Saturday, July 5, 2008

I, convalescent II: Southern Lady

Would I be a Southern Lady? A lot of ambiguity where I come from when it comes to the word "Madame." In the careers I considered but never pursued category, I did once aspire to a title I could have earned on my own merits: The Honorable," for current or former American ambassadors. After all, if you are going to represent a bordello, why not The Most Powerful Nation in The Free World? In my imaginary life, association of "The Honorable" is tied up with lots of creamy stationary and the third person address: "The Honorable requests the honor of your presence" or "The Honorable declines to attend your function, busy as she is with her important life, looking after Matters of State."

The Southern (as opposed to European) definition of lady has more to do with "maintaining your dignity in the face of adversity" than who begat or married you. At least that's what I came upon reading Tennessee Williams' autobiography. He offers the example of the older lady living in reduced circumstances with her daughter and son-in-law, in a boarding house somewhere in Florida. Apparently being a lady means that when your drunken bastard of a son-in-law gets in a rage and drops his glass eye in your soup bowl, you gingerly fish it out (with the correct spoon) and say something along the lines of "Willis, I think you dropped something."

Meanwhile, I glance at a Lady's Progress sort of story in"Hello" magazine. "Lady So and So, daughter of somebody I've never heard of and his un-memorable little slut of a fourth wife (she's young enough to be his daughter and then some) became London's IT Girl and took up with a ubiquitous restaurateur." Exactly whose mother is proud of their daughter taking up with a ubiquitous restaurateur? The Hilton's may not act like ladies, but they're the grand-daughters of a hotelier, for frak's sake. We then learn that "Young Lady So and So (now past her prime in the Euro scene?) aspires to come Stateside and do Reality TV." There again, who, with any shred of dignity, would do reality TV? Whatever happened to the Pamela Harrimans? They had presence and style. At least Pamela's resume had lovers with premium names you'd heard of--The Aga Khan, Agnelli, etc.

Oh back to my denouement, forget the blood and lizards. Pan to some generic Western frontier scene. Cheryl Crow is singing about putting on a poncho and playing for mosquitoes, drinking, and talking about thrift store jungles, and Geronimo's rifle (he he), Marilyn's shampoo and Benny Goodman's corset and pen--my cultural patrimony. Or maybe, it's the South, throw in some magnolias and the strains of Reba McEntire's "Fancy" are playing instead

I knew what I had to do but I made myself this solemn vow
That I's gonna be a lady someday
Though I don't know when or how
I couldn't see spending the rest of my life
With my head hung down in shame you know
I might have been born just plain white trash
But fancy was my name

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