The Care and Keeping of Your Southern Daddy

26 Feb

My father, when finding out I had a blog, immediately said, “Oh Lawd, the only thing that I ask is that you don’t write about me like that Rebecca Wells.” (Rebecca Wells, the author of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, grew up in the same town as Daddy, and they went on approximately one date. He enjoys reminding me from time to time that my uncle “Tick-Tock”‘s gas station/country store/restaurant is mentioned in the book. Not entirely sure what’s in the water in Louisiana.)

The Southern ‘Daddy’ is an archetype that has existed ever since the first BWAPE needed money for something or another. They function, not only as occasionally-effective banks, but as chauffeurs, dance partners, stable-grooms, surprisingly effective hair-braiders (“If you can braid a horse’s tail…”), fish de-hookers, and more. While they are not necessarily good for facts, they’re ALWAYS good for opinions. Classic answers to unasked questions include, “No, you cannot just start EATING when you get back to school. You still have to fit into that debutante gown at LEAST two more times” and “Yes, I would like some of those pancakes; don’t mind if I do!” If people say that Southern women are chatty, but they clearly haven’t encountered the Southern father. They are inexplicably loud, with a swagger that makes Kanye West look humble, and an endless supply of time to brag about their children and grandchildren.

My father is, in all of his suffixes, one of the most puzzling men I have ever met. Though having studied at Tulane, Texas, Georgetown and Cambridge, he still talks in the most syrup-laden Southern accent of anyone I know. His resume of pastimes reads like Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World’s — running, swimming, rugby, yacht-sailing, plane-flying, steer-wrestling, spear-fishing, sharp-shooting, pound cake-cooking, daughter-raising…. you name it, he has done it.

Despite many attempts at promoting otherwise, a Daddy is a creature of unbreakable habit. Mine still wakes me up most mornings that I am home by loudly singing the first Buddy Holly track that pops into his mind. For as long as I can remember, he’s worn the same shade of ostrich-skin cowboy boots, and he’ll never pass up the opportunity to wear a sweater vest with his ducks-and-shotgun-shells tie. Despite having horrible knees which are in desperate need of replacement, he is still the a Casanova on the dance floor, better than any man or boy with whom I’ve ever danced, spinning me around and laughing like it’s the best time he’s ever had. We’ve never passed up the opportunity to dance to “My Girl” by the Temptations. He’s never missed his Wednesday night “Prayer Meeting”, the name we’ve given to his weekly poker games out in the country with his fellow good-ole-boys (“I’m praying that I don’t lose too much money this week!”).

No boy will ever be good enough for Daddy’s little girl. Favorite terror tactics of “getting to know” my various beaus have included “‘coon-hunting trips” (5 Southern Men + 3 Dogs + 5 Guns + 1 Unusually Quiet Boyfriend, all at 2AM, in the woods), truck rides and various farm-chores. Of course, I’m never invited. I shudder to think what will happen should I bring my Portuguese boyfriend home.

While, at times, the Southern Daddy can be unbelievably frustrating (“No, Daddy, I already told you SEVENTEEN TIMES that I DO NOT have time to apply for the membership in the DAR”), he’s generally a source of unwavering, patient love. He’ll always think I’m “avant-garde”, and I’ll think he’s antiquated beyond the Age of the Dinosaurs, but, when he finally figures out how to work his new iPhone, he’ll always sign his texts with an “I love you! Daddy”. And that’s just fine with me.

“Crossing The Border”, or A Step- By- Step Guide to Bringing Your Northern Friends to the South

21 Feb

(**Apologies all around for nearly two Bitch-free months… Though I had been polishing up my curtsying resume and finding references to endorse my superior flower-holding skills, I found out that one cannot ACTUALLY become a professional debutante. This has severely put a damper on my plans for next year, but CERTAINLY not a damper on my Bitch-ing.)

This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the time when I became the “Lizard Queen”, that magical evening when I became positive that Elizabethan collars were the reason that Silly Straws were invented (Try getting a G and T to your mouth with THAT thing on. I dare you.) As a washed-up has-been, it was my job to shed my metaphorical queenly/reptilian skin (ew) and receive flowers at the presentation of this year’s queen. Naturally, I was afraid of becoming Cindy Crawford in the 00’s, so I took matters into my own hands. Debutante balls are not arenas for competition (or, so they say), so sneakier tactics were required.

