Southern Belle training is a rigorous endeavor that should not be undertaken lightly. Fluency in polite conversation and manners is a must. Every situation—from fantastic to categorically bad—should be met with calm and grace.
Yeah, it’s never been an easy ride, but there’s an extra little kink in the chain these days: The world has changed. The role of women today is almost unrecognizable compared to the barefoot and pregnant deal of way back when. Women today find themselves outside of the home considerably more often than inside the home. Women run Fortune 500 companies and hold high political office. How does a Southern Belle adapt to these new opportunities? Well...with calm and grace...hopefully.
The problem is that some jobs really don’t gel well with adaptation. Let’s take a look at the life of the criminal defense attorney:
By this point, I hope that I have been able to convey a sense of the insanity of my job. Every day is truly an adventure and I can assure you that you will never hear the statement “I’ve seen it all” pass my lips in conjunction with my chosen profession. Surprisingly or not, I don’t really mind the unexpected twists and turns I face daily—it keeps me on my toes—but I’m damned if I know how to respond to them in a manner befitting the Southern Belle I’ve been raised to be.
For example, what do you do when you are mistaken for a hooker? Right after I first started practicing law, I was walking though the back hall of the courthouse and doing something that I should never, ever do: Multi-task. Yes, I was walking and reading at the same time and I was entirely too clumsy for the endeavor.
I furthermore feel the need to interject that I was dressed in an entirely appropriate fashion.
The bailiffs were transporting an inmate from the courtroom back to the cells and I ran slap dab into them. The fella that they were moving was either off his meds or on recreational pharmaceuticals or a healthy mix of both. The second his eyes lit on me, he got all agitated and started calling me Wanda. From the charming oratory that followed, I gathered that “Wanda” was in his pool of working girls and that he expected me to follow orders and bail him out forthwith.
The bailiffs justifiably started snickering and my face got so red that you could have fried an egg on it. Had that interaction occurred today, I probably would have played Wanda and messed with him a bit, but I was still so wet behind the ears that I ducked and ran. I also had to endure the bailiffs calling me Wanda until a new rotation came in.
What exactly are you supposed to say in that situation? Ms. Post? Ms. Vanderbilt? Hello?
Try this one on for size: Once upon a time—again, early in my legal career—I had to depose a thoroughly unpleasant individual—thoroughly unpleasant to the point that I had security with me. Good thing, too: A pat-down of the “gentleman” upon his arrival revealed a Glock 19 in his waistband.
We didn’t get very far into his testimony when he claimed the need for a potty break. We broke, he did his business and we picked up where we left off. We were about ten potty breaks into the deposition before I really started to wonder what in the hell was going on. Granted, the guy appeared to have a pretty miserable cold and, if he hadn’t been such a first class asshole, I might would have mustered up the energy to feel sorry for him, but we were past the point of ridiculous.
After arriving at the fourteenth request for tinkle time (a mere three hours into the deposition), I insisted that we push through to the end. At that point, every question I asked was met with the room-trembling bang of the deponent’s head on the table. I was torn between wanting to ask if he was okay and ignoring him as a parent would overlook an attention seeking temper tantrum from their toddler. I opted with the “overlook” method.
We somehow managed to get to the end. I quite frankly expected either the conference table to be cracked or the deponent to be concussed or both, but everyone was conscious and the furniture was remarkably unscathed. After Mr. Precious mounted his Harley and went on his merry way, I mentioned his nasty cold to one of the security officers and he started laughing so hard that he eventually had to bend over.
After being forced to stand there like a dumbass for what felt like days, someone got the breath and the nerve to tell me that the “sinus condition” was a result of the enormous amount of cocaine he was shoving up his nose. Every time he had to go to the bathroom, he was snorting up a storm. To this very day, if someone has the sniffles—regardless of whether they are 8 or 80—I start taking furtive glances at their nose looking for telltale signs of white powder.
So, how exactly do you deal with that, Amy Vanderbilt?