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Life's Little Lessons

Adelaide is a Southern lady all the way down to her girdle. She would wear lipstick and carry a purse to a tractor pull. A foul word would never cross her lips, except when it comes to her mother.

Addie's prim and proper behavior, however, worries her mama half to death. According to her mama, at age 25, Adelaide is in serious danger of becoming a spinster school teacher who intimidates small children by peering down her nose at them, who goes home at night to eat alone and talk to her cats.

"Adelaide needs a man to take care of her in the manner to which she is accustomed," drawls her mother in candid concern, loud enough for Adelaide to hear; loud enough for the target male on the dairy aisle to hear. Like any well-bred Southern mama, she shares her thoughts on Adelaide's love life with the preacher, the shoestore manager, and the Bi-Lo checkout girl.

I know how mamas can be. I've got one of my own who has worked me over in public before. When I was 5 years old my mother worried that my blond head wouldn't show up in my school pictures. She dressed me in a froofy, billowy, pumpkin-orange blouse. At the neck, my mama tied an hideous, sprawling, brown bow that poofed unbecomingly beneath my tiny chin. Aside from the plastic barrette decoratively planted on one side of my head, I looked like I'd tussled with a 1970's macramé owl . . . and lost.

As one might guess, I empathize with Adelaide.

Right there for all the world, and the target male who had progressed to the freezer section, to hear, Adelaide's mama gave her a piece of advice. Of course she gave it to her by way of telling the Bi-Lo checkout girl. Although arguably practical, it went against the grain of everything Adelaide had been taught by her mama up to that point.

Adelaide's mother said (cover your young daughters' ears), "I've been trying to tell Adelaide that if she would be a little easier, a man might hang around."

The checkout girl didn't flinch. It was just another day on her feet, nodding at customers and scanning UPCs. A horrified Adelaide snapped, "Mama!"

Adelaide's mother waved her off and whispered, loud enough for the justice of the peace down at the courthouse to hear, "It's okay to kiss him on the first date." She cut her eyes at Target Male.

"I bet you were just the kind of girl to do that," Adelaide sassed, hoping to shut her mother up.

Southern mamas are so far ahead of their daughters when it comes to sass. "Yes, dear, and look," her mama replied, holding out her left hand and wagging her ring finger, "I'm married. Pinch yourself because you're a product of that easy kiss and the marriage that followed. Believe me, cooking for a man only goes so far. Sometimes it's not the biscuits that need warming." She let the innuendo hang in the air for a few seconds, then said, "Sometimes it's him." With that, she nodded toward Target Male.

"Mother!" Adelaide exclaimed. I know the feeling that swept over her. It's like getting in a tussle with a macramé owl and losing, in front of Target Male.

(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author . E-mail her at

Web posted on Thursday, August 19, 2010

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