When it comes to entertaining guests, Southern women set the bar about a mile higher than we can reach because we have generations of legendary hospitality to live up to. Those of us who are swinging by The Pig to pick up last-minute salad-in-a-bag on our way home from soccer practice are channeling female forbears who took the time to warm their china dinner plates before serving food on them. Women who made punch recipes that began with “take the juice of 9 dozen lemons.” Women who wore pearls (not yoga pants) to the grocery store; who would spend an entire day making one layer cake (instead of ordering one from Publix); who hand-polished all of their furniture (instead of giving it a quick Swiffer on the way out the door).
And so, when we have gone the extra mile—actually mopped under the sofa instead of around it, double-cased the pillows in the guest room, and polished a silver tray or two—we like to think our efforts will be appreciated. Most of the time, they are. But not everybody was raised right, bless their hearts. Others aren't so much rude as forgivably, albeit maddeningly, clueless.
Always remember: A Southern woman is fully capable of having a smile on her face and murder in her heart—figuratively speaking, of course. Here are a few things you should never be guilty of saying to your Southern Hostess, aka “S.H.”
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We’re a couple of hours early, but we were in the neighborhood and thought we’d just come on over.
Seriously? At the most critical stage of her party preparations, when she’s timing whatever’s in the oven and checking the ice ring to make sure it’s firming up for the punch bowl and putting the finishing touches on her buffet, you want to distract S.H. with a stream of questions about whose coming and what’s that on the cake stand and is she sure she doesn’t need your help? No, no, no. She wants you out of her house until she’s ready to receive you properly and make this a special evening for you. If you get ready early, watch a movie, work a crossword puzzle, or perhaps use the extra time to alphabetize your prayer list. Conversely . . .
Why is everybody yawning? I’m not a bit sleepy.
If the other guests are a distant memory, the family dog is snoring by the fireplace, and your hostess and her spouse are visibly struggling to remain conscious, it’s time for you to say night-night. It’s actually way past time.
I’m sorry, but I don’t like [whatever S.H. just put in front of you].
Unless you have a deadly allergy to it, eat whatever was prepared for you (or at least move it around with your fork until it looks like you did), and brag on it like all get-out.
Did we mention our six grandchildren are visiting this weekend? We thought it would be a hoot to bring them along!
Sure hope that four-year-old likes grilled salmon and mussels in wine sauce.
Good news! Our plans changed and we can stay three more days!
S.H. just excused herself, went into the master suite, buried her face in a pillow, and screamed. She feels much better now.
In the silver linings department, no matter what hospitality crises S.H. might face, she has an ace in the hole: Mama. As long as she can get Mama—or at least Great Aunt Mamie—on the line, S.H. will survive.
The next time you're invited to a Southern home, be a dear and bring your hostess a little something to show her how much you appreciate her. That would be just precious of you.