Sunday, April 18, 2010

“It's amazing, isn't it? Most of the time she goes around without the sense God gave a goose. Look at her. I mean, one crisis, and she's Scarlett O'Hara.”

Before there was Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, there was Julia, Suzanne, Mary Jo and Charlene. Four smart, savvy, fashionable {well, for their time} and unapologetically Southern women who embodied what female friendship could be.


I was between the ages of nine and twelve when it aired and it was one of the few “grown up” shows I was allowed to watch at that time. I asked my mom yesterday if she thought it was too much of a stretch to say that a good part of what I learned about being a Southern Drama Queen, I learned from watching “Designing Women.” She replied, “Well, if you were between nine and twelve, you were pretty in touch with your drama queen side at that point, so…no, not too much of a stretch.”

Told you I started early.

Although a great deal of the dialogue went right over my head at that age, I still loved that show as much as any “kid” show those days. If I knew anything then, I knew the value of southern women having been surrounded by four such aunties since the day I was born. So I soaked in the witty banter between those four. While I enjoyed Mary Jo’s sharp sense of humor and Charlene’s delightful naiveté, it was Julia and Suzanne who I wanted to see the most.

Maybe it was because they were sisters and I understood that relationship too. I reveled in Julia’s quick words and “put you in your place” speeches. I was in awe of how she could fearlessly stand up for her beliefs, her friends and her sister. I think I was probably channeling a little bit of Julia my senior year of high school when I confronted the punk sophomore who had been spreading vicious rumors about my freshman little sister. I don’t think I was as long winded as Julia might have been but, I tell you what, I backed that boy up to the lockers like a pro. And when I asked him if he understood me? He answered, “Yes ma’am.” Darn straight you do.

What drew me to Suzanne? I think it was the complete and utter girly-girlness of who her character was. She was unapologetically feminine and I loved that. A little narcissistic, sure, but she loved being a woman and all that came with it. She loved being sexy and attractive, she worried about what others thought of her, she wondered if her weight somehow defined a part of her femininity. What woman can’t relate to that? The little girl version of Leslie could, which makes me a little sad now. I was keenly aware of my weight even though I shouldn’t have been. To this day, I can still vividly remember the episode, “They Shoot Fat People, Don’t They?” when Suzanne faces her twenty-five year high school reunion and confronts the fact that she’s heavier than the beauty queen self her classmates remember. It garnered one of my favorite of Suzanne’s one-liners, “I know I’ve gained a little weight, but y’all act like I should be shopping at Georgia Tent & Awning!”

And the speech she gave when {with cruel intentions} she is awarded Most Changed at the reunion…well, it struck a chord with me then and I’ve never forgotten it.

I guess maybe I deserve this award for the Person-Most-Changed, but…not for the reason you think. Last night I got my feelings hurt because I came to this reunion thinking I was beautiful and what I find out was that I'm fat…at least you think I am. But that isn't the biggest change in me. The biggest change is that the old Suzanne wouldn't have shown up here tonight. She would've just gotten thin before the next reunion and then she would have gotten even. But I'm a little older and I hope a little wiser than that person used to be.

A lot of things have happened to me...We had a lot of dreams together and there's no point in pretending some of mine came true and some didn't.

I met a little boy from Africa tonight whose family died of starvation and I realized that I spent the whole day at home worrying about the fact that I had too much to eat. I'm not sure the old Suzanne would have appreciated the absurdity of that but this one does.

Some of you men wanted to know about my bra size, but I’d rather talk about my heart because…it's a little bigger than it used to be. The old Suzanne wouldn't have forgiven you for the things that you said, but this one will. Because when I look around this room tonight, I don't see receding hairlines and the beginnings of pot-bellies and crow's feet. I just see all the beautiful faces of old girlfriends and sweet young boys who used to stand on my front porch and try to kiss me goodnight. And you can remember me any way you'd like, but that's how I'll always remember you.

And so I thank you for giving me this award for the Person-Most-Changed, however you intended it. I'm gonna treasure it because… #1. I love trophies and #2. I earned it. Thank you.

I’m grateful for the role that “Designing Women” played in my growing up. I’m grateful for writers that wrote southern women as strong and smart, not silly and ignorant. I’m grateful for hilarious one liners that we still use in our family today. I’m grateful for the life of Dixie Carter and all that she added to my understanding of what it is to be a southern woman. We’ve lost a great one…


  1. Never missed an episode. Seriously- we were living parallel lives.

  2. This was so worth the wait. Fantastic!

  3. Great post!! Brings back memories of us watching it together. A Southern woman.. I'm glad to be one!

  4. Amen, to that. It sure is good to be a Southern Woman!

  5. the designing women and the golden girls were crucial in my formative years, showing me what it was to be a woman. now i watch the reruns and try to figure out why my parents let me watch it and am grateful i didn't get all the the sexual innuendo at age 10. i loved the shows then, and love them just as much now.


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