And so, like Russell Crowe in Braveheart,with more hairspray, and a gown that would make Tina Turner turn in her own resignation, I marched my troops of Northern friends down the East Coast.

Previously, the “Bring Your Northern Friends to the South Day” exhibitions have consisted of two — or fewer — parties. I generally cheat by bringing a Georgetown friend of Southern descent to raise a few eyebrows, but this year, I went for the gusto. Friends from the likes of Baltimore, Chicago, Indiana (not quite sure where that is, but I hear there’s corn involved) and New Jersey, bribed with the promises of snuggling ‘coon-hound puppies and consuming copious amounts of free booze, took their slightly-fearful first trips into the 6-gate metropole that is the Montgomery Regional Airport.

Some very important questions were asked and answered in advance of the main event:  “No, there is ABSOLUTELY no grinding NOR are there dance-floor make-outs at a debutante ball”, “Yes, PLEASE attempt to say ‘Yes, Sir’ and ‘Yes, Ma’am’, lest you stick out like an Italian Ice in the Blue Bell Ice Cream Aisle at the local Winn Dixie”, “Yes, people WILL make incredibly off-color jokes; please just smile and laugh uncomfortably”, “NO, you may NOT pretend that you are British and fake a British accent the entire night”, among many others.

My dad had an even better time than normal giving his “This is How We Tastefully Drink at Debutante Balls” Pre-Ball Lecture. We made sure to point out that, “if an Alabama or Auburn girl drinks far too much at one of these thangs, people will just say ‘Oh, she’s in yew-ni-vuh-suh-tee’, but, if y’all are the ones doing it, they’ll say, ‘Oh, THAT one’s from Noo Juh-see'”.

“And there is NOTHING less classy than a drunk debutante or her passed-out date” (Once more, with feeling…)

At the end of the night, I would say that, despite their obvious lack-of-accents, my friends were some of the most elegant-looking never-been-debs at the ball. (Apparently, someone invited a girl that had a dragon tattoo crawling out of the back of her dress, so there were some obvious discrepancies.) Fun times were had by all when, after a few drinks, my convincingly-straight-date made bets with the girls as to which of the masked-members were “closeted”. (No further remarks.)

The weekend ended wonderfully with a post-ball-brunch-mimosa-binge at the Country Club, an ingloriously-long post-hot-tub-mimosa-binge-post-post-ball-brunch nap, and my dad feeding my friends hush puppies and venison-burgers instead of beef-burgers and thinking he was very sneaky.

Much less Cousin Vinny, but maybe just a tiny tinge of Sweet Home Alabama?

Word on the street is, they returned physically unharmed (save a hangover or two, and a few extra pounds), but may carry those mental images around for life. And, returning to a life post-invasion-by-Nawth’nuhs, The South is doing just fine, too.

New Year, New You (I’m Doing Okay, Thanks)

5 Jan

After “roughing it” in the South for two weeks without the comforts of hand-tossed salad and overpriced, farm-fed tacos, I’d taken the opportunity to head up to Manhattan, to the city commonly viewed by Southern parents (read: my father) as a “den of sin for unmarried, unaccompanied young ladies”. I personally like to think of it more as a “retreat from a retreat”. Armed with the pepper spray that “Santa” so lovingly puts in my Christmas stocking each year and the annual lecture “’bout them Nooh Yawk City boys”, I headed “Nawth”, away from the questions about post-graduation plans, my inexplicable lack of an accent and the details of my deb-ball gown for February.

There’s something so exhilarating about being in the northeastern part of the country. As to whether it stems from my barracuda-esque attraction to the “big and shiny” or the adrenaline from my irrational fear of Hepatitis C — your guess is as good as mine. I also use my visit as the perfect opportunity to wear items my mother has deemed “a little too progressive for Montgomery”. This generally includes anything “too short, too tight, and therefore unacceptable”, a-la my sixth grade science teacher.

And so, in true den-of-sin, queenly fashion, I spent the first twelve hours of January First propped up in bed, praying for heavy cloud cover and eating leftovers from my 4AM pancake jubilee, when I insisted upon making everyone “midnight breakfast, y’all”.

On occasions when I’m Type A and driven, I make really elaborate, sub-categoried lists of my New Year’s Resolutions, 17/22 of which I’ve already broken. That’s okay. If we’re going to be honest, “Find a cure for my addiction to butter and chocolate”, “Be 85% less narcissistic” and “Stop judging you so much” were going to take lots of time, anyway. “Play with 100% more babies”, however, is going EXTREMELY well.

