Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

"Hi, Pretty Lady!"

Aileen Ridings Bennett


A yellow sticky-note stays on the dashboard of my car. "Hi, Pretty Lady!" is printed on it, put there by my older son on his last visit home from up north. It makes me smile each time I get into the car.

The expression "Hi, Pretty Lady" is a family joke. My four kids, mimicking my Southern accent, refer to it as Mama's Southern thang. Since the saying came to me from a longtime Southern friend, perhaps it is a Southern thang.

It was one of those days when your kidneys are right behind your eyelids and you find yourself bawling like a newborn calf at the slightest thing. A black cloud hovers over you, and all you want to do is wrap up in a quilt, head and all, and disappear. I finally answered the persistent ringing of the phone to hear my friend's cheery voice asking me to go shopping. "No way," was my immediate reply, "I don't like people today and they sure wouldn't like me."

There was a long pause, and I thought she had blessedly hung up on my surly self. "I want you to go to a mirror right now, any mirror will do, look at yourself dead in the face, and repeat these words: Hi, Pretty Lady." I thought surely she had been into the sherry cabinet. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," I replied. "I mean it," she said. "Go to the mirror, look at yourself, and say Hi, Pretty Lady. Call me back when you feel better, and I can assure you it will make you feel better."

Pulling the quilt more tightly over my head, I kept my pity-party going until a will stronger than my own pushed me into the bathroom. Glancing into the mirror, an unkempt, down-in-the-mouth face stared back at me. Tentatively, I whispered the words, Hi, Pretty Lady. One side of the mouth in the mirror curled up. In a somewhat louder whisper, I repeated the phrase and both sides of the mouth curled up. Dropping the quilt, I brazenly stared at the face and with more conviction said, "Hi, Pretty Lady!" I began laughing, and the more I repeated the inane phrase, the more I laughed and the better I felt. While the simple words didn't turn me into a vision of beauty, the spirit-lift they gave me quickly replaced the black cloud I was carrying around with me.

My son says it evokes an even bigger laugh when he says it to his reflection in the mirror. "It's a Southern thang," I say to him, "but it could work for men and Yankees as well."

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AILEEN RIDINGS BENNETT confirms in her writing style she is a “dyed-in-the-wool Southerner.” Born in a small town in Tennessee, she moved to Oak Ridge, growing up in a strange and secret town and era, she proclaims. Aileen has four children, two daughters and two sons, and an engineer husband, who was transferred often, the family having the opportunity to travel and live in many parts of the country. "Life, Love and Laughter," a column she carried with her, was published in newspapers wherever she lived, being quickly picked up by surrounding cities. “My kids provided much ‘fodder’ for my column,” she says. Aileen studied creative writing under Arizola Magnenat, a published author and journalist. When her husband retired from his company in Atlanta, Georgia, the couple decided to return to Oak Ridge. “Our placemats dwindled to two,” she says, which finally gave her time to write her first novel, The Annie Chase Story, to be released in October 2005 by Behler Publishing Company. She is currently working on the sequel and continues to write free-lance and essays.

© Aileen Ridings Bennett

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012