November 22, 2010

Charm School Reject

Being a debutante or going to cotillion conjure up dated mental images,  For most people, they include blonds with southern drawls decked out in white tulle after spending hours in the stylist chair. Think Gone with the Wind and that's usually pretty close to your average notion of that social caste. However, not everyone who's been through the indoctrination into society goes on to be gentile or even docile. Case in point, me.

Growing up, I was the definition of Tomboy. I had skinned up elbows, the knees of my jeans were almost always torn, and I was in more trees than Tarzan. My mother ran the gamut of curse words and the shampoo isle trying to get the tree sap out of my pigtails. Eventually, after trying to corral me into the tub after a night out riding horses, she proclaimed an exasperated "Enough!"  I thought that meant no bath for me.  Oh, it meant much more than that.

I got a reprieve from the torturous shampoo sessions, but it wasn't for long.  When they did come back, it was with interest.  Many parents drink to take the edge off.  My mom, on the other hand, decided to take *my* edges off with what amounted to a belt sander.  She'd called around to all sorts of places, asking for the equivalent of society boot camp.  Once she found something, it was game on!

I was stuffed into a frilly dress, had my hair combed and pinned up, and packed off to White Gloves and Party Manners. The adoption agency said my parents had been given a girl. By god, my mother wanted to make damn sure they'd been right!

I spent a month or two of Sunday afternoons around a properly set table, learning how to sit like a lady.  I was taught what a seafood fork looked like, and the proper way to remove your wristlet gloves. I absolutely hated it.  The world was too big to sit there and look pretty.  It was supposed to be there to experience!  So, I say there, filling out creepy workbook pages on asking daddy to take my picture sitting pretty, and how many times to brush my hair to make it shiny.    In the end, I don't think much stuck.  But, my parents didn't need me to force feed me Benadryl before we went out to dinner anymore.  I guess we all won in some way.

As I grew into a young lady (at least they repeated that phrase alot. I think they were trying to see if hearing it made me believe it.) I was sent through Cotillion. My parents were part of the County Club set, and having an unruly daughter was like finding out that she'd come up pregnant as a teenager.  It's a source of shame, and you only talk about it to a select few.  Bonus points if you could send her away to live with a relative for a summer.  My equivalent of being sent to live with an aunt was going through Cotillion.  there, they did their level best to teach me to ballroom dance, sit like a lady, and daintily cut a fillet without having my elbows ever touch the table. You'll notice a few repeats in the curriculum. Apparently, it didn't stick so well the first go-round.

After several weeks of getting over the fact that I'd have to not only talk to boys, but actually have to *eep* touch them while dancing, I could do a mean foxtrot. My waltz was a little shaky however, and the tango was reserved for the advanced class. They carried a better insurance policy.

By the end of the course, my second left foot morphed into a right, and I could eat a fine meal without grunting. Somehow, as a result, we had fewer broken lamps at the house, and the laundry soap budget started to decrease.  It was Magic!

This is not to say that I suddenly developed a taste for frilly, but some of those hard edges got a good beating with the girlie bat. I'm capable of sitting with my knees together. I don't have to swear like a sailor. And I won't be having a Pretty Woman moment should I decide to have some escargot with dinner. I mean, I know exactly which one the seafood fork is. But, when I lean to one side and let an epic fart rip, or belch like a character from the Simpsons, know that I'm choosing to ignore any and all class.  There's a difference between that and having none.

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