The dictionary defines the word steel as "strong, durable, unflinching in character" and the word magnolia as "any of the various evergreen or deciduous trees of the genus magnolia, cultivated for their showy flowers in colors of white, pink, purple or yellow."
Where we come from, a Steel Magnolia is the combination of the two definitions above...and so much more.She is the very essence of strength combined with femininity. She is a woman who enjoys being a woman, and is well aware of the power that comes with it. She is the backbone of her family, in good times and bad; and "family" means so much more than just blood kin to her – it encompasses anyone to whom she is tied by heartstrings.She takes great pleasure in being there for those she loves, and in filling their needs. She will even put her own needs on the back burner to do this, and never give it a second thought. And it doesn't matter to her if she's filling a need that will earn her recognition and praise or if it's so "behind the scenes" that no one ever even knows who filled it.
The only reward she needs is the knowledge that the need was filled.It is she who holds the family together when everyone else is ready to quit; she is the very foundation of the South, and the rock on which it was built.It is she who cares for the sick, both in her family and anyone else's who may need an extra hand when they are unable to carry their load alone. It is she who manages to scrimp, save and pinch pennies till they holler when times are tight – and does without, herself – so that her family doesn't go without what they need. It is she who keeps the churches alive by seeing that her family is there for all activities, by taking part in them herself and just generally filling any position that might need filled from Sunday School teacher to singing in the choir to getting the communion ready to arranging flowers for the sanctuary.It is she who gives even more hours of her already-full day to organizations that do good for her community and around the world – groups like Red Cross, Junior Leagues, homeless shelters, shelters for abused women and hospitals, just to name a very few. It is also she who teaches her children the values of love, compassion, courage, strength, spirituality, joy, and even sorrow. She teaches them that it is not a sin to make a mistake; but it is one not to try. She teaches them that it's perfectly normal to have weak moments when you want to quit; but it's not good to give in to the urge to do so. It is she who teaches them that they can be anything they want to be, and have anything they want out of life; the sky's the limit – if they want it badly enough to work really hard for it.She also teaches them about the "graces" of life – the beauty of sparkling, beautifully cut crystal, the patina of well-polished silver that's been passed down from one generation to the next, the sentimental value of having your table set for special occasions with Great-grandmother's china (even though the pattern has long since been discontinued) and Grandmother's Battenburg table linens that her son brought to her from a cruise when he was in the Navy. She shows them the beauty and elegance of a table set with her finest appointments and graced with beautiful fresh-cut flowers, usually from her own garden. It is she who teaches them about family traditions...and those who made them.She is also an excellent cook. Among the most-treasured possessions passed down through the generations of Steel Magnolias are family recipes. These recipes may have begun as bare-bones recipes made out of whatever staples happened to be on hand in the family pantry during lean times. But, generations later, they have been embellished by each one who used them until they have reached near-gourmet standards. And, in this day and time, they have also been made low-fat without sacrificing taste; because Steel Magnolias have their family's well-being in mind at all times.Steel Magnolias care very much about their appearance, but it is very important that you realize that all of them are not beauty queens – although we certainly have more than our fair share of those who are. While all Steel Magnolias are taught very early on to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative", everyone knows their real beauty comes from within. While the phrase, "Pretty is as pretty does" is certainly one all Southern girls cut their teeth on, it comes closer to being true than they generally realize until they get a bit wiser.The beauty of a Steel Magnolia is one that shines from within her; it's a glow that all the best makeup in the world, most artfully applied, can never begin to duplicate – much less surpass. It's a glow that comes from her genuine love of others, her deep interest in them and how their life is going, her concern for how she might make things better for her world. It comes from her not just looking at your eyes, but into your heart, when she is a part of your world. It comes from knowing that she will be there to laugh with you, as any loved one will; but she will also be there to hold you, cry with you, and roll up her sleeves and help you work your way out of rock bottom when life puts you there. The real secret to a Steel Magnolia's beauty is that it is purely and simply a reflection that comes from how you see her in your heart.Steel Magnolias love all the trappings of femininity; as the song says, they are strictly female females and enjoy being that way. They can flirt with the best of them, and generally do. In the South, no one takes offense at this, because they all have the gene! The only competition involved is seeing who can outflirt you…or, if you're a Southern Gentleman, seeing how many Magnolias you can have flirting with you at one time!Steel Magnolias have a unique way of speaking – a combination of that famous accent which they can thicken at will and phrases like none you've ever heard anywhere else; this dialect is known around the world, and loved by virtually everyone who hears it. Especially men. And, when the situation warrants it, they are also quite capable of cutting a deserving person into ribbons with their words in such a way that that person will not only thank them for it at the time, but not even realize that they've been shredded until much later down the road. It's an ability with which they are all quite fluent, and a power that is used very judiciously; but, believe me, you do not want to be a recipient of this particular talent of a Steel Magnolia!And, in this day of equal rights, a Steel Magnolia knows that she has her place in the workplace that is equal to any man's; but she also knows that she is the one with the real power in personal matters. Their gentlemen know this as well; they accept its wisdom and know full well it's worth the price to be the center of a Steel Magnolia's world! These are men who know the meaning of words like "chivalry", "charm", "silver-tongued devil", "rogue", "rake" and "rascal" because they are all a part of them. And we love them for these things.You see, a Steel Magnolia doesn't consider it an insult to have a door opened for her, or to be helped into her coat, or other such gentlemanly things done for her; she knows these things are not done because her gentleman thinks she is incapable of doing them herself – he does them out of respect and his love for her. It is his way of showing he enjoys taking care of her in small ways, as well as large. It is a reciprocation of tenderness between the two.All Steel Magnolias are a combination of every stereotypical Southern woman tv and the movies have made famous, from Scarlett and Melanie in Gone with the Wind, to Julia, Charlene, Mary Jo and Suzanne on Designing Women, to M'Lynn, Shelby, Clairee, Annelle, Truvy and – yes – even Ouiser in Steel Magnolias; we may each have more of one of the stereotypes in our makeup than the rest, but they all reside inside us – believe me! And, in case you don't know this already, I am very proud to consider myself a member of this elite group.
Original text © 1998, Mary Lynn Hatfield, Found on this blog.
That being said, welcome to my blog, Steel Magnolia.