The Finished Product
Growing up in the South, I felt that people hereabouts subscribed to some downright peculiar notions regarding how one should behave. For example, I was raised to be prim and proper at all times: keep a handkerchief in your purse; never let your perfume arrive before you do; and if you ever find yourself in a compromising position or stressful situation—faint! And to make sure I would become the perfect social debutante in time for my coming-out party, my grandmother sent me to Miss Eunice’s School of Etiquette. Oddly enough, the finishing school was run by a man called Mr. Earl. Now right away you would automatically assume he was gay, but in the South it would be just too impolite to insinuate such a thing!
My grandmother gave Mr. Earl the explicit instruction that I was to finish top of the class; and because I had never really bought into the whole Southern-belle routine and she knew I was a free spirit, she told him that whatever he had to do to whip me into shape, he had her permission. Oh, how he delighted in that. There were eight other debutante hopefuls, but he seemed to take great pleasure in making an example of my tardiness, my table manners, even the way I wore my makeup (the nerve)! Throughout my entire young teenage life I had been taught to act like a lady, so I knew that my social graces left nothing to be desired, and I had had enough. Even though Mr. Earl tried to play the tough guy, I sensed something about him—he could never completely look me in the eyes; in fact, he seemed to focus a lot on looking down at my feet.
At the end of Ballroom Dancing 101, I politely asked Mr. Earl if I could leave early to go meet my grandmother and then return later to speak to him about my performance. He agreed. I couldn’t wait to tell my grandmother about Mr. Earl’s mistreatment of me, knowing that she would straighten things out, but to my surprise, she was not at all sympathetic. She simply said very delicately, "Chérie, I expect great things from you, and part of becoming a lady is being able to handle your own affairs."
I was shocked, but I realized she was right. So I marched back to the school a bit early, only to find Mr. Earl prancing around bedecked in a pearl necklace, a handbag, and a pair of pumps that resembled my grandmother’s—all the while sniffing my handkerchief and sporting an erect penis! I was livid, but I kept my cool. He had no idea I was there, so I left, plotting what I would do next. All the way home, I kept remembering what my grandmother had said, "Handle your own affairs." Suddenly, I had an idea. I went to my grandmother’s yard and pulled a thick vine off her magnolia tree. I sat underneath its shade, gently stripping off the flowers down to the bare vine as I planned my revenge.
The next day I woke up early so I could catch Mr. Earl before anyone else got to the school. I made sure I wore my short, baby-blue Versace tank dress and the highest high-heeled sandals I could find, which brought me up from five three to about five seven. I extended my eyeliner to make my mysterious brown eyes very smoky. I let my long, thick hair cascade down around my face to create a sexy tousled look, glossed my lips to perfection, and neatly tucked my new weapon of choice (the magnolia vine) under my arm.
Mr. Earl was already there, and I was on fire! I stormed those classroom doors like the French stormed the Bastille. I could tell he was caught off guard. And with all the strength my petite five-foot-three-inch frame could muster, I landed a slap that had to be heard around the world. "You filthy little rodent!"
"Nicole, what is the meaning—"
I slapped his other cheek. "Did I tell you to speak?!?" I glared at him so hard I felt as though my eyes were piercing his soul. He must have felt it too, because he dropped his eyes to the floor and began whimpering. "You think you’re so tough, but I know for a fact you’re nothing but a little pansy, Miss Eunice. I caught you yesterday playing dress up. Lest you forget, my grandmother is very powerful; and if she knew, she would have your ass! Whatever’s left of it when I’m done."
He pleaded, like the pathetic pond scum he was.
"From now on, I call the shots around here. And if you don’t want this whole little conservative town to find out about you, you better bow down and greet your new Mistress."
Naturally, he obliged. I lashed his ass with my magnolia vine until I felt myself about to perspire (a lady avoids such unnecessary wetness), and then I made him go set his striped bottom under a faucet of cold water to soothe the sting (because a true lady always takes the time to include these nice little extra finishing touches). Certain that now he understood the force of my wrath, I walked out of Miss Eunice’s School of Etiquette feeling empowered and beautiful.
Clearly, there was no further need for me to attend classes. I had mastered all the material, not to mention the esteemed teacher himself. I did indeed graduate finishing school at the top of my class. Mr. Earl even wrote my grandmother a lovely note on his pale pink stationery, informing her that he had never met so accomplished and poised a debutante. I embraced my new self. The Old South would soon be in trouble. Coming-out party indeed!