It is always better to be sweet.

One of my favorite publications is Garden & Gun magazine.  It is not about guns or gardens.  What it is about is living and enjoying the “Southern way of life”.  Of course this Southern Girl appreciates that in a big and serious way.

The latest edition has a fantastic article entitled “Southern Women – A New Generation of Women Who are Redefining the Southern Belle“.  Two of my favorite passages are as follows . . .

“When you are born into a history as loaded as the South’s, when you carry in your bones the incontrovertible knowledge of man’s violence and limitations, daring to stay sweet is about the most radical thing you can do.”

So, yes, the Southern ladies can be sugary – why do you think we call each other “honey”? And we are regularly accused of being insincerely sweet.  Maybe we are sometimes, but is it really necessary to be nasty to no avail or when it is not necessary?  Isn’t it better to just be sweet?  Also, we are sweet because we were raised to be sweet.  Southern ladies take a great sense of pride in their personal communications, appearance, and family and community traditions because those things are important to us (and our mothers) even when times are bad.  We were almost all taught the you-catch-more-flies-with-sugar-than-with-vinegar rule (I always wondered why in the world we would want to catch flies?) because you are more likely to get your way, it is the kind thing to do, and it is what the Bible says.  Who needs more reasons to be sweet?

“There are other defining attributes, some more quantifiable than others. Southern women know how to bake a funeral casserole and why you should. Southern women know how to make other women feel pretty. Southern women like men and allow them to stay men. Southern women are not afraid to dance. Southern women know you can’t outrun your past, that manners count, and that your mother deserves a phone call every Sunday. Southern women can say more with a cut of their eyes than a whole debate club’s worth of speeches. Southern women know the value of a stiff drink, among other things.”



26 thoughts on “It is always better to be sweet.

  1. Hell yes. I adopt this mantra above with the same love that I’ve adopted the South. Bring on that stiff drink SG and make it pretty. 🙂

  2. Okay, this made me laugh – “Southern women know how to make other women feel pretty.” Why? Well, I had a committee meeting at lunch today (a bunch of ex-Junior Leaguers in the last stretch of planning a fundraiser). I arrived and complimented the committee chair on her cute casual summer dress – I could never wear it in a million years, but it looks great on her. Third member exclaimed as soon as she saw me, “I love your necklace! It goes so well with your shirt!” Others agreed. Fourth member arrived and immediately commented on third member’s beautiful sleeveless silk blouse. Third member paid compliments to both fifth and sixth member (at different times). We did get down to business after checking out everyone else’s clothes (we’re planning a $100K fundraiser, after all). All the compliments were apparently sincere, delivered naturally, and every woman left the meeting feeling a little prettier than she did when she arrived. I probably wouldn’t have thought about it at all if I hadn’t read this blog post.

    Of course, the above scenario would only happen with a group of women who at least tolerate each other. If southern women don’t like you, they aren’t going to make you feel pretty.

  3. Every time you hear a southern woman say “Bless his/her heart…” you know the slam is about to happen. lol Loves me some Southern Belles.

  4. “Maybe we are sometimes, but is it really necessary to be nasty to no avail or when it is not necessary?”

    If you want to have a modern industrial or technological base, yes. Being nasty ensures that other people are constantly picking apart everything you do, instead of ignoring the flaws in your theories and designs out of a misplaced empathy. Even the greatest genius makes mistakes, and will typically only notice them when someone else points them out. Works of art can get away with calling flaws “artistic license,” but works of industry can’t do this, unless you don’t mind the local levees rupturing or a bridges collapsing just a year or two after they’re built.

    • You don’t understand, tatterdemalian.
      A Southern woman will let you know if you’re making a mistake. She just won’t make you feel stupid. She’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong without making you feel you’re the problem.
      In short, she’ll be sweet.
      Being sweet doesn’t mean being blind, and you’re in for a world of trouble if you think Southern women aren’t just as sharp as less polite, acerbic women from, say, New York City.

      • Indeed. New York women carry a stiletto in each hand and are forever on the lookout for an opportunity to use them. In consequence, smart New York men are generally exogamous.

