Tag Archives: debutante balls

“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.

I Am the Lizard Queen

25 Sep

There comes a special moment in only the most “privileged” of Southern girls’ lives in which she gets to be a debutante.

I got to be one four times.

A tradition reviled by the rest of the world, the debutante ball is an age-old event in which fathers either show off their daughters or attempt to make them look better by parading them around in large, white dresses with trains. This event historically coincided roughly with the time at which fathers decided that their daughters should be sucking the monetary life out of some other hapless male in the community. Girls would take off entire years of the university schooling they weren’t actually participating in to plan dresses, menus, and guest invites. I’ve been told by many that anyone who can survive a debutante ball can survive a wedding.

My first “debut” occurred at the ripe age of 5 years. Despite the still-unexplained disaster of cutting all my own hair off the day before the event, I appeared on stage looking just as well as (read: considerably more adorable than) the other “princesses” and “pages” (dressed in outfits which indubitably would later turn one or more of them gay). I curtsied twice, as I was a perfectionist from a young age and dissatisfied with my first performance. Then, some hag in roughly one million sparkles attempted to steal my spotlight. I allowed her to do this, mainly because I was jealous of how brilliant her dress was compared to mine. After my ‘presentation’, it was time for the “party” portion of the charades. I drank red punch in a tiara while being doted upon by older people and chasing boys around the dance floor. It set me up quite well for what I proceeded to do three nights a week roughly twelve years down the road.

15 years later, I was informed that it was my turn to be that hag who both impressed and intimidated me as a princess. Other deb balls had come and gone, and I had been left at twenty-one years old with a skill set particular to the world of debutantes:

  1. I had, and always will have, perfected my curtsy. It is a swan-like maneuver of elegance and pretentiousness which will serve me well later in life, when I meet my mother-in-law, who will obviously be a European royal head of state.
  2.  My abilities to appear dead sober in conversations with “adults” after morose amounts of alcohol are bar-none the best in my entire high school and university classes. Additionally, I can drink like an English football fan without spilling an entire drop on my white gown and/or gloves.
  3. I can effectively make a horrendously uncoordinated, university-aged male look less like an idiot while doing the waltz.
  4. My high-stakes smiling endurance is both powerful and unwavering, and I am able hold a dazzling thriller of a toothy grin for 45 consecutive minutes.
  5. Lastly, but not least, I can carry a ten-pound bouquet of flowers on a plastic post, directly above my belly button, for several hours, whilst wearing slippery dead animals on my hands.

Ergo, I am more or less the champion of the world of cummerbunds. Nothing could prepare me, however, for the ordeal that was to be my night of queendom.

In my particular area of being raised, debutante balls consist of a court that is comprised of the “queen”, her “king”, her “maids”, and their escorts. Dress for these balls ranges from ridiculously elaborate to “secret society”- level outlandishness. Girls spend hundreds of hours and, subsequently, thousands of dollars in searching for the ultimate gown. Many a silkworm and baby goat gives up his life for 6 hours of drunken glory. When everything is put into action, and after all of the parties, luncheons, dances, after-ball breakfasts, and brunches are over, everyone has gained several pounds, an entire community’s economy has been sustained for a year, and all have enjoyed themselves tremendously, save the one set of parents whose debutante had to get scraped off of the ladies’ bathroom floor.

“Project: Turn an Awkward Nerd into a Queen” was destined to occur from the night I was put to bed as a 5 year-old princess and commenced full-throttle in the spring of my sophomore year. Both my father and mother made endless calls to me each day, which was particularly embarrassing, as I attended a university which had approximately two debutantes in its six-thousand-member student body. What’s worse is that my father’s Southern drawl heavily exaggerates my own, and NOTHING is more obnoxious than the girl walking around talking to “Daddy” about how many sequined gift boxes I wanted to be ordered, and when I needed to have my fittings, and “LAWD, girl, you have GOT to find an escort, and he can NOT be one of your gay friends in disguise.”

This was the biggest problem. When a debutante does not have a boyfriend, it becomes exponentially harder to find a date. When she is queen, this figure is multiplied by infinity. Going to a school in the Mid-Atlantic region made this a nearly impossible task, because it would involve explaining a debutante ball to a stoned guy in a lacrosse jersey. I finally settled on an old friend from Texas who vaguely knew the ropes, warning him that he would be asked over one thousand times if he and I were “going steady”. He was. Thank goodness he took it in stride.

This boy, however, was not my “king”. No, the queen is paraded around with a friend of her father dressed in knickers, makeup and faux-facial hair, who, when in full costume, bears a striking resemblance to the Burger King. My “king” was the most fantastic “good ole boy” the ball had ever seen, and the most Burger King-esque; thus, he had been the king approximately eight times before. My dad began referring to him as Henry the Eighth. I was nervous enough already and therefore not amused.

With everything lined up and the date fast approaching, I flew to my hometown and prepared for the “dress rehearsal”, which I highly anticipated upon as being a nightmare, and I was correct. It was at this rehearsal that I first became aware of my status as “the Lizard Queen”. I have never been appreciative other than at that very moment for my “athletic” build, because I was placed in an Elizabethan collar and a cape which weighed no less than 100 pounds. I asked an assisting member’s wife to bring me a mirror, in which I saw myself for the first time. “Jesus Christ; I look like a frilled lizard that’s just been startled.”

Six hours later, and, miserably, only one drink in, it was time for the presentation to begin. I had my hair and makeup done that afternoon and conceivably had never looked better in my life. I had simultaneously never been more nervous, and was constantly being threatened with questions about my love life and requests to remember people’s names who had “known me since I was five and in smocked dresses and bare feet running up the aisle to the front of the church for Sunday school (breath, agonizingly long, Southern-dialect pause) so are you dating that handsome young man with no accent?” I thought I would faint when it was time to put that godawful cape on. People with their best intentions were feeding me ice cubes soaked in whiskey and fanning me with the booklet accompanying my Swarovski crystal “scepter”. I needed a moment to be alone, so I stepped away to peek through the curtains onto the stage, just in time to see the last princess execute her little curtsy, turn around, and glance over at me in terror. “Great,” I thought, “I’m the hag that I saw 15 years ago, way too old to ever go back, and now I’m going to ruin what my father and my entire community worked so hard to put on for me.” As I shuffled in my enormous dress to my fate, I passed a mirror, in which I proceeded to give myself a good, hard, look. Then I practiced my smile, one last time. “No. I’M the Lizard Queen.”

Or, you know, the Pope.