I’ve decided, then, to make a newer, more ESSENTIAL list of New Year’s resolutions, ones that can be practiced both in AND out of the South and that will hopefully make the world a better and safer place for all of those in a 30-mile radius of where I stand at any time:

1. Use my “Queen A” engraved silver champagne flute at least once a month. (This means throwing events worthy of doing so, which inevitably means wearing DRESSES worthy of doing so. No one puts Cocktail Dress in the corner.)

2. Help my father reconcile his dual identity of “gator-and-steer-wrestlin’, wild Louisiana swamp boy who wears innocuous gumbo-cooking outfits” and “dapper, Cambridge-class, Burberry-wearing fellow who wore a giant feather plume in public just eleven months ago”.

3. Develop a healthier and less-terror-ridden perception of New Jersey.

4. Discover a five-words-or-less explanation for my university major.

And, last but not least,

5. Wear more pearls.

As long as you had your black-eyed peas on 1/1/13, you’re going to have good luck for the year, so no need to wish for anymore of that. For y’all, and for me, both near and afar, I simply hope that 1) the Auburn Tigers have a better football season next year, 2) that Hank Williams magically comes back to life and restores faith in country music, and 3) that Channing Tatum becomes governor of the state, with Abby from NCIS as the head of the legislature. We may not be brilliant, nor are we always right, but we are, indisputably, Alabama.

“Castaway in Need of Chipotle”, or Things that the South Lacks

18 Dec

The South is a strangely magical but still-place which has shaped me, by and large, into the person that I am today. Now that I live away from the South, I’ve found that the best way to look at my birthplace is as if I were considering the pros and cons of a new boyfriend, or, more realistically, a pair of shoes. Though I had the old pair of shoes for quite some time, and they were reasonably comfortable, I knew it was time to get a new pair. Now that I’m in the market for yet another pair of shoes (i.e., where I’ll be living when Georgetown decides in May that it wants to eventually suck money from me, and not my parents), it’s become a game of “dos and don’ts” of where I’d most like to end up.

Each time I come home from DC, the realization that there are so many unnecessary-but-now-crucial luxuries  that the South doesn’t have both a) makes me slightly annoyed and b) gets those scheming wheels in my head a-turning. Every other day here, I propose to my dad ways he can revolutionize the town and make a goldmine. He, in response, says that he’d rather buy more cows instead. My “girl problems” upon touchdown in the state go from “unusually white” to “THE whitest”, and sometimes even I don’t believe the things that come out of my mouth (not unusual, though, in any area of the country).

There are many things that the South and the Southerners have. These are not any of them.

 1. A SENSE OF IRONY. In 5 days, I have seen enough eye-searing Christmas sweaters to outfit even the choosiest of bros. They are worn in total seriousness, paired appropriately (?) with an Auburn/Alabama baseball cap for casual day-wear and a teased-out bouffant for nighttime (because everyone knows that “the higher the hair, the closer to God” This is ESPECIALLY important at Christmastime).

PROS: No hipsters. ‘Nough said.

CONS: The concept of a “tacky” Christmas sweater party is met with blank stares. AVOID PROPOSING THIS AT ALL COSTS.

 2. CHIPOTLE. The closest one is over 2 hours away. I can feel my taco-fueled soul atrophying by the minute.

3. HOT YOGA. There’s rumored to be a class somewhere in town, but no one seems to know where it is, or what the point of it is, or “why on Earth that Smith girl runs around in exercise clothes all day”.

 4. A GRASP OF THE CONCEPT OF A “HEALTHY” SALAD. Progressing along the “salad bar” at the country club on Sunday was comparable to what I imagine observing the Spanish Inquisition was, except with dubiously-termed “lettuce”. I’ve practically been having nightmares about going to SweetGreen or Chop’t and then having it vanish before I can order something made entirely of baby spinach. ATTENTION: SOMEONE IN THIS TOWN, PLEASE LOOK INTO ESTABLISHING A SALAD FRANCHISE. It would be, like, every private-school mother’s dream come true, and by “middle-aged female”, I clearly mean “me”.

