Special Edition! Camellia’s Valentine’s Advice…

img_3382Valentine’s Day is a veritable mine field of a holiday. I’ve interviewed a good many women who report feelings of depression, unfulfilled expectations and outright anger after this day of love. Valentine’s Day is fraught with problems for Southern men. Why? Because the south is a matriarchal society. Southern mommas take care of all the gift buying, the decorating, the meal planning, the teacher gifts, cookies and cupcakes and all of that glitter strewn around from card making- even cellophane bags stocked in at least 3 different sizes, perfect for goodie bags for? Every. Single. Occasion known to mankind. We might let men think they’re in charge of… say, the Deep Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving but it’s a woman who has the back up roast turkey just in case his fryer catches on fire! img_3376

Valentine’s Day is that exceptional holiday– she may done everything for the children’s parties yet southern women don’t think it’s asking too much for Billy Bob to turn into a Sugar Daddy on Valentine’s Day. For just one day, is it too much to expect Billy Bob to turn into William Robert Smith IV, master of all things sweet and romantic on just one little bitty day of the year? Is it any wonder that Every. Single. Year- most men manage to blow it? They need help and she’s put her foot down she’s not giving him even a hint.

Knowing the average male attention span is short, this is the Short List.

  • Avoid anything fuzzy, helium filled or a good deal like boxes of chocolate you forgot to remove the sticker which says- ‘Buy one Get one Free’.
  • I’ll let you in on a big secret-  Victoria or Frederick’s are names southern women associate with Hurricanes- this is not a good message to send and- really, you don’t know her size or preferences.
  • Do not buy matching camouflage outfits and take her to the hunting camp, even if she’s bagged more quail or pheasants than you did. She wants it served under glass.
  • If you do take her out to eat, make sure the place has tablecloths and seating- not just bar stools if you get my drift!

Now that I have your attention gentlemen, remember this above all else- Valentine’s Day is for her, not you.  Please don’t go into a store, and buy lingerie- if you can’t pronounce it- you don’t need to be there! Listen to me- you’re gonna bomb on this one because just when the sales lady asks for her size- you’re going to fall into this trap by sayin’ ‘Well pretty lady, I reckon she’s just about your size!’ and boom! Too big or too little will not be forgiven any time soon! Now, if you’ve stayed with me this long… I can get into specifics-

  • Do not- I repeat- do not buy her a digital bathroom scale. Do not sign her up for a gym membership! Do not buy sugar free candy or a trial membership in a weight reduction program, even if your Valentine has been asking you since New Year’s if you think she needs to lose weight- that is a trap.
  • Dinner and a movie is generally a safe bet- unless dinner is fast food and the movie is ‘Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Jaws‘ or ‘Walking Tall- Part 2′ . It just kills the mood. Believe me on this one.
  • Please don’t complain about the prices at dinner or at the movies.
  • Whatever you do- don’t have photo booth pictures blown up into framed 8×10’s, she may have thought they were adorable at the time… yet for her desk? Probably not so cute.
  • About that desk- you might want to check with the florist- ‘Are there multiple orders going to her workplace?’ You wouldn’t want her to be mortified if she’s the only one there with no flowers! (I have known women, who in desperation have called the local florists and had her own flowers sent to cover for your gross negligence in this matter! Believe me, you will never live this down.

Speaking of flowers, we do know the difference in florist flowers and those bought at the big box or grocery stores. Whatever you do, please do not buy a neon blue orchid. Now, those are the basics, are you ready for more?

  • Going to look at tractors, single wide trailers or pre-fab storage buildings are not exactly her idea of a romantic outing.
  • Neither is taking her car for an oil change, new brake shoes or having the tires rotated- even if they throw in the Valentine Special of hot pink fuzzy seat covers. Just  do your duty to see about her safety and welfare- not as a gift! Note one exception- *If you’re thinking automotive- buy her a new car! *

I know you’re thinking of buying her something for the household- this is another trap, believe me. Please don’t buy household appliances of any kind- a new vacuum, a toaster, a leaf blower or an electric drill. Let the kids buy her those things for Mother’s Day! Or better yet, hire someone to do all those chores that you’ve been putting off for…ages?

