Thursday, March 16, 2006
This column was published in March 2005. We bring it back forward in honor of St. Paddy's Day 2006—also known as The Chick Invasion. Enjoy.
No matter how many times I hear the words, I continue to catch my breath and steady the world at the very idea. "I just don't get it," they sometimes say. By "it" they are referring to what has become the "Million Queen March" at Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade, and by "they," I mean people who just ain't right.
I've learned it is downright exhausting to convey the "it" that this one weekend in March means to the thousands upon thousands of women from across the world who pilgrimage to Jackson to do nothing more than celebrate life. Life as is, with no regrets and reputations be damned.
You see, just a few years ago, I was overcome with "it" myself. Of course, being an insatiable connoisseur of Southern literature, I had read the Sweet Potato Queens books and had laughed my fool head off. Yet somehow, I had lived in Jackson all these years and not made it to the parade. Then I made it, and I was overcome with the "it," from the tippy-top of my color-treated hair to the far reaches of my pedicured feet. Much like a Stepford Wife gone awry, I invited the spirit of a wannabe-wannabe into my heart.
Maybe it was the striking beauty of Delta Burke, who was crowned an Actual Sweet Potato Queen that year, maybe it was the side-splitting laughter evoked by the group of "Head Nurses," or maybe it was the green beer. Who knows? But it was definitely something outside of my own soccer-mom self that proclaimed, "I want to wear that security outfit next year!"
Yes, it's an extension of the "it." In that moment I remembered that even while I am mom, friend of the library and elementary school volunteer, I am one hot chick deserving of a crown, or a whip, in this instance. I promised myself to find that chick again.
We can find God in the most unexpected places, especially when we open our eyes and look. Soon after that parade, I met my best good friend MF who presented me with my first and only tiara over our first, and what became habitual, sushi meal. The very next week, I happened upon an actual Sweet Potato Queen with whom I've since become inseparable.
The tree branched and branched. Within a few months, I found myself at the beach with a group of women from New York to Texas laughing and laughing and laughing some more. I haven't gone a day since without keeping up with these women who reminded me "chin up, tits out" and found the humor in every situation and encouraged the very best of us all. God had sent me my chosen family.
This began a year that could have been classified as the worst of my life, except that it was the best. Job Loss? Good! God is preparing you for something greater, sweetie! Love Loss? Well honey, we knew he wasn't going to be able to hold on to you anyway. Fear? It's not biblical, girlfriend, and it certainly is not complementing your fabulousness. They were right every, single time.
So I hate to disappoint with my answer to those who ponder the "point" of such a weekend, but it's indescribable, and mostly it's not the assumptions that could be made about women who create elaborate costumes for a little parade in Jackson, Miss. It simply does not fit into a "feminist agenda" or reflect any vast statement to society, except maybe that we need to laugh more.
Like the time my Actual Sweet Potato Queen friend called my ex-husband at his pharmacy and made the "promise" for cough syrup. Now that is funny even if she didn't get the cough syrup, and only those who "get it" will get it. That was a night I genuinely laughed, with tears streaming my face, and I can't think of any substance or accomplishment in the world that could hold a stick to that feeling.
Except maybe walking Capitol Street in hooker boots and fishnets with a big, red wig, which I did last year. Mission accomplished. And, yes, all you wannabe wannabes, it is as heavenly as you might think, and butter my butt and call me bitch because I'll be a full-fledged wannabe this year. Some don't quite understand the profundity of that statement, nor the hierarchy of the queens, but I don't care. I can't think of anything more fun than being a girl during St. Patrick's weekend right here at home.
Emily Braden is the chick columnist for the JFP and, this year, an Official Sweet Potato Queen Wannabe.
This is my very favorite column of hers, like, ever.