I think I may need to come over as part of my Continuing Ed plan…

  3. Also: I have Southern food covered!

  4. I’ve also never seen Gone With The Wind. *GASP* You may want to add that to my education plan. I have, however, seen Driving Miss Daisy. And I’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird. I’m quite confident I can CLEP music and football. I can CLEP food… unless deviled eggs are on the final exam. You’ll never get me to eat a deviled egg. (My sister, also of Yankee birth, eats deviled eggs like crazy. Maybe we could work out some sort of proxy.) And, for the record, I’m only 3/4 Yankee. My grandmother grew up down here. (Thus why I’m good on the food category.) 🙂 Very much looking forward to my education!

  5. Paige

    If you need me to handle the college football session as a guest lecturer, let me know. Please do not schedule it for a Saturday after August 25. 🙂

  6. I’d like to add The Help to the list of books,it gave me insight to a slice of my own past. There is no official television viewing category, but there’s no way to leave off Designing Women, and even Evening Shade.
    I look forward to whatever other bits of Southern Living you come up with! I’m pretty well versed, but would hate to miss out on somethin’!

  7. let us not forget the sweet potato queens guides to livin- a surefire (yes, surefire) primer for great nails, big hair, and southern recipes…

  8. Cornbread is more properly crumbled into *butter*milk. You should know this.

    Also, too, I’m working on @kyranp for the second football season, 140 characters at a time.

    I’m not encouraged thus far, as she is neither grasping the significance, nor the concept.

  9. Also, too, don’t forget The Andy Griffith Show in the TV category.

    It is my solemn contention that TAGS is the pinnacle of all American Art – but only up until Don Knotts left and the went to color.

  10. kat

    I believe I might get a large F on my Southern Girl report card…. though I do love bacon, burgers and bbq.

  11. OK, here’s a stupid thing I know about Southern Girl etiquette.

    When a new family moves into your neighborhood, you are supposed to wait until they get their lace curtains up in the front room before you take them a freshly baked apple pie.

    Don’t ask me how I know this.

  12. Meredith

    My suggestions to be included: crawfish, the importance Sunday church ( /- “dinner on the grounds”), and two ever important yet complicated phrases “how’s your momma and them doin'” and “well, bless your heart!”

  13. merlisser

    I’ve never been judgmental enough to be a true Southerner. Gosh darn it,

  14. Bec

    My dear you left off speech.
    Whether you leave off g’s or strech vowels like taffy speaking Southern is a learned sugary dialect that can be easily picked up but still take a while to decipher.

    Y’all is a must.

    Southern women know how to phrase a put-down like a compliment and can gossip till the cows come home.

    Speaking of, we’ve got phrases. Ring-Tailed Tooter for example.

    We say ‘thank you’ ‘please’ and ‘Amen’

    And beyond ANYTHING else: We know, the most harsh, cruel, & dead on true observances can be said about someone, as long as you precede or follow it with “God love ’em” or “Bless their heart”

  15. All of the novels of John Grisham are very good, i love all the stories `*;