  • Do not buy her an apron, oven mitts or dish towels. In fact, do not even think of buying her a trinket of any kind- especially if you found them at a truck stop or country cookin’ gift shop.
  • Even if she’s the one who yells the loudest during football games- do not buy a 65 inch color TV and have it mounted in her absolutely gorgeous bedroom! In fact, don’t give her anything that is suitable for mounting on a wall- especially your latest ‘catch’ even if she’s won more tournaments than you have!
  • A shirt with an Arrow pointing your direction- that says- ‘I’m His’ might be funny to you- believe me it’s not! Matching Tshirts are to be avoided at all costs for Valentine’s Day- especially if you’re taking her out somewhere nice.

By now, you’re probably thinking that a card is a nice touch and it is. Unless you’ve neglected to actually read the inside of the card! It might look great on the outside with romantic wording like ‘You are so beautiful to me…‘ yet on the inside there’s a picture of an Orangutan sayin’ ‘A face only a mother could love.‘  Now, you may have howled when you read it and gotten a big kick out of it all; believe methis will not be well received, any more than :

  • Wrinkle, hair removal, anti-aging products or the perfect shade of nail polish which you think will save on all of the beauty parlor bills! Leave this to the professionals.
  • Handwritten coupons for anything will not spell Sugar Daddy- even if your handwriting is nice- this doesn’t read nice. It shouts- Cheapskate!
  • Candy is always a nice touch as long as it’s not a fun-size bag, a quarter pound chocolate heart that she’ll need a chainsaw to cut (see above) Or…a cheap grocery store brand with four pieces of chocolates – go for broke here and get the kind of candy sold in free standing stores with nice gold wrapping paper- even if you think the price is ridiculous!
  • And, if you’ve been dating a while, please don’t buy a hard candy diamond shaped plastic ring, a big old fake diamond keychain, a heavily over advertised open heart or a boxed set of jewelry on the sale aisle. She wants a diamond not a friendship ring!
  • Listen up! Regardless of the song… Diamonds are a Man’s best friend! And of course-dogs, it just depends on where you’d rather be.

img_3376Southern men need help on Valentines Day. According to my hotline results- no matter how hard you’ve worked that day- she’s expecting you to show the same energy and enthusiasm you had for SEC football games. When you pick her up, please don’t say-

  • ‘Are you wearing that?’  or ‘How much did that cost?‘ no matter what she has on.
  • If she asks you if her shoes look funny- please don’t say ‘Well honey, they aren’t hilarious.’
  • If she exclaims that her hair looks awful- refrain from saying ‘It doesn’t look any worse than usual.’

Some final advice- if she’s over the age of five- your valentine doesn’t want a bouquet of lollipops, a stuffed animal of any kind- no matter what size it is- and certainly not a bunch of helium filled balloons! Save that for birthdays or fun days. And remember above all else- Valentine’s Day is for your sweetheart, not you. If you can’t remember anything else, gentlemen, remember that. Or. Believe me, darlin’, she won’t let you forget it for a whole year or…maybe your own natural lifetime.

Love y’all, Camellia

*These helpful hints have been gleaned from an informal poll of southern ladies who have experienced some frankly disappointing Valentine’s days. The poll is non- scientific and based solely on the horror factor of it all. *Men, you have my full permission to reprint this article, IF you commit it to memory and can recite it in your sleep! Ladies, you have my full permission to reprint this article- as long as you promise to give it to your sweetheart, right before or after Valentine’s Day- depending on when you need it! It doesn’t worry me…much- I’m a fictional character.

*The wonderful free images are from @over including the cute videos!

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Rest assured we will never ask your weight, height, shoe size or whether you tint your hair straight out of a bottle, or if you’ve neglected your charm school training. We will never ask your age, simply because you don’t look it anyway- still pretty as a picture and the very essence of health and vitality! We will never ask for or use your personal information- because really, that’s the height of being tacky. What we will ask for is that you will be on your best behavior and use your highest comportment skills- otherwise we will wonder ‘who your people are’ and worse – we might privately question the quality of your upbringing- so don’t go embarrassing your momma!

We love to hear your stories and hope you will continue with the highly witty comments; of course your high praise when warranted and… In return, we will try to maintain high quality postings and avoid things, such as the questionable use of double negatives, the horror of dangling participles and the inexcusable use of ending a sentence with a preposition. Still. Occasionally we do admit to mangling the King’s English when we deem it appropriate for emphasis.

