Beware The Belle

     The true Southern Belle is sugar on the outside and iron on the inside. You never want to get crosswise of a lady from the south for as sure as you do she will “cut you dead” in public and make you wish you were dead in private. Once the cold wind of her disregard has befallen you she will make sure that others come to know you as she has. Should you find yourself fortunate to ever find warmth in her presence again through some unable to be understood mending process, it will take years to reap any benefits.

     If you are the object of her scorn, you will come to know that a Belle can exhibit the sweetest smile while delivering well-designed crippling blows of jagged words that pierce the heart while wrapped in the soft southern cotton of croons and coos.  The hint of her Winter side is that her smile never reaches her eyes.

     Spiteful words and deeds will be performed with voice and actions full of concern and apology. These run the gamut of small to large, always coupled with meaningful looks, if one knows what to watch for, that cannot be misinterpreted: cups of punch are accidently dropped in the laps of pretty gowns, strong pushes shoulder to shoulder have been known to ease someone out of a conversational group, neglecting to speak to one in disfavor though warmly greeting those around them, even speaking to a lady’s escort but not to the lady.

     Prior to delivery of harmful actions and words, warnings are usually given and should be heeded. These consist of stares with penetrating eyes, less than soft elbow nudges as if absentmindedly, as well as interrupting others’ speech, and swift directions taken which can include abruptly steering the person away to whom one out of favor has been speaking even if the conversation was being held just by the two.

     One story from my family history is still widely circulated.   My Aunt Ellen and Uncle Charles were always guests at many parties where they would mingle together as well as separately. At a particular festivity, Aunt Ellen glanced across a southern ballroom and saw a woman animatedly speaking to my uncle, having threaded her arm through his. Troubled by this vision but deciding to cast it aside, Aunt Ell turned her attentions elsewhere.

     After quite a spell, her eyes sought my uncle again and she found that the same woman was still speaking with him while her arm continued to still be possessing his. Tossing her head, she decided to shrug it off.

     Later, looking around the gathering once more, my aunt came across the same vision. The woman’s posture with my uncle hadn’t changed.  A major mistake!  By this time Aunt Ell sized up her man and saw that he was looking quite uncomfortable. This, of course, spurred her to action.

     She slowly strolled across the room, sidled up to her husband, and politely greeted the woman who had no idea that a freight train had just arrived.  With a wide smile, Aunt Ell leaned over and spoke directly into the woman’s ear, “If you don’t take your hand off my man and keep it off, when you do decide to move you’ll draw back a bloody stump.”

     Well, the woman immediately turned a ghastly shade of pale. Not only did she quickly walk away but she kept walking until she’d left the party.  Uncle Charles thanked Aunt Ell for rescuing him.

     At future occasions the woman made sure to stay as far away from my aunt and uncle as possible, including asking hostesses to seat her at opposite ends of tables. She hardly ever glanced their way and when she did, Aunt Ell would flash her a big smile and send a friendly wave.

     Whenever this story would be told, Uncle Charles would remark that they primarily became “ghosts” to the woman. Aunt Ell would always comment that she thoroughly enjoyed “the haunting”.