Bless Your Heart: An Epilogue

5 01 2014

I got my first negative blog comment. While I was initially annoyed, I soon got a tiny bit excited. I’ve been told trolls and negativity comes with the territory. So I feel I’ve finally arrived. It really wasn’t an ugly or vicious comment, just surprising.


The comment was on a story titled Bless Your Heart, that was about this quintessential southern phrase that I use all the time. Pwrjhp left the comment, What you are saying here is similar to asserting that just because someone might say, “thank you very much” in a sarcastic way, that this is always how it’s intended. To say this phrase is merely a passive-aggressive insult is a severe 
simplification of both the phrase itself and southern mood. Please stop perpetuating this idiotic myth that turns people against southerners.”

See…it’s not awful, just baffling. Has this person never watched “Shit Southern Women Say”?  My first thought when I read this comment really was…”well, bless their heart, they don’t know what colloquialism is.”

There are many idiotic things in the South that offend me. I’m deeply offended by comments by the bearded patriarch of Duck Dynasty. I’m offended by the poverty and racism and hate that still exist in this neck of the woods. But I have traveled the world and have found small mindedness is not only something that lives in my Deep South. I’m offended when I travel away from home that people feel safe to spew their racist vitriol because they assume I’m what their stereotypical image of a Southerner is, and that I’ll agree with their vicious ideas.

I will be the first to admit that living in the South has its challenges, however, so does every place. But the lovely uniqueness of the way we talk down here is not one of the problems that needs fixin’. In a world that’s becoming one big strip mall, with the same Wal-Mart, the same Appleby’s, the same Old Navy and the same Taco Bell, I celebrate the things that set us apart and make us unique.

My sweetie and I just went to breakfast at a favorite local diner called Frank’s. I love their homemade buttermilk biscuits, grits, boudin omelet and sausage from their smokehouse. I’ll have a dark, rich cup of our local brew, Community Coffee. It’s poured by a waitress who’ll call me honey or sugar or darlin’. It’s full of people wearing LSU purple. I see the cook busy serving up plates has a camo baseball cap on. I’m perfectly comfortable with the deer heads on the wall even though I’ve never gone hunting. This place is indigenous to where I live. And I prefer to go to Frank’s over Shoney’s breakfast buffet any day of the week. It’s all part of my Southern heritage and I embrace it.

So thank you for your comment. It has made me think about where I live. I wish the media would talk about William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin or Harper Lee instead of Duck Dynasty, Swamp People or Honey Boo Boo.

One of my favorite contemporary authors is Rick Bragg. When I read his words I hear his distinctive southern voice. I’ve heard him speak at the Louisiana Book Festival; he talks about writing in your authentic voice. I embrace the southern part of me that says y’all and fixin’ to and calls all soft drinks a coke. You see, I really do say bless your heart and so does my mama and dem. And it often is dripping in other meaning.

There’s really only one thing left to say to Pwrjhp, “Thank you very much and Bless Your Heart.”

 If you like My Creative Journey, I’d love for you to follow me. Here’s some other stories I’ve written about living in this part of the country.

Luzianna Friday Nite

New Orleans, a feast for the senses

When the Levees Broke

Life is Like a Song

Argo, the Ayatollah, Eudora Welty and First Apartments


The Importance of Doing Nothing

Bread, Batteries and Booze


Bless Your Heart

11 08 2013

My sweetie and I went to breakfast at a place we had never been before. When we sat down, he said, “you know this is classic southern and it’s gonna be good, there’s pork chops on the breakfast menu and a deer head on the wall.” When we checked out, I noticed the avocado-green-wall-mounted phone and above it the photo montage of a fishing trip next to a big mounted fish. Next to the fish was framed artwork of Scarlet and Rhett at Tara. The grey-haired lady behind the cash register who had obviously just had her weekly visit to the beauty parlor had friendly eyes and was smiling. She handed us our change and left us with “have a good day and bless your hearts”.

I saw this floating around Facebook. A young white man with dreadlocks won the right to wear a colander on his head in his driver’s license photo in the name of religious freedom. My immediate thought was, “well, bless his heart.” That translates to, what a f’in idiot.

Same phrase and two different meanings.

I say it all the time, just like I say y’all and fixin’ to. I jus’ cain’t hep it, I’m a true daughter of the South, plus I was raised Southern Baptist (a double whammy). I was in Chicago recently with women from all over the country and tried to explain the meaning of this quintessential southern phrase and how useful it is.  The obvious meaning is like the sweet lady at the cash register, the literal meaning, truly a heartfelt blessing. If you hear bad news about someone, “did you hear her mama is sick again?” You may say “bless her heart,” because of all the burdens you know she carries.

But more often than not, it’s a southern passive aggressive insult. A conversation may go, “I ran into Betty Lou yesterday, ya know about that drinkin’ problem…” you then look knowingly into each other’s eyes, and say together, “bless her heart.”

Sometimes, you just say a name and a bless your heart will express all you need to say. And if someone says something really tacky to you like, “I can tell you don’t believe in plastic surgery or you’ve quit coloring you hair,” you can respond with a pat of their hand and say “why bless your heart honey.” They will understand that you are not to be messed with—in southern-speak you just told them to “F off”.

I was reminded that my office had a group that gathered early every morning to start the day with a prayer. I was not included in this group. I heard that they talked about everyone in the office and then said a prayer. It went like this. “Let us pray over our Sister Connie, ya know she divorced her husband and is now on the Internet dating men.” Holding hands everyone in the prayer circle makes eye contact and says together “bless her heart” and at this point there may be more prayer needed. None of the women who were in this prayer group work there any longer…bless their hearts, wherever they are.

I say it often and because I write like I talk, I also use it often in my blog posts. If you ever need me to explain if I’m being kind or tacky, just ask.

On second thought that kind southern lady at the restaurant may have really been saying, ‘Thank God you are finally finished, it’s Saturday, we’re only open for breakfast and as soon as this place clears out, I can go home. So here, take your leftover biscuits in that butter-soaked napkin and get the hell out of here.”


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