Just know this- we are so thrilled you’re here! Thank you for stopping by, and you’re always welcome to stay awhile. Soon we will be back with more delicious recipes, a few hints and pinches and hopefully a few laughs as well!

Love y’all, Camellia

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Going Away Outfit…

2823124a-f856-4894-a1ac-30945ecce7b9.jpegWeddings have always been a big deal in the South, so you have to know Southern Mothers are reading everything they can get their hands on about the Royal Wedding…You see, we crown our daughters for everything known to man. It’s that royalty thing, I guess…

  • Weddings are supposed to be the one day of the year that a lady feels like Queen for a Day.
  • We hope the groom feels like he’s getting the deal of a lifetime.
  • The bride’s daddy hopes this fellow has at least a few irons in the fire and gainful employment to support his daughter in the style she deserves- Daddy’s gonna take it as a personal insult if he’s given permission to a man who turns out to be a deadbeat.
  • We hope the bride will swoon whenever she sees her groom- the perfect gentleman- okay, we also hope she’ll feel for lifetime, like Jane seeing Tarzan-or at the very least Buster Crabbe!
  • By the wedding day, the mother of the bride, hopefully will have satisfied herself, barring a criminal background check- that the young man has a sufficient pedigree to marry into the family. That his people go back at least three generations right here in Alabama! We must have a decent write up in the paper after all!

When the engagement is settled- the planning and partying begins….lest anyone think this is fun- let me disabuse you of that notion. A few days into the engagement – which should be a reasonable amount of time not years…(long engagements make daddy think the groom is shiftless, aimless or the groom doesn’t have honorable intentions)…and there’s the other reason, rarely stated- the longer this engagement goes on? The more the wedding is going to cost! Little bitty homemade bird seed bags for throwing turns into a flock of released doves, a small afternoon reception at the church turns into an all out champagne filled country club event… you get the picture.  At any rate- just a few days after the engagement…there are only two people still excited about this wedding – the mother of the bride and the bride! Ultimately, no one is excited except the Bride. Everybody has started worrying about the money…money, money, money…that’s all Daddy, the bridesmaids (who have issues as well) and the groom secretly worries about the money- ok, not so secret. How much is this wedding going to cost anyway? And how many parties did you say?AA0DBA26-F8C7-49A7-A577-6A23227EE508

There’s the formal engagement party- the registering for gifts, the formal teas, the sip and sees, the informal showers, the bridesmaids’ luncheon, the after rehearsal party and just when you’d think everyone has suffered enough- there’s the actual wedding, the reception and the honeymoon, by then everyone is sayin’ -‘I thought we’d never get that wedding over with!’ And then there’s the thank you notes but let’s not give ourselves a headache over that one just yet!

In between all of this – there are the clothes to wear to all of these events!  The bride has the added burden of not only-

  • a wedding dress, dresses for teas, showers, sip and sees and luncheons-
  • the Bride also had to have a trousseau,
  • a peignoir set for her wedding night,
  • honeymoon wardrobe and oh yes!
  • The Going Away Outfit!

B012247A-7495-49BB-90E8-4B5348016B16I have not read one word about the royal bride’s going away outfit! Why would any bride in her right mind give up an excuse to have another outfit?  Are Going Away Outfits out of style? Surely not! If there’s no Going Away Outfit to round out the write up in the paper… ‘The Bride and Groom have planned a honeymoon to Chattanooga.. ( Atlanta, New Orleans or Jekyl Island). The bride wore a worsted wool suit that matched her bridesmaids dresses, the groom wore… after their honeymoon, the happy couple plans to make their home in…’ Do you see what I’m talking about? With no Going Away Outfit, there isn’t a decent way to end the write-up in the newspaper! Whatever happened to good write-ups anyway?8482a35a-bc6c-4543-98e2-fdffccd5e8e4.jpeg

The Going Away Outfit was usually a suit or a nice dress with a corsage or  handheld nosegay as they rushed to the getaway car, waving and smiling for the camera. Not only was the Going Away Outfit a fitting way to leave after the wedding…after all, the wedding dress had to be boxed up- ready to send to Berthon’s Blue Ribbon Cleaners and preserved for future generations.42A279F8-8F5F-4B47-BDC4-FB52556D3ACA

