steel-magnolia. Noun. (plural steel magnolias) (chiefly Southern US) A woman who exemplifies both traditional femininity as well as an uncommon fortitude.
I was about 10 years old the first time I watched Steel Magnolias. My mother and grandmother sat me down and told me, “We have something we need to show you.” Although I was young, this classic film changed me forever. As a young girl, I’d pretend my bedroom was Truvy’s Beauty Parlor. The friendships portrayed as well as the clever one-liners, tear-jerking story line, all-star cast and their depiction of real-life events made Hollywood magic that is still celebrated to this day.
This month is the 30th Anniversary of this iconic film, and I decided to share all the ways Steel Magnolias has molded and shaped me into the Southern woman I’ve become.
6 Life Lessons From Steel Magnolias:
1. Southern women are extra. And we like it that way.
From the very beginning of the movie, it’s clear: Southern women are doing the most. Whether they’re fussing about the perfect pink nail polish, planning a wedding, working the fried shrimp booth at the Christmas festival, or simultaneously doing hair, sharing recipes and gossiping, Southern women have 2 speeds: zero and 100. Women are the matriarchs of the family, and it’s a role taken seriously. The ladies’ ability to love, nurture, organize and celebrate is un-matchable, and can often cause the men in the families to fall into the backdrop, because let’s be honest … Southern women run the show. The men just show up.
2. There is no such thing as natural beauty.
Let me preface this one by saying women are beautiful. Beauty is not defined by how much makeup we wear, or how much money we spend on our hair. Beauty absolutely comes from within. However, both Steel Magnolias and my mother have always taught me that if we spend time on our appearance, it can make us feel stronger, and build our confidence. Not only does focusing on our beauty regimens fit in the category of self-care, but the support system modeled in Truvy’s Beauty Shop is also to be noted, as the women gather there frequently to support and love each other. This serves as a reminder to me that there’s always something deeper under the surface of a beautiful woman, and although we are often struggling, women are strong and able to put on a smile and fight through it.
3. The love of a Southern woman is almost supernatural.
Shelby teaches Southern spirit and strength from the very beginning. This is the very reason I chose to name my daughter Shelby. Our first view of Shelby in the film shows her running frantically around her house, shouting orders to those around her as she gets ready for her wedding day. Throughout the movie, you see her warmth, her love and her spirit as she risks her life to become a mother. She embraces all outcomes, and explains that she would rather have “5 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” In that one simple phrase, she depicts the true spirit of a Southern woman. We are fearless in our pursuit of happiness and will stop at nothing fighting for our dreams and the dreams of those we love. AKA: we’re stubborn as hell.
4. Dolly Parton is everything.
I don’t have much to say to elaborate on this one. Dolly Parton is a queen. That is all.
5. Moms and daughters argue. But there is no love greater.
M’Lynn and Shelby’s relationship tell an age-old story of the beauty (and frustration) shared between a mother and daughter. While extremely close, they argue, disagree with each other on almost everything, and although M’Lynn has done the majority of the child-rearing, Shelby often shows favoritism to her father. However, let it be known, that when times get tough, M’Lynn is who Shelby runs to for relief. Theirs is a beautiful, but honest example of a mother-daughter relationship and is incredibly heart-warming to watch. This is especially encouraging to me, as I spend most of my days arguing with a tiny version of me. However, like Shelby in the film, my Shelby runs to me first when things get tough. We are their safe place, and our love nurtures them like no other love can. This is proof when at the end of Steel Magnolias, on Shelby’s death bed, once everyone has left, her mother remains. She refuses to leave, stating “I was there when this beautiful creature was brought into this world, and I was there when she left.”
6. Men are not made of steel.
Anyone watching the movie can’t help but fall in love with Shelby, and to lose her in the end will make anyone sob like a baby. The profound thing about this loss, is that when she gets sick, her mother is the one who volunteered her kidney. And when Shelby get disconnected from life support? You guessed it. Her mother is at the bedside as the men walk away. The funeral? No man in sight. Only a group of women dressed in black, smiling through the tears and finding beauty in the most painful of situations. During this time, M’Lynn says it best when she indicates that men are supposed to be made of steel, but women are actually stronger.
I encourage everyone, Southerners and non-Southerners, to take the opportunity this month to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Steel Magnolias by watching this timeless film. Take some of that Southern spirit with you. Let it invoke the Steel Magnolia inside of you.