Baltimore's Hons are a marvel. Their style may be pink-collar, blue-collar, or housedress, but, hey, who cares? Under those festive, double-knit, stretch tops beat hearts of gold.
Out-of-towners and social climbers may cringe when their sensibilities and space are invaded by an honest-to-goodness Hon.
"What're you having, hon?" at the seafood place. "How you doin,' hon?" at the checkout. "Small bills, hon?" at the bank.
They should cherish every "hon" tossed their ways because real bingo-playing, dirt-chasing, church-going, wise-cracking hons are a vanishing treasure.
In the interest of hon awareness and preservation of hon style, Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon in Hampden, is staging the third annual Baltimore's Best Hon Contest tomorrow. All in fun, hon.
Whiting is in the vanguard of understanding and capitalizing on hon charm, which can be elusive. The young ones are just beginning to understand that grandma's plastic pop-it beads had a certain panache. Real hons would call them pretty.
Trendy new-age hons have picked up the fashion traditions of Hampden, Highlandtown, Canton, South Baltimore and the farther reaches of Essex, Parkville and Morrell Park.
But big hair alone does not a hon make; a real hon has a generous spirit as big as her beehive. It's her willingness to scrub, hug, scold and help family and her neighbors that singles her out.
A hon's greatest enemy is dirt. That may account for her love affair with polyester. Dry cleaning is still suspect in hon country. If she can't bleach it, starch it or wash it, it ain't clean, hon. That grime fighting extends to the hon at home. Twice yearly, she turns the house out. Murphy's Oil Soap, Spic 'n' Span, and Lysol are applied to walls, woodwork, linoleum, and pine paneling. Some hons dust the front steps daily and scrub them once a week.
That Parkville expatriate John Waters -- may his underwear turn tattletale gray -- made a mockery of Pink Flamingos, Hairspray and Polyester, all the things hons hold dear.
It's a bet no self-respecting hons ever saw a John Waters production, and it's just as well. Hons go movies; they have no use for film.
A hon's greatest joy is socializing, and she dresses for the occasion. She will wear hearts in her ears on Valentine's Day, pumpkin pins on Halloween, flashing lights and glitter on her Christmas sweat-shirt.
For a festive wedding, she may match bag and shoes in pink, ditto for ears, necklace and bracelet.
She may go out with her hair in pin curls, even to church, as long as they're covered by a babushka. Never to a viewing, however; funerals require a full comb-out.
Old hons have a standing appointment at the neighborhood beauty shop, even if it's only to drop off the wiglet for a pouf and fluff.
Hons are not fooled by fancy-shmantzy. They don't voluminize; they Dippity-Do. They don't know from Chanel. The Avon lady, also known as Louise-from-first-grade-at-St. Thomas Aquinas, is the purveyor of lipstick and cologne.
Hons don't waste. They saved those pretty Avon bottles and powder boxes, which have now achieved collectibles status.
Hons are free with fashion advice.
Sit on the bus bench on 36th Street, and you can learn to cut a hole in your shoe to relieve a bunion, sleep on a satin pillow to preserve your hairdo, and sprinkle baking soda into your sneakers to keep feet from being stinky.
Hons appreciate quality. It has to be Tupperware, and homey hons all have the portable cake-carrier, which is kept moving through bake sales, potlucks, birthdays and lodge reunions.
Hons are sticklers for etiquette. For them, everybody on earth is another hon except older friends and neighbors. From their first sentence, they are taught that adults are to be addressed as Miss Mary or Mister Joe, and these courtesy titles are carried through a life-time. They may, however, be combined as in Miss Mary, hon.
Old Baltimore hands understand these courtesies.
Old Reporter: "Johnny, hon, would you pick up a package for me?"
Johnny: "Sure thing, hon."
Young Journalist: "Johnny, calling a woman 'hon' is politically incorrect."
Johnny: "It's OK, she honned me first."
How to pass as a hon
Hons recognize their own and are not easily fooled by pretense, but here are some hints for anyone trying to pass:
Hons don't adopt big retrievers, which shed; they prefer cock-a-poos, poodles, and peke-a-poos, which don't. Hon dogs go to the grooming parlor almost as often as hon does and have their nails done.
Hons favor ankle bracelets and tattoos, but never on the same ankle.
Hons can pick a dozen crabs without chipping their nail extensions.
Hons don't wear tube-tops before Easter or after Halloween.
Hons believe eyeglasses are jewelry; sight is a secondary consideration.
Hons drink Pabst, Natty Boh or Seagram-and-Seven. Any hon caught asking for chardonnay would be drummed out of the Legion hall.
Hons love Lycra because it can stretch through a bull and oyster roast.
Hons wear their glamour-photo makeup through the day and into the evening.
Hons always return a smile.
On the cover
Pictured on the cover is Bronnie Kaplan, winner of last year's Baltimore's Best Hon Contest, a full-time student, full-time mom and part-time bartender. Judging in the third annual Baltimore's Best Hon Contest takes place at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Cafe Hon, 1002 W. 36th St., at Roland Avenue, as part of the Hampden Summer Fair. Call (410) 243-1230.
Pub Date: 6/07/96