 5. A FILTER: While the loudness and quality of enunciation is really great for Christmas caroling, it is also useful for shouting across a crowded expanse something to the effects of, “OH MY GAWD, YOU’RE SO GROWN! I REMEMBER WHEN YOU USED TO RUN AROUND NEKKID AS A BLUE JAY IN THE FRONT YARD ON WILDWOOD WEARING NOTHING BUT A BIG PINK HAIR BOW”.**

**It happened. Both the yelling and the “nekkid”-ness. I could work the hairbow.

Home, Sweet (Jesus, What Did I Get Myself Into) Home

17 Dec

Coming home after finals is a slightly traumatic experience for any Georgetown student or any college student at all, for that matter. After 3 weeks of eating your feelings + the feelings of any character of The OC, complaining about how much work you have, yet still finding time to watch two entire television series from start to finish, and discovering every combination under the sun of alcohol and apple cider, the stress hits.  By December 5th, I practically had to wear a military-grade gas mask every time I stepped into Lauinger Library, just so that the fog of fear/hopelessness coming off of all of the freshmen mixed with the pungent odor of 8-hour-old chai tea latte wouldn’t knock me out.  We all deserve a break.

 Somebody, then, please tell me why I was running around the house this morning, cursing in my head (because Lawd KNOWS cursing is not allowed in the house, ESPECIALLY not from the mouth of a debutante) because I had ripped my pantyhose, already 15-minutes late after trying to tone down a party-dress to church-appropriate level (with mixed success), wearing makeup for the first time in years (read: since the school-wide, fancy-pants holiday-themed booze-fest, so,  two weeks, roughly), all the while wondering what in the WORLD I was going to talk to people about between hymns and thinking of clever answers to the only two questions that I knew they were going to ask:

 1. “Oh, it was so wonderful hearing that x got engaged. Have you met any boys up there in Washington?” (No, I’m a social pariah that has taken up residence in the convent next door. Of COURSE I have met boys up there. I know, however, that this is a sneaky way of prepping the bookie that I am almost certain that the Junior League has to keep tabs on which child gets engaged, and when. In that case, no. No boys. None.)

 2. “So, what do you think you’re going to be doing after graduation?” (Your guess is as good as mine, lady. I was thinking about inquiring into a career as a professional debutante, but I hear that the pay is low for the curtsy-per-hour-expectancy.)

 Southerners, being the wonderful conversationalists that they are, skip right past the weather when making small talk. For this reason, I am fairly positive that everyone at Georgetown thought that Freshman BWAPE was auditioning for her very-own talk show, or, perhaps, that they were on some sort of hidden camera show where some overenthusiastic girl in pearls attempts to get them to share all of their deepest secrets.  I SWEAR that I am going to submit an “Alternative List of Questions to Ask the Girl Bewitched by Yankees” before I step off the plane. Also, please don’t ask me what my major is. I have yet to be able to narrow it down to one sentence, and I can see your eyes glazing over.

 In addition, I will literally never learn to pack correctly for the trip home. Apparently, “freezing cold” down here equates to “the surface of the sun”. Maybe I’ll shed a few pounds from the sweating, though.

 Truly the most wonderful thing I heard today, in spite of all of this, was from the woman who made my “lizard queen” gown, a woman that never passes up the opportunity to cook for 100+ people and will fuss over the ugliest baby on the earth.  When she got to Dreaded Question #2, and I said I was, most likely, headed up to New York City, she paused, momentarily, concerned. After an instant passed, she smiled, put her hand on my arm, and said, “Well, you know, I think it will be okay, because there are an awful lot of Southerners moving up there these days.” I half-stifled a giggle, reassured her that I had already met a sweet girl that had moved up there from Ole Miss, among other Southerners, and that there were special bars where both Auburn and Alabama fans could congregate to watch their respective Saturday football games.  

 It is both terrifying and reassuring to know that, no matter where you go, there’s always a community of Southerners there to greet you. The reception of me in my hometown, as with my reception of those who have known me for so long, changes over time. I am sometimes regarded like the wolf-child who came out looking half-decent but may break out into a New Jersey accent at any time. I sometimes catch myself wishing that I could slow my mind (and mouth) down long enough to keep this at bay, and that I could effectively convince people that there’s enough “Southern” left in me that people actually refer to me as such up at school! Regardless, I suppose that you can take the girl out of the South, dunk her in a batter of Tombs Ale, French onion soup and the pages of an Ayn Rand novel and deep fry her in that nasty stink that comes out of the DC Metro grates, but, in the end, she’s still Southern at the core.

