Right then and there, in the Los Angeles International Airport, I thought I was going to have to pitch a conniption fit. That -- to explain a conniption fit properly -- is when a woman of Southern origin creates a scene of dramatic wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Long before Scarlett O'Hara drew her first fictional breath, Southern women have been pitching them, while those on the receiving end were catching them and praying to the sweet Lord Jesus just to go ahead and take 'em on home to spare them from such agony. A quick demise is always preferred over receiving a conniption fit. Especially when pitched by the true experts of the game.
"I'm sorry," the security officer said after he dug through my purse and pulled out the culprit that could sinisterly end the world and rid us all of our worries once and for good. "You cannot take this on the plane."
Panic hit my heart, causing it to accelerate speed, then the fear flew up through my throat and dissipated all the beads of moisture in my mouth. A few seconds later, I found the voice to speak.
"Sir, you can't do that. Please." Southerners, even in moments of extreme stress, can be exceedingly polite.
I couldn't believe it. My favorite lip gloss in the world. It wasn't the price of the fancy brand that bothered me. It was that the color - the most perfect coral peach imaginable - had cruelly been discontinued by the French know-it-alls. I had spent hours searching it down in stores and online, triumphantly obtaining three tubes that, hopefully, will do me until something better comes along. Whether it is men or lip gloss, I am an unfailing believer that something better will always come along.
Now, there I stood in LAX, the land of superficiality, thinking frantically to myself, "Now, if anyone understands cosmetic dependency, it has to be these people in L.A. It has to be."
I blinked, tears welling in my eyes. This is the first step in a conniption fit: wide-eyed despair with ample water pooling. If you look pitiful enough - there is, after all, a mastery to this - the conniption fit can possibly be halted before being carried further. Smart Southern women seek to win through charm rather than conniption. It's more becoming and less stressful.
The man looked at me thoughtfully for a second and I said nary a word. Sometimes it behooves you just to keep your mouth shut. Finally, a tiny smile pulled up the corners of a mouth that looked like it was way overdue for a grin. He nodded. "Okay. You can keep it."
He handed the cherished lip gloss back to me, along with my purse which I would have given over more readily than the fancy gloss called "Hacienda." I almost fainted with relief. After that, the delayed flight, the stinky passenger in the seat next to me or the rude woman who ran the wheels of her luggage over my new Manolo Blahniks and hurried away without a backwards glance did not bother me at all. I was still in possession of my prized possession and that's what mattered most.
You have to be careful with conniption fits, though. Too much conniption makes for contradiction. The world tends to see Southern women as gracious, so it's best to avoid hatefulness whenever possible.
Still, there are times when all that will work is a bit of foot-stomping, spewing of vinegar-tinged words and hysteric dramatics. These should be limited, though, to one or two fits per year. Max.
After all, a little conniption, especially when practiced by true experts of the sport, goes a long way.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should.)" Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.