A Southern Belle Primer or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma by Maryln Schwartz was a somewhat bizarre book. Though published in 1991, it seemed like a book from a much earlier period. It deals with a world in which certain silver patterns are expected on a wedding registry and what those patterns say about the bride registering. Apparently, chicken salad should never contain dark meat. I am not a fan of dark meat, so I likely would not have committed that egregious faux pas, but good to know. It deals with a world in which women become festival queens with elaborate costumes and balls to which women must wear dresses of a certain length or else they will receive a sternly-worded letter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Southerner born and bred. I was born in Salisbury, North Carolina and grew up in a town a little west of Winston-Salem. Therefore, I consider myself Southern. However, as with the other books set in the South that I have posted about this year, I could not find myself, traditions or experiences in this book. I wondered if it was age. As I said, this book seemed to refer to an older generation. But I also have friends who were honest-to-God debutantes complete with white gown, presentation and debutante ball. I knwo women who followed the tradition of displaying for guests to view to the wedding gifts received by the bride-to-be. Soooo…maybe the conclusion I should draw is maybe I am not of that world that book sought to illustrate. And maybe that’s ok. After all, I don’t even like iced tea. It was just a little weird to read this book and feel like there is a whole other South of which I am not a part. And I sort of have to wonder what attitudes and beliefs are being preserved by participating in those traditions. It’s probably just my childhood wish to be Quality, royalty, nobility that is being dented.
The book was cute and amusing. It won’t present foes of the South with anything that would change their mind, but if you are an insider or wannabe belle, you’ll find it instructive.