        Then again, our fair city is known for such things. Why else would our method of administering CPR be: Point to the victim on the ground and yell, “Get up from there before you BLEEPing die!” — ?

      • “You don’t understand, tatterdemalian. A Southern woman will let you know if you’re making a mistake. She just won’t make you feel stupid. She’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong without making you feel you’re the problem.”

        No she won’t, and I do understand this, because I’ve lived south of the Mason-Dixon line all my life. The unwillingness to criticize anything, extending to horrified outrage whenever someone does point out inconvenient truths, is the main reason the South has to import nearly all its scientific and engineering expertise. Home-grown engineers like me often end up having to mock and belittle ourselves when we catch our own mistakes, just to provide the proper feedback that our “sweet” co-workers refuse to.

        People may think I’m a mad scientist for calling myself a moron when I do something moronic, but at least I can actually make things work most of the time, so while nobody may like me, at least they need me.

  5. As a “Damn Yankee” who moved to the South after 40+ years in Detroit, I want to say that the kindness of Southern people still makes me very happy. This environment allows _me_ to be a happy, friendly, and polite person. I grew up in the culture that tatterdemalian speaks of and it is true of the industrial areas. But that “work hard” mentality seeps into a “play hard” mentality. So it has become that *everything* is done the hard way, as quickly as possible, without concern or regard to politeness or tradition. After all “there’s another one born every minute”.

    I offer a big Thanks to every Southern person – man and woman – who stays happy and shares that happiness with others.

    • Dear Jon – I say your welcome on behalf of all Southern people. We love being nice to you and are thrilled when you are nice in return. No one is ever to busy and no business is too important to require people to be nasty, unkind or rude. LIfe is about people not things. Here is to staying happy! SG

  6. I’ve said it a thousand times to young men looking for that someone special. I tell ’em that you can get “pretty” almost anywhere and “nice” comes a dime-a-dozen, but it is damned hard to find “sweet”. If you can find a sweet gal and get her to fall in love with you, well then you damn well better marry her and that right soon!

  7. I’ve watched as the goddess, raised outside of Boston, has become more and more of a Southern girl over the last 30 years and adored it. It does drive my Mother-in-law crazy thro. The boys too, when she goes all feminine at time…. I love those Southern girls, native and adopted.

    My favorite Southern girl story is about a molecular spectroscopist I used to work with. She survived earning a PhD with one of the best in her field, but she was also Georgia born and bred. She’d always looked pretty, touched, flirted and made people feel good. About twice a year, some Yankee – normally from NYC or NJ – would be in the office to work with her, mistake sweet for stupid, assume she was hired for other reasons that her technical ability, and well then it’d get ugly. She intellectually disembowel them at least. It got so common that we run a pool if we had one coming in on how long it took before she put them in their place.

  8. Nice post. Being sweet isn’t just nice though–it gets stuff done. When you are in a pickle, and somebody holds the power to help you, what’s going to encourage ’em to do so? Definitely not an attitude.

  9. Excellent article. (Not-so) common sense, really. My brother’s dentist is a Southern lady and he says he loves the treatment, getting called “honey” and all the attendant hospitality. You really can make someone’s day with a kind word.

  10. As I understand it, catching more flies with honey than vinegar refers to the glass fly traps in use before pest strips and so on. Some of them were designed to be baited with a mixture of something flies like (honey rather than vinegar) plus a poison; others were designed to make it easy for flies to get in but difficult to get out and baited simply with honey or other mixtures attractive to flies. You can see a picture of the former type here:

    and of several different types here:

    Or just search on: glass fly trap

    I only know this because a friend had an antique one, very elaborate with a spiral “entryway” for the flies. Apparently flies are too dumb (or too drunk on the honey or too stuck in it) to find their way back out once they get in.

  11. I agree that sweetness prevails over nasty (most of the time). But, being a Southern girl (of advanced years) myself, I have witnessed Southern women, my mother and aunts among them, who could slash their enemies to ribbons with sweetness, and I learned that, in some cases, it’s necessary. Sweetness does not mean fragile. Steel magnolias, as it were.

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