Monday, May 17, 2010

Memory Monday: Havin’ a Hissy Fit

It’s a Southern thing.

It’s the style: grand and dramatic.

My husband’s family, who are from Brooklyn, yell at one another. It’s called “discussion.”

My family, however, had hissy fits. Explosive outbursts. Extreme overstatement. Stormy exits. They were not, thank God, frequent. They sort of lose their effect if overused.

The most likely pretext for these outbursts was usually some minor slight: going a little too far with teasing, praising someone else a bit too much, not showing enough appreciation for a gift.

I cannot remember many details of the hissy fits in my own family, mostly just the poses that were struck: chin up, lower lip out, arms folded.

More vivid are the memories of the stories of these volcanic eruptions from my mother’s family. Or, more specifically, my mother’s mother’s side of the family, the Floyds. The men took after the Moore side: reticent. There was an uncle who did leave without saying goodbye, and was not seen again for some years. But he did not leave in a huff. He simply hated good-byes. He said he was going down to the corner to buy some cigarettes. And then years later: “Howdy.”

But apparently the Floyds were masters of the tongue-lashing and high-pitched hysterics. Or that’s what I heard. I even heard that my Grandma Eula – my sweet little Grandma – could blister your ears when she let loose.

On my Dad’s side, it was the Brinlees who were the experts of the stormy stomp-off. My Uncle Bill told me the following story about my father:

“One summer when Varnell was 14 years old, he went into Bonham [Texas] to get his driver’s license, but they wouldn’t give it to him because he was too young. It made him so mad that he hitchhiked out of town and all the way to Washington state. He spent the whole summer there working in the wheat fields.”

I had never heard this story before, but it didn’t surprise me.

Couldn't have done it any better, myself.


  1. Though a favorite term of my mother, I haven't heard that terms since I was a kid. "Throwing a hissy-fit" was usually directed at me for my dramatic temper outburst.If it is a sounthern term, I'm supposin' that it wasn't the reticent German maternal grandfather's term, but came from the Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri faction. "Hissy-Fit" just tells all the drama and flouncing and postureing in 2 words. Thanks, loved it.

  2. Wonderful post! I can certainly relate. I've been known to throw a hissy-fit now and again. ;^D


  3. I still throw a 'hissy fit' occasionally. Not a pretty site and not in front of others...

  4. I'd love to throw a "hissy-fit" but our family all do the typical Scottish Presbyterian "tight-lipped, say nothing, but make your disapproval plain" stance :-) One day I'll go all dramatic and they'll still do the same...

  5. Joan - That's exactly how I first heard the expression - my grandmother told me not to "throw a hissy fit"! I know I've scared my daughters a couple of times, so I try to be more restrained. SG - I wish I could do the tight-lipped thing!

  6. Nothing like a good old-fashioned "hissy fit." Our neighbor girl calls it "raging". Sounds a little scarier if you ask me. Thanks for another great post!