The Going Away Outfit was symbolic- it represented a change of status for the bride. Recently, a few friends were discussing this subject and we were dismayed to think these Going Away Outfits could possibly be outdated. My own was a wool suit the same color of the Tropicana Roses in the center of my wedding bouquet and my bridesmaids bouquets too. It was a double breasted number with tortoise shell buttons, I had well made brown leather pumps which would come in handy to wear to church, weddings or even funerals later. One friend said her going away outfit was a brown striped church dress- which her sister borrowed a few months later as her own going away outfit. The rules for the Going Away Outfit were few- 112D02C8-9091-4A55-B944-2F56500F4B1D

  • It should be well made- befitting of her status as a married woman,
  • it should have a reasonably high neck- no low cut skimpy trashiness allowed!
  • The suit or dress should be knee length, not hiked up, with slits or a suggestively short skirt, ahem…
  • We’re not talking overtly matronly but let’s face it- when Queen for a Day is over- you’re headed into Matron of Honor territory, darling!

One friend was finishing up her senior year at Auburn University where she was majoring in fashion design, she made her own going away outfit! This was no easy task! She was taking a tailoring class, she had to design her own flat patterns with measurements taken from a ‘make your own dressform’ which entailed wrapping the body in gauze and flour starch, carefully removing it and mounting it on a stand. She decided to make a linen dress- a sheath dress cut on the bias in what else but Camellia Pink? and a matching Camellia Pink Boucle Coat with lining to perfectly match.

EDCE48EB-5E20-4458-AA23-CAAAC72A8084She married in mid March, so she wouldn’t graduate before her wedding- now, really can you imagine, planning a wedding and making the outfit and all of the rest of it? A dear friend and member of the wedding party, found the perfect two tone leather shoes to match at Kessler’s in downtown Birmingham. Ultimately, she had an orchid corsage and matching handbag to boot! She blushingly recalls that her wedding night peignoir set was white- okay, what other color would it be? So was mine! High neck, lace insertion- literally the whole nine yards…but I’m getting off on a tangent. Another friend married close to Valentine’s Day so her Going Away Outfit was American Beauty Red, she’s been married 35 years and still has her Going Away Outfit- okay…not the skirt but the jacket! The other smiling bride wore a medium green linen suit, while her new husband was decked out in striped shirt and casual pants! Now, why, may you ask was this Going Away Outfit considered  necessary?

B012247A-7495-49BB-90E8-4B5348016B16The bride has been trussed up in her wedding gown…endured photographs, the receiving line, the reception- perhaps the toasts, the cutting of the cake, the first dance and made the rounds to meet and greet the guests.

Imagine it, if you will… she discreetly withdraws from the wedding party- her wedding dress is carefully removed, folded away in it’s box or bagged…she changes into her Going Away Outfit… has a sweet moment with her handsome groom- hair is rearranged and makeup refreshed before she steps out of her bandbox- tosses her bouquet- hugs her mother, he hugs his… FDA17986-05C3-4A76-872B-87853CF5D899

Amid showers of rice, flower petals or birdseed, the bride is squired by her groom to the waiting car, like the dainty and delightful confection that she is- the car door closes with a solid satisfying thud.

C3ADBD7B-8629-486B-94E7-9DC928AEFE0DA box of wedding cake, cheese straws and toasted pecans is handed through the window. The happy couple smiles for one last photograph. Etiquette dictates the guests should stay until the couple leaves for their honeymoon… Sighs are heard among the crowd… ‘I thought they’d never leave!’

I sort of hate it that Going Away Outfits have Gone with the Wind… Here’s the importance of it- presumably, when the bride reappears in her Going Away Outfit, it represents her new status as a married lady, outfitted and ready to take on her new responsibilities- in her home, her workplace and her community. I think it was a sweet tradition and I still maintain- a wonderful way for the bride’s parents to make sure their daughter is prepared for the new important occasions in her life. Let’s face it, for the bride- an opportunity to get an extra nice outfit! Oh me, going down memory lane is fun!

Love y’all, Camellia

*A huge thank you to the Southern Brides who agreed to share their photos! All photographs were edited by me- they are the sole property of the community of Camellia’s Cottage and should never be used without permission. Can’t resist sharing one more…. No bride or the families can ever do it alone! There’s a whole community of folks behind the scenes- helping make it all possible- and that never goes out of style!dffa4905-aaeb-4792-a240-7176dba4fb53.jpeg

*Buster Crabbe was the original actor who played Tarzan, just in case you’re still wondering.

