Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I’ve contemplated defining some Southern terms like “might could” and “come up a cloud,” before going on with adding any more characters to the Paxton census. But recently I read an etiquette question from a young woman who went to her first pitch-in lunch since she moved to the South.

She’d taken a cake as her contribution, and as everyone had been asked to take home whatever food remained on or in the dishes they’d brought, she picked up her plate with a bit of cake left, thanked the hostess graciously, and started for the door.

The hostess called out, in front of all the other guests, “Hey! You’re taking my PLATE!” Guest answered that was indeed her own plate---she’d brought the cake on it. Hostess replied, even more loudly, that it certainly WAS her plate, because it had a Christmas tree on it---going on in that vein, all but calling the guest a liar and a thief.

Embarrassed and chagrined that her first party in her new town had made her the center of such a spectacle in front of ladies she hoped would be her friends, the guest removed the Saran from the bit of cake and showed the hostess the plain white plate. Hostess made no apology beyond a grudging, “Well, it LOOKED like mine.”

The letter-writer asked if that were common behavior (and as my Mammaw would have said, it was VERY COMMON, indeed, but it certainly is not the norm where I come from). I answered her post, saying that it was NOT the usual way of doing things, and that the hostess certainly owed her more in the way of an apology than a four-year-old might be coerced to offer.

Then I explained an almost-entirely-Southern phenomenon---in other regions it might be called a fantod, or a “going off” or just plain RUDE. Down South it’s called a Hissy Fit.

You, My Dear, may have had your first (I hope) and last (more fervent hope) encounter with what is known as a Hissy Fit. And a very amateurish attempt, it was, pitched by someone who has not obtained her proper HF credentials, much like the hangers-on of Rock Stars and Movie Idols.

She THOUGHT she could, but failed miserably. She attained merely Rude, and SHE was the spectacle.

Southern Belles learn the power of the properly-thrown Hissy Fit in their cradles, and use them to good effect and AT THE PROPER TIME---in case of absolute, dyed-in-the-cotton rudeness from someone, or when they see another creature, human or animal, being abused. Gray areas less or more than these are cause for contemplation, reflection and consideration before throwing or refraining. A mistaken dish, no. An overheard bit of gossip, perhaps.

Catching Bobby Ray kissing Sissy Maud---Oh, Yeah.

A REAL Southern Belle KNOWS the difference, and is a model of calm and mannerly decorum, unless dire circumstances require. Some circumstances do require a Dressing Down, a Blessing Out, a taking-to-the-woodshed. Yours, however, did not do Any Such Of A THING.

Your hostess was NOT Raised Right, was probably a THAT CHILD, left to run roughshod over everyone in sight, and was exhibiting TRASHY WAYS.

She is a true blight on Belledom, and would be cut dead at any Garden Club, Debutante Ball, Fishfry, Huntin' Camp or Eastern Star South of the M&D. Her lack of apology is certainly no surprise. I apologize on behalf of Belles everywhere; we do not hold with such nonsense, No Sirree.

I truly trust you will reconsider any further truck with such a hussy. I'll bet she even put dark meat in the chicken salad.


Indy Cookie said...

Oh my!!!!!! I'll be laughing for days (and properly fanning myself in the process)! This is one my favorite posts you've written. God Bless Belles everywhere and most especially... God Bless Rachel!

Nail said...

I heard about our Mother (who had her PhD in HF, if I might say so) pitched the grandaddy of all HF's and deservedly so, when my oldest son set off a bag of fireworks in her living room on her new carpet. THAT is the correct time for a proper Hissy Fit!

racheld said...

Oh, yes, it was!! And it was recounted for YEARS ad infinitum, with appropriate sound effects and descriptions of palpitations and nerves. The carpet was replaced, of course, but the spark-marks on those bespoke, tailor-made drapes were forever. And LONG later, I figured out that the holes in the big silk lilies on the piano were also cordite-related.

Cookie, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

And He has.