She walked into the room, impeccably dressed in a blue and white patterned top with matching navy skirt. Her jewelry sparkled and her hair was perfect. Her bright smile was greater than the Mona Lisa yet less than Miss America. Her final, yet essential accessory, was the hint of mischief in her eyes, which instantly drew everyone in the room to her. My 100-year-old friend Jule Moon is the best example of a Southern lady I’ve ever seen.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, Southern women know how to enter a room, sit down, not say a word, and still be the center of attention. They don’t do it on purpose, because truth be told, they were taught to shun the spotlight. Like their heartbeat, it’s just something that happens naturally, without plan or thought.
Generations of little girls have watched closely as their mothers, aunts and grannies smoothed their hair, pinched their cheeks and straightened their dresses just before they entered a room. They’ve learned through observation that standing up straight and not slouching means you have respect for the people around you. Good conversation and looking someone in the eye when they speak lets them know you value what they say. As teens, they were told, “put on some lipstick and stop that whining!” which sent the message that their drama was not appropriate outside of the home.
Ladies like Jule have mastered the art of making others feel special and appreciated, which is the basis for all good Southern manners.
Business meetings, social committees and church services have all come to a halt when a great Southern lady has shown up. Age doesn’t matter, but usually, the more seasoned ones like Jule have perfected the art and can wow a crowd with far less effort than those much younger. I’ve watched as a simple nod of the head, smile or eye contact from a lady have made the speaker lose their concentration, while others jump to their feet to offer a choice seat.
Born in Atlanta and raised by loving parents and a mother who was friendly with Margaret Mitchell, Jule moved to Mobile when she was 12 years old, and eventually attended Murphy High School where she was involved in many activities and served as the editor of the school newspaper. She later graduated from the University of Texas and worked in many different careers including counseling, geology, real estate, writing, and like many good Southerners who value history and a good story, had a passion for antiques.
Gliding, sashaying or floating into a room, never tromping, stomping or slinking, Jule sometimes carries a cane, yet in her hands, it seems more like a magic wand than walking aid, proving she knows the Southern secret of transforming anything into an elegant accessory.
Chic enough to appreciate designer frocks, Jule is confident and savvy enough to find the best styles at the thrift shop. She once discovered a sparkling evening gown at Goodwill, and wore it to claim the title of “Best Dressed” in the Mrs. Senior Baldwin Pageant.
Some women are wrecks, others cause them. Some scream for attention, while others quietly grab it with a grin. Time comes to a standstill, so age means nothing, when a great Southern lady enters the room.
This story first appeared on AL.com and in the Mobile Press Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.