 

A Southern Mother’s Advice…

IMG_3477It’s a known fact that Southern Mothers dote on their menfolk and children. Wait a minute, it’s more accurate to say- Mothers tend to dote on their sons, but advise their daughters.  All. The. Time. Especially when it comes to dating. It is highly important for Southern girls, because their daddies have made them believe that no one- I mean in no uncertain terms, is good enough for their daughters.

img_3474.jpgSouthern mothers on the other hand, know what’s good enough for their daughters and what’s not. Okay. Here’s the thing… at some point the mother’s gonna have to write out an Engagement Announcement. For heaven’s sake and the surrounding communities, it better be a good one! For instance, when she asks- ‘Does he have a job?‘ a Southern Mother wants the answer to be an unequivocal ‘Yes’ even if he has a trust fund. As long as he has some gumption and it’s honest work, she can make the best of it-

  • Mechanic? ‘Harold Joe Smith is heavily invested in Automotives,
  • Pulpwooder? Buzzie Thompson is invested in Timber,
  • Farmer?  Billy Mack Hopkins III has acres of Prime Real Estate or
  • Coal Miner? Mickey Richards has Mining Interests.’

IMG_3457And if he has the semblance of a Last Name for a First Name, a Southern mother can get a decent write up for the paper. If he doesn’t have a Last name for his First name he’s probably a Yankee or a Redneck.  It doesn’t matter if his granddaddy was as crooked as the Mississippi River, a Southern Mother can overlook and explain it as a colorful eccentric background.. Now, if the young man in question is a descendent of Buster Crabbe- his rugged good looks might have translated into Tarzan on the silver screen then, but a Chest so Hairy it comes up out of the neck of his shirt? That is completely unacceptable. If his hair is like Conway Twitty or Willie Nelson, she will charm him right out of wearing it like that- Put him in a Navy Blue Blazer and Khaki Pants and no one will ever know the difference.

Basically, the Southern Mother wants the young man to have Good hair, Good teeth and Money. She can generally take care of the window dressing, especially if he smells good, too.IMG_3463

Now, if the young man asks if the Southern girl lives close to a Church or School Parking Lot because he needs to park his 18 wheeler there– for a first date? Okay, that’s not okay. ‘Sara Jean, you are not climbing up in the cab of that truck on a first date, what if he plans on takin’ you to a honky tonk or a truck stop then what will you do? And his CB handle is ‘Hauling Trouble’ !

Now, if he has money or comes from money? Even if he is ugly as homemade sin, the Southern Mother can work with that, too. She’ll talk about his triumphs on the football field or the golf course and say, ‘Well, for goodness sakes! Who would want a man to be wan and pale anyway?’ Especially if she can smell old money. IMG_2283

Southern girls have to endure the Inquisition… *Warning these are trick questions, so be careful of pitfalls here. The list of questions a Southern mother will ask, include but are not exclusive to:

  • Do you like his looks?
  • Does he have enough sense to get in out of the rain?IMG_3464
  • Does he clean up well? (If he does, no matter what he does for a living she will consider him to have potential.)
  • Does his wardrobe consist of T-shirts with sayings on them? Does said Tshirt have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one sleeve?IMG_3466
  • Does the yard dog bark and growl when he comes to the door? Better yet, does that sensitive House Cat of yours screech and arch her back when he comes around?
  • Do children whimper and run?
  • Are you taken with him?
  • Is he conniving or wishy washy?
  • Does he have a limp wrist or a firm handshake?
  • Is he stubborn as a long eared mule?IMG_2121
  • Does he gallivant around?
  • Is he a thug or a hoodlum? Does he act like a hooligan?  (She will be checking for a prison record).
  • If he has a big set of keys jangling in his pocket and a big billfold with a chain hanging from his belt loop, she might smell money, yet not equate it with class.
  • Does he wear lifts in his shoes?
  • Is he Old School or Wild as a Buck?
  • ‘Are you just boring him to death Mary Lou or does he have narcolepsy?’
  • Are those his Real Teeth or does he have a Plate? ‘For heaven’s sake, he needs help with that halitosis! The cheapest thing you can buy is a peppermint!
  • Does he Yodel?IMG_3467
  • *Now this is important! Does he wear cut off jeans, a Speedo, or Board Shorts to the beach?
  • Is his hair a natural born color or is it green, blue or purple?
  • Is he a dude or a dud? ‘Gaynelle, is he a dude or a dud, that is the question…’
  • When you’re with him, is it Moon and Magnolias or a Buttermilk Sky and Blackeyed Peas?
  • Does he have a tendency to Howl at the Moon or just when it’s a Full?
  • Is he so Sweet it makes your Teeth Hurt?IMG_3471
  • Does he go by to check on his mother? Or, does he still live with her?
  •  Is he a Man of the Cloth? This is truly a trick question…

