Monday, December 5, 2011

The Mumble Rule

In her book What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should), Rhonda Rich points out, "The major difference between Southern women and ruthless manipulators when it comes to charm and flattery is that Southern women use charm and flattery on everyone." Most days it's just too hot to keep track of whose turn it is to be wrapped around your little finger, is all. If we Southern gals are going to use our wiles, we are just going to have to use them wholesale. It is only manipulation if you dazzle in secret. When you are blazoning your intent to charm, it's called hospitality.

Charlotte, hard at work.

We sultry Magnolias do need to let off a little steam, to be sure. It's hard and sweaty work to move the world with a smile. How do we manage? We have our ways...

The Mumble Rule

The Mumble Rule can be summed up as follows: a true Southern lady can say nearly anything bordering on the impolite, as long as it is Mumbled. When questioned on the Mumble, it is understood that the response to, "What did you say, dear?" is to smile, tilt your head a bit, while asking with all due innocence, "What?" It is also understood that the subject upon which you have Mumbled, and indeed the Mumble itself, shall forever be dropped, at least while in your mutual presence, at least until the next opportune Mumble, or at least until you have a chance to dish about it with your respective Mommas over an iced tea.
"You won't believe what she said. She pretended I couldn't hear her, but I heard her, Momma."
For the uninitiated, there are subtleties to The Mumble Rule too intricate to be blogged. The red tape sticks mainly to the words, nearly anything and bordering on the impolite. The only truly concrete portion of the rule is the lady part, which is why my husband is so funny.

Although my husband was born a Yankee, Southern is like a second language to him. No one has ever explained The Mumble Rule to him, yet he knows it by heart, like all intelligent and dashing gentlemen. Having broken the etiquette of not speaking about etiquette in mixed company (there are Bostonians present), I shall explain that men don't ever Mumble. Boys sometimes do, but like a splash of glitter nail polish, applied by a real man, Mumbling is simply funny.

When my husband Mumbled while I made coffee this morning, he lightened the mood considerably. He made me laugh out loud. It was a true Geography Joke: not only did you have to be there to get it, you had to actually be from here.

My laughter and my response, "Did you just Mumble at me?!" was countered with, "I know! I knew you'd catch that!" My oldest daughter did not get the joke, but she perked up her ears. At 5 she knows when something flies over her head.

She's learning.

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