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Love in the Time of Pearl-era

20 Nov

‘They’ (the flock of women that make up the Junior League) say that the hardest thing for a father of a young daughter to hear is, “LAWD, Daddy, when she grows up, y’all are going to have to beat those boys off with a baseball bat”.

I would argue that, judging by his response, the hardest thing for a father of a university-aged-senior daughter to hear is, “Daddy, I know who I’m bringing home to the deb ball in February…. Don’t be mad, but he’s gay”.

 My father’s response: “LAWD, Abigail, I wish you’d hang out with those straight, handsome football-player types from time to time”.

To which I reply: “Sorry, Daddy; I’m not blonde or from Connecticut”. (This confused him enough to shut him up for at least 20 seconds. With his accent, though, it’s hard to tell if that wasn’t just a period between sentences.)

 Southern lives tend to happen much more quickly than the rest of the country. People fall in love in the second or third semester of college, date for the rest, become engaged in the seventh, and marry right after they graduate. In some cases, this process is delayed by a year or so, especially if the girl has significant career plans.  My Facebook “News Feed” this week has been thoroughly STORMED by engagements of friends, both close and distant. (Why is November such an optimal time for this? Did you need to make sure you could adequately pull off the ‘couple’s Halloween costume’?)

I am so happy and wish absolutely all the best for them, though I’m in no rush to get married myself. Even though gay marriage has finally been approved in Maryland, I doubt my debutante ball escort is in a rush, either.

As absolutely trite as this may sound, I am more confused by the concept of “love” than by even the most Georgetown-Basketball-Player-friendly Accounting class. I probably toss around the word more than I say “y’all”. (That is saying something, considering I often use ‘y’all’ twice in a ROW before rounding off a sentence with an extra one, a-la Paula Deen. Example: “Y’ALL, y’all are going to just LOVE this 4,000-calorie bourbon chocolate pie recipe that I’m making for y’all on Thanksgiving.”) Just when I determine that “love” means losing x-amount of sleep thinking about someone or being just-so in looks, patience and overall pancake-flipping abilities, I’m wrong again. Maybe something about leaving the South disables your ability to learn these things; I don’t know. Maybe I just should’ve worn makeup one day this week. Regardless, Daddy, you’ll just have to wait another year before buying me couple’s camouflage, or Auburn University-embroidered baby booties, or whatever it was that you were hoping to get me for Christmas.

 Instead, might I suggest another strand of pearls?

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.” – Eve Ensler

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I’ve Got My Pearls to Keep Me Warm

6 Nov

We’ve got a HUGE problem – even bigger than my impending blindness from all of the “political” statuses on Facebook. It’s cold in Washington, DC.

No, not ‘cold’ like “I should probably wear a cardigan over my Lilly Pulitzer sundress in the evenings” cold. I HAVEN’T WORN A SUNDRESS SINCE LABOR DAY (This is an occurrence that my dearest friend from San Francisco and I mourn annually.)

I’m pretty sure no country music artist has ever written a song about how sexy a girl looks in a sweater and fleece-lined leggings, topped off with long-johns, gloves and 2-3 pairs of socks. (Sorry, Jake Owen, but if I attempted to have a “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” right now, it’d end up as a “No Foot/Frostbite Night”. ) I’m fairly positive that, if I didn’t have class, I wouldn’t leave my room from November to March – I’d just Amazon.com a treadmill in here and take up knitting as a full-time hobby.

Unfortunately, as an inherently social creature, and with that whole “I guess I have to graduate soon” thing, I have to get leave my protective space heater to go outside. Apparently, people live in colder places than this. I question whether they’re actually people, or Santa’s elves, or maybe Yetis in disguise.

Thank goodness I’ve been preparing for “hibernating” with baked goods in excess for the past month. If I’m really lucky, I’ll have shivered it all off by spring break.

One really positive thing about the “Northerners”/Yetis/elves/Bostonians is that they’ve been enduring this weather for much longer than I have, which means they’ve come up with several quick-fixes. While I begin my quick descent from looking like a BWAPE to being confused with Ralphie from A Christmas Story, at least I can drink THIS:

-6 oz. hot apple cider

-1 oz. tequila

-1 oz butterscotch schnapps

-whipped cream (garnish/insulation)

(It’s really delicious. Best with French onion soup and a good snuggle, even from the coldest of “bros”.)

Or, you know, a hot toddy.

If someone could bring me an extra pair of socks, that’d be great, too.

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(This is about how I feel every time I have to get of bed in the morning in this weather. Do those come in adult sizes?)