Digging in the archives for rules for Southern ladies

This post from the archives was originally published in 2007.

I started thinking the other day about the rules I was raised with. Not the little stuff like, “Don’t lie” and “Don’t steal”, but the BIG rules, the ones that apply to Southern girls. In no particular order, here are the ones I remember most clearly:

*Ladies don’t wear red shoes. (My very favorite pair of shoes is a pair of four-inch red suede stilettos with ankle straps. I wear them to publishing trade shows just for the glamour factor. I intend to be cremated with them on.)

*Ladies don’t wear red nail polish. (Seeing a theme here yet? Apparently red was for tramps and little girls. Personally, I started wearing red polish on my toes when I was thirteen and that is the ONLY color I wear. When I went in for foot surgery, I sweet-talked my podiatrist into letting me keep my pedicure intact because I don’t EVER walk around with bare toenails.)

*Ladies don’t drink beer out of a bottle. (Alright, I confess, I observe this one. I drink beer about once a year, and when I do, it’s in a glass. I don’t want to be the one responsible for my grandmother spinning in her grave.)

*Ladies do not chew gum in the street. (I never chew gum, so I can hold my head high on this one. We’re not even going to talk about the most inappropriate place I caught my mama chewing gum, but it rhymes with MY WEDDING.)

*Ladies do not wear white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. (Yes, there are lots of shoe rules, but honestly, this one really ought to read, “Ladies do not wear white shoes EVER because they make your feet look like outrigger canoes.” Except the gorgeous Louboutins my darling friend Ashley wore when she got married. They were divine, and if we wore the same size, I would happily commit larceny to get my hands on them.)

*Ladies don’t speak ill of the dead. (If you can’t speak ill of them when they’re dead, when CAN you speak ill of them?)

*Ladies don’t smoke in public. (Alright, I’m going to confess something here that does not reflect well upon me at all: I wish I smoked. I blame Turner Classic Movies. All those films from the 1930s have brainwashed me, but smoking is cool. It’s stylish and sexy, and I would have so much fun collecting lighters with my initials set in diamonds. But I have never smoked, and I will not start. I’ve had too many issues with my lungs to treat them anything but nicely, but if I DID smoke, you can be sure I would do it in public, and dramatically too. There might even be a slim black cigarette holder involved. Or maybe veeeeeery thin Spanish cigars.)

And the one incontrovertible rule:

*Ladies write thank-you notes. (YES. There is no excuse for not expressing your heartfelt appreciation for someone’s efforts on your behalf. I have monogrammed correspondence cards that I use often, although sometimes I fall back on e-mail simply out of necessity. I try very, very hard to slow down enough to acknowledge the many, many kindnesses people show me on a daily basis. Writing seems like a solitary occupation; it isn’t. There are entire departments at my publisher that work tirelessly every day to make my books successful. There are experts who give so generously of their time and knowledge, answering my questions and holding my hand when I need information. And there are readers and booksellers who take the time to let me know on a daily basis how much my work means to them. When I gush, and I DO gush, it is entirely sincere. I am genuinely amazed and thrilled that I get to do what I do, and the fact that so many lovely people HELP me do it, is just the icing on the red velvet cake.)

4 thoughts on “Digging in the archives for rules for Southern ladies”

  1. SuzanneH says:

    Fascinating! I remember my mother, grandmother and great grandmother were forever telling me what proper English ladies don’t do. It was a long list.

    Your previous post about stopping writing brought back some memories for me. In one of the jobs I did one of my duties was to balance the fixed assets with the general accounts. With a hundred millions dollar annual budget it was a big job and I was one of the few people who could do it. My big secret was that if it wouldn’t balance put it away and go home and it would always be easier in the morning. That night’s sleep made all the difference. You can just look at something for so long that you don’t really see it anymore.

  2. Libby Dodd says:

    Proper southern ladies do not sweat–they glow.
    Ladies always wear clean undergarments in case they are in an accident. Heaven forbid the hospital should see tattered undies!

  3. Pat Dupuy says:

    You forgot “girls do not call boys. Girls wait for boys to call them.”

  4. Lynne says:

    Ooooh – I have red heels – suede, also – with a strap across the instep and about 3 in. heels. Like you, they make me feel very glamorous. Couldn’t live without them or my red polish!

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