Manners, manners, manners. Decorum, decorum, decorum. I do so hate to keep harping upon those subjects, but the aforementioned two little words are so very vital in all areas of Southern life that they simply keep coming up. Dignity and respect are another couple of philosophies that little Southern boys and belles learn as soon as they can comprehend. A person should attack every situation with manners so they can at least look back at the end of the day and say they tried.
Alas, even Southern Belles are imperfect humans and, unfortunately, occasions do arise where a person is caught completely off guard and they aren’t always able to respond with appropriate behavior. Super unfortunately, those situations tend to occur in instances where keeping decorum is vital.
Please allow my brother and me to be your cautionary tale...
Ethan and I have a very similar sense of humor—sorry, I know it was taxing when you thought that you only had to deal with one bat shit crazy person. Through the years, we’ve often found that we were thinking the exact same thing and whatever we are thinking is usually pretty wicked. It is important for you to understand that even now—in our ripe old age—we are no longer allowed to sit next to each other at occasions like weddings, church services and funerals.
Why? Well—even in our ripe old age—we get the giggles. Yes, the giggles.
Let’s take the wedding first, shall we? It was perfectly normal and lovely wedding. The service was held in the evening, so it was a rather formal affair. Of course, the church was packed as tight as a can of sardines. The bride looked gorgeous and serene and the groom looked nauseas, but happy. There were fifty bazillion bridesmaids and groomsmen. Last but not least, there was a string quartet as well as an organist.
I am going to go ahead and tell on myself: I don’t like organ music. It always puts me in mind of the Phantom of the Opera and funerals. To me, it sounds entirely too maudlin at celebratory occasions (try to un-bunch your shorts here if you disagree—I said to me). In this particular instance, the organist seemed to be having some sort of ego conflict with the string quartet and they were doing their damndest to out-play each other.
The organist was flat going to town. I fully expected to see the Phantom of the Opera swoop in or Quasimodo to descend in from the bell tower. It was positively unsettling. The woman was pounding the keys with such ferocity that I was jolted every time she hit a note. Ethan said under his breath, “Oh God, it sounds like she’s dragging a dying cat over the keys.”
Well, that did it. I felt the giggles rumbling inside my tummy and coming up for air. Ethan and I were both shaking in a desperate attempt to keep the laughter in. The elbow jabs and death stares of our parents only made the pressure cooker of laughter even tighter.
Ethan and I narrowly escaped the wedding with our lives
Funerals are the worst. Please understand that Ethan and I certainly aren’t trying to be disrespectful. On many occasions, we are either related to the deceased or very close to the family. In situations like that, I think that we...we’re just really sad and really tired and our guard is lower than average.
So...there we were at a funeral for someone quite close to us and—yet again—the church was packed to the rafters. Right before the service started, a couple sat down in the pew in front of us and...well...there’s really no way to put this delicately. When we deal with the situation with my daughters, they are supposed to say “Excuse me, I tooted” although I do wish Baby Belle 1 would quit saying that in public.
I don’t know if it was the strain of sitting down that caused the “wind to break” or what, but there was no mistaking what had just happened. Incomprehensibly, no one else reacted, but Ethan and I...oh, it was bad.
We were in physical pain from holding the insane laughter inside. We were in a particularly dire position because we were slap dab in the middle of the church, so there was no escape route. The desperate thought briefly occurred to me that we could pretend to be overcome with grief and run out with our hands over our faces, but it was quickly dismissed. Somehow we made it through the service without completely disgracing ourselves. Our parents were ready to plant us in the cemetery right next to the dearly departed. Holding the laughter in made my ribs terribly sore for days.
Of course, we don’t need the decorous celebration of a wedding or the solemn occasion of a funeral to completely lose it. We’re more than capable of being obnoxious in plain ‘ol church.
Our church was celebrating some sort of Episcopal international thingamajig (as you can probably tell, the effort was lost on me). During the church service, members of the congregation who were fluent in other languages were to stand up and read liturgy in their special language—not that the majority of us would have a clue as to what was being said. We had readers in Spanish, French and German. The German speaking reader stood up and started his gig. There was an elderly couple sitting in front of us who had even less of a clue than we did. After a few verses of Deutsche, the gentleman leaned toward his wife and—in that non-whispering whisper that is a specialty to those who are hard of hearing—said, “Good Lord! What has this place come to? They’re speaking in tongues!”
Well, at least Ethan and I were able to escape from the pew and out of the church that time.