The Art of “Bless Your Heart!”
An author friend inspired this particular article yesterday. She’d received a backhanded, though complimentary, review from a reader and somehow the conversation about it veered to the Southern expression “Bless your heart.”
Both the review and the phrase caught my attention, because being from the south, I was raised by women who were masters at backhanded compliments AND blessing my heart.
This is not necessarily a Southern thing, so don’t go leavin’ just because you’re from North of the Mason-Dixon line, bless your heart.
Achievements don’t go unpunished in some households, including the one I grew up in. If you won the spelling bee at school, “Congratulations, but don’t forget you need to bring that math grade up, okay?” Like I could forget that sorry class and those grades I had to earn with blood, sweat, and tears, while spelling came as naturally to me as reading did.
And don’t be too proud of new things that you received, a la “Those new jeans look darlin’ on you, darlin’, but I was never that large when I was your age.”
Got a new car? “Wow, I bet your insurance is through the roof. You better hope you don’t get a ticket, lead foot.”
And my all time favorite since becoming a published author. “Well before, you were just a stay-at-home-mom, whereas now you get paid for doin’ nothin’.”
Sidebar: Stay-at-home-moms are some of the most over-worked, under-compensated and under-appreciated people on the planet. And many erotic romance authors work every bit as hard at their craft as many mainstream romance authors do. I don’t know where we all get off judging each other sometimes. End Soapbox.
I think at the core is the misguided belief that if we rejoice over our accomplishments, some evil imp is going to take note and visit disaster on us unless our family members and friends do it for them first.
Backhanded compliments are a gift that gets passed down from generation to generation. I’ve learned to overlook them for the most part, until I hear them coming out of my mouth, directed at my kids. Yeah, somehow, despite my best strategy, I still inherited that gift from my mom.
Then there’s “Bless Your Heart.” The BEST southern catch-all phrase of ALL time.
The popular consensus these days is that “Bless Your Heart” is code for “Fuck You, Bitch.” Sometimes this is true. Truly evil Southern women can do this with a smile and walk away leaving you hemorrhaging.
But if you’re my friend and you’re being a bitch, and I don’t know what else to say to you besides “Grow the fuck up,” I might say “Bless your heart” instead.
If I don’t have a clue what I’m supposed to do with what you just told me, and I’m thinking I’m dealing with someone who’s touched in the head, well… “Bless your heart…”
Not every use of it should be perceived as negative or insulting, though. If you’ve been sick or dealing with a sick child, I’m likely to bless your heart and mean it as encouragement and empathy because I’ve been there numerous times.
If you brought me chocolate and flowers, you can bet I’m gonna bless your heart, and mean it as gratefulness. Unless you want me to share my chocolate, in which case, bless your heart, you’re gonna have to get your own.
If you won an award, that calls for a heart blessing too. Unless you want to go on and on singing your own praises then you might get it twice and be told two separate things.
If I say, Bless your heart, I don’t know what to say,” I really mean, “I can’t say what I’d really like to say,”
I guess in the end, you’re just gonna have to take it as you want to, bless your heart. But don’t automatically assume I mean, “Fuck you, bitch.” Unless of course you’re a bitch, bless your heart!
This post is brought to you by (and dedicated to) every passive-aggressive Southern woman I’ve ever known or been raised by.
I hope you weren’t offended by this post. If you were, then, well…Bless your heart! I would love to hear from you about your own experiences with this catch-all phrase. Leave a comment telling me about one funny incident from your past, real or imagined. Everyone who leaves me a comment will get their name in a drawing on this coming Friday, March 15th, for a free pdf copy of Tangled in Divine when it releases on April 19th.