‘Now, you know Merry Beth, preachers that thump a Bible and run the rails have a tendency to stab you in the back, however- if he does actually wear a collar and cloth- well, now that’s different.’ Not. Really. But still.

  • Does he mostly take the Southern daughter to dance halls and honky tonks and is- ‘too drunk to kareoke’ ? (That’s coarse and common no matter how much money he has!)
  • Does he have any common sense? Is he able to extend common courtesy?  Does he have a sense of common decency? Hint: this may be the most important run of questions. Decency…

Now, even after all that, the prospective one will still have to have a ready answer for this one or she will never approve…‘Young man, who are your people?’ Remember she has a di-rect line  that rings into the State Archives Director’s Office. Really.

Assuming he’s passed all the tests, he still has to get past Daddy- who leaves the Porch light on if the young man seems nice. If Daddy is worried the lucky couple is lingering too long, the Porch Light will be flipped on and off. If his precious baby daughter doesn’t come right on in… Daddy will turn on the Floodlights as he opens the door- looking down the barrel of  his BB gun. Don’t get me wrong- Daddy doesn’t want to hurt him, just scare him a little bit.

It’s a wonder any Southern couple actually makes it to the Altar! But if he’s a good one…don’t let him get away! Even if you have to hog tie him and drag him fightin’ tooth and nail, get him to the altar! If you’re taken with him, if he makes you laugh, if he has some gumption and a sense of common courtesy and decency; the main thing is…when you can’t imagine life without him? Marry him, then dote on him like only Southern ladies know how!

Oh me, sadly all of this can or has happened.  Yet, like all good Southern tales, this one is part truth, part myth and part outright lies.

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is a humor piece, please don’t ever point a BB gun at anyone! * A huge thank you to all the Southern girls who contributed to the Inquisition, you know who you are! * ‘too drunk to karaoke’ is good ol’ southern boy, Jimmy Buffet’s line *Almost all photographs are part of the Camellia’s Cottage collection, please do not use without permission. *The vintage photo of the beauty queens holding large coins and the three cute old ladies are AOL images and may be subject to copyright

 

Sinking Spells…

 

vintage woman on fainting couchSouthern Ladies are known for vague conditions and symptoms, like Sinking Spells. We’re not looking for medical terms or specifics. We prefer eccentric descriptive health conditions like:

  • Having a Come Apart, Being in a Fog, In a Rigor
  • Suffering from the Change of Seasons, a Crying Jag or being absolutely Mortified
  • Wasting Away, Catching a Chill or In a State of Abject Horror
  • Being covered with Chigger Bites, Flustrated, or Working ourselves into a State.

We know the value and consequences of various Fits- Hissy Fits, Conniption Fits, Running Fits and if the situation calls for it- we might even Pitch a Fit. There are vague Nervous Conditions too, which are never labelled with Capital Letters. Nervous conditions are described in more colorful terms:

  • A Basket Case
  • Gone Over a Cliff
  • Being High Strung
  • Falling to Pieces (which made Patsy Cline a major Grand Ol’ Opry Star)
  • Breaking to Bits, Melancholia
  • Flighty, Nervous Ninnies, Having Spots before Our Eyes
  • Having Frayed Nerves with Hair Standing on End
  • Keeling Over (often accompanying an actual Sinking Spell)
  • Being Fragile or one of my favorites- Delicate.

