Polishing Southern Tarnish

Well, I declare. Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays must have my double-first-name aunts on speed dial for their second offering: "Somebody is Going to Die if Lily Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet: The Official Southern Ladies' Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding" (Hyperion Books, $19.95). Of course, my people are North Mississippi breed, not Delta, but we could throw a "Last Delta Wedding" as good as any other. Reading this book, I reminisced about the days when my sister and I wore our matching crinoline dresses, black patent shoes and lacy white bobby socks to serve as rice girls in weddings. We were curled, cute and the center of attention, and yes, I was reminded to speak to each and every grown-up in attendance. Back in the day, I was true to my raising in appearance and etiquette.

But then something happened in 1996 that rained on my carefree life in high cotton. I was the blushing bride in a slapped-together "shotgun wedding," which was not, as you may believe, my downfall. After all, I was not the first bride of my kin to don an empire-waist dress on my wedding day.

"Do go on," you say, and I will.

That day—my wedding day—tarnished my reputation, and I'm not sure I will ever recover my standing. What was it? It could have been the yells of "sumbitch" by the men playing Frisbee golf just yards from my sacred wedding vows. It could have been the minister, who called me "Linda" throughout the ceremony, later giving me reason to say, "Well, that wedding just doesn't count. We obviously weren't wed; it was Linda." It could have been the dead animal heads that served as decoration in the reception hall. But, alas, those things, while a mite embarrassing, actually could have added a certain charm to the evening. What happened to me was so heinous, so humiliating, so just "Not Done," that it is only today, after years of therapy, that I have the courage to admit my faux pas: Cold cuts were served at my wedding reception.

There, I said it: Cold cuts. Do I know what I was thinking? Well, no—I was in the throes of morning sickness and accepting my soon-to-be-fat body. And, as if the cold cuts weren't enough of a mess, we ran out. Yes, we had so many come to gawk at the shameless display of my impregnated body that we ran slap out of food. This tragedy has haunted me much longer than the actual marriage lasted. Only this year have my college roommates, who served as attendants, been able to forgive me for such a disgrace to my people. Fortunately, I write a mean thank-you note, as taught to me by Aunt Jettie Lee.

In case you were never schooled in thank-you notes (heavy stationary from Memphis really makes the thank you "pop"), the no-no of cold cuts or any other southern wedding etiquette couture, Metcalfe and Hays have the answer in this book. They ice this wedding cake with hilarious, sidesplitting truths regarding our southern culture in the same spirit as their premiere offering, "Being Dead is No Excuse."

Locals might recognize the names dropped by Metcalfe and Hays, and everyone can laugh at the pseudonyms of the unnamed, such as "Cousin Snooty." The chapters, include "The Society Baptists: What Happens When Your Unity Candle Burns Hotter Than the Bad Place," "The Shotgun Wedding: Do You Know Who Mah Daddy Is," and "The Restorative Cocktail: We Thought They'd Never Leave."

Coming from stock that has had two-page wedding-description spreads in "Mississippi Magazine" that mentioned the colors of flowers and dresses, and of course, the Bible verses read during the ceremony, I believe I laughed loudest at the descriptions of wedding announcements that are just as entertaining as obituaries. Metcalfe and Hays are on-target with the self-absorbed and sometimes downright disgusting information shared in the vanity write-ups. "We may feel we've been to an elegant wedding when the rental agency from Jackson has to bring potties," they write, "but it's not necessary to read about potty placement in the newspaper."

Well, I never.

Because the book includes many recipes, "Somebody is Going to Die" has earned an honored place in my kitchen, right next to "Being Dead is No Excuse" and the many Sweet Potato Queen books. If the stories don't get you, the recipes will. I've already served up the bacon-wrapped green beans, and I plan to tackle the "Glorified Stuffed Tomatoes" next. If all goes well, I will be able to whip up a recipe from this book for our next family function and name drop where I found the recipe. Then, maybe I'll be one step further away from being cold-cut trash and—perhaps—one step closer to being back in the high cotton.

Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays will be signing and reading from their book at Lemuria Books in Banner Hall, on Wednesday, April 11, at 5 p.m. Call 601-366-7619 for information.

Previous Comments


Wow, Miss Emily needs to get herself an editor and write a BOOK! Her column just makes your newspaper.

M. Gresham

Whether Miss Emily, Ms. Emily or Mrs. Emily - this Emily wrote a entertaining and well written column. Funny and beautifully worded yet talked about personal pain. I believe I saw some recovery or mending in that column too. As I found out yesterday, it's Ms. Emily, not Miss as Miss has negative and demeaning conotations.



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