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RONDA RICH: A Southern woman is "polished," not "groomed"

Not long ago, I was in Los Angeles and visiting Tink on the set of a television show that he was executive producing. We sat side-by-side in director chairs, watching as the scene was set up and actors took their place. I looked across Tink to see a woman studying me carefully. I smiled.

She tilted her head, then asked, "Are you Mrs. Tinker?"

I smiled bigger. "Yes, I am."

She nodded, silently studying me. "I thought so. You're Southern, right?" There was no smile, no social engaging from her. I felt like a rat in a laboratory examination.

Again, "Yes, I am."

"I can tell," she remarked solemnly. "I can tell by the grooming."

I blinked. Tink did, too. We both were speechless. When I think "grooming", I think horses. I don't even groom Dixie Dew. She gets a bath and her nails clipped.

After a long moment of Digesting the comment, Tink finally spoke.

"Grooming?" he asked. Now, let me tell you -- no one washes and cleans more than Tink. He does an extraordinary job with soap, dental floss and cologne. So, the fact that he found the comment odd shows that it wasn't just me.

She nodded, still unsmiling, and looked directly at me. "You have this Texas thing going. The hair, everything."

I laughed. What else to do? There was a chance, after all, that it was a compliment even if it was back-handed. "Well, OK. Thanks."

Fortunately, the director called for "quiet on the set" so the dialogue ceased before I got offended and she got to hear one of my quick-witted but dangerously sharp barbs.

My husband is a gentleman in every sense of the word so I always strive to remember that and not embarrass him with a memorable zinger. Of course, we're still newlyweds so I'm still able to contain myself. There, though, is surely coming a time when my restrain will vanish like dew under the hot summer sun.

Tink and I talked about it off and on for the rest of the day, both puzzled at the oddness, and I have continued to give it a lot of thought.

It wasn't big hair that gave that impression that day. Now, I love back-teasing and stiff hair spray as much as any self-respecting Southern woman, but that morning, when I dressed then sprayed and fluffed my hair, I didn't like the look with the peasant-style chiffon shirt I was wearing. So, I "refixed" my hair. I flat-ironed it and gave it a straight, edgy, trendy look. It was mostly flat.

I applied a light hand of make-up, paying careful attention to lip gloss and mascara, then put on earrings that dangle and bracelets that jangle. If anything, I was under-dressed compared to my Sunday church morning dresses and high heels.

I know what you're thinking, my friend. How did the other woman look? I'm getting there. For therein, perhaps, lies the answer.

Her hair was clean but disheveled, her face scrubbed but pale and bare and she wore no jewelry. She was attired in a rumbled white, ill-fitting cotton blouse, jeans and fat sneakers. I could make further comment but since Tink chides me for being "mean," I'll stop. You can figure it out from there.

So, I have decided that it isn't grooming that I or any typical Southern woman have, it is more appropriately termed as "polish." We take a stone rough but pure in its beauty and spiff it up to a high sheen and maximum sparkle. This, I believe, is something to take pride in, not shame.

Later, I saw her again. I chuckled, a bit mischievously. "We're still talking about your grooming comment."

She nodded, her face emotionless. "You can use that in a story."

"Oh, don't worry," I assured her with a sly smile and tone that took her aback.

After all, I'm "groomed" to find good story material.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the forthcoming "There's A Better Day A-Comin.'" Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.