Actually, any Southern Lady who suffers from nervous conditions such as Sinking Spells is not considered weak, oh no- it is proof of Ah-ris-ta- cra-tic Blood lines, Good Breeding, think of Melanie Wilkes here.  Southern ladies who chopped wood and kept the farm running during Wartime, become Fragile– so fragile she might break to bits or fall to pieces in Peacetime. . Some Southern Ladies who are High Strung  with an even Higher Temper and seem subject to Tantrams are also prone to being Delicate or having Sinking Spells when deemed necessary, Scarlet.   Really now, what woman, regardless of bloodlines wants to be thought of as a Battle Axe? No, Southern Ladies must be fragile and delicate;  look wan,  pale as a ghost, yellowed with jaundice, so delicate a puff of wind could blow her away, perhaps presenting with Chill Bumps then a Slight Fever.  Give us vague symptoms– certainly not a fever raging so high, her hair catches on fire- that’s tacky.  Having competing Visions of the Heavenlies or the Gates of Hell is scandalous.  It’s not ladylike. Eccentric descriptions of vague conditions- like a head swimming Sinking Spell are just enough to make Brows Furrow in Concern. This is not to imply we don’t have harsher words for more Serious Southern Conditions. We might say:

‘I was in such a state dealing with that Imbecile, I really should have been Medi-cat-ed but Momma warned me about Dope Fiends. I don’t want to end up like that! No sirree bobtail cat!  I just had to straighten up and be Gracious about the whole thing, so, I took a Minute to regain my Composure.’ 

Ladies must be on guard to always be Gracious and Ah-ris-to-cra-tic with our various, sundry and vague health problems! We would never appear in public with trashy conditions like Boils, Blisters, Carbuncles, Ri-sens, Knots or Pock Marks. It is unthinkable to appear Run Down at the Heels or be Prone to Hit the Bottle. Having the Heebie Jeebies or Raisin’ Cain isn’t done in polite company.  Showing Signs of overtly coarse and common conditions would send a Southern Lady Over the Cliff. We have long known that most of our vague symptoms and Sinking Spells can be cured with a Spring Tonic made from Wood Violets, Smelling Salts, the restorative Hadacol or a numbing dose of Paregoric. If a Sinking Spell occurs in the daytime, it is permissible to lay down fully clothed on top of a coverlet, but for heaven’s sake- please don’t disrobe and cover up by actually going to bed in broad daylight! It’s alright to put a cool cloth on your feverish brow in a darkened room, just don’t sit staring out into space with a washrag just on top of your head while out on the front porch! vintage fainting woman

Now I know you’re wondering- what is a Sinking Spell?

  • It is of unknown origin, ‘I told you when you let yourself get so thick, if you keep wearing those tight clothes you’re gonna start seeing spots before your eyes!’ Tight clothes are thought to be one source of Sinking Spells.
  •  Sinking Spells can be brought on by a Shock to the Nervous System. ‘Maddie Lou called and said, ‘It is with a heavy heart, I tell you the thing we greatly feared has come to pass, our skin has become lined and crepe-y. Wrinkled I tell you!’ 
  • A rise in Humidity and a sharp drop in Barometric Pressure can plague us with a Sinking Spell and a Sick Headache. ‘If this Fawg would just lift!’
  • Right before a Sinking Spell, one might be LeThar-gic (we love the word lethargic!) followed by a Queasy Stomach and Weak Knees. ‘Evah’ time I see Merry Beth in a new outfit, it just gets my goat the way she struts around. You can mark it down on the calendar, the next thing you know, my head’s a-swimming- then I’ll have a Sinking Spell.’ This is typical of a Change of Seasons Sinking Spell, a new outfit is the tonic for it and generally dispels the symptoms.

Sinking Spells are a Southern Ladies secret weapon for getting our own way. Remember ladies, this is how you have a sinking spell…  Delicate. Fragile. Vague darlin’, vague… Try having a Sinking Spell if you need a bit of sympathy, feel under the weather, need a lift or a new outfit. Don’t forget to lay in a supply of Pepto-Violet, a Spring Tonic  or a Restorative Bottle of Hadacol. You never know when you might need it. Just know that there are times when you definitely will need to take the cure. Like all good Southern tales, this one is part myth, part outright lies and in this case, mostly true.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photographs from Bing and Pinterest and are not designated with copyrights. Hadacol (20% grain alcohol) and Pepto-Violet are old remedies. Paregoric is no longer available but it was a numbing medication given freely to teething babies or women experiencing Sinking Spells.