Why Double Belle?
Both of my grandmothers were named Belle. My parents met in a support group for baby belles. That’s why cheese is my god.
Two out of three of the above statements are true, to be fair, though my life would be even more supremely ridiculous than it already is were it the case that all three were concrete fact. Though in the scheme of things, there are enough absurdities strung across the minefield of my life that make it perfectly rich enough without the need to add anything that is even marginally untrue.
I am Southern, and whereas when I was a child nothing mortified me more, I have, in my proper forties adulthood, come to embrace it, celebrate it and at the same time, mourn it. Being a Southern woman isn’t the same it was when I was a child, and that makes me sad. The women to whom I looked as a child were feisty, strong, smart, take no prisoners and even less shit sorts of women. They could outshoot their men at both craps and pheasant, outdrink them, outswear them, outsmart them and outdress them. They would make khaki hunting gear and sequins seem equally seductive and were never, ever without less than six carats of diamonds and a glass of whiskey adorning their presence.
Our public schools were outstanding: we were well taught, well read and well raised and would sooner die than end a sentence with a preposition or confuse ‘to’ with ‘too.’ We were encouraged to learn all that we could, make the best grades, be the best friend possible, explore the outdoors, get our hands dirty, compete fiercely when called for, laugh out loud and celebrate outrageously. We were raised to suck the marrow out of every second of life, learn from our mistakes, celebrate our victories and appreciate it all.
Yes, I know that my small town was exceptional; I know that now, though not then. I know my parents constantly telling me – with a refreshing innocent belief – that I could “do and be anything I wanted to,” instilled in me a similarly naive verve and passion that drove and drives everything that I do. I know that whereas thirty-five years ago in the deep south, being a strong, smart, outspoken woman was the norm, things have since dimmed greatly and we now risk a permanence in beige.
I believed my parents, I listened to my teachers (when I wasn’t challenging them in a high-spirited way), read Lewis Grizzard and sought to emulate those shining balls of fire women who graced my life. Yet all I have done since returning to this country after many years abroad is apologize for that. For all of that. I apologize because I am smart. I apologize because I am well educated and multi-lingual. I apologize that I am not ugly. I apologize that I do not lack confidence. I apologize that I’ve achieved everything I have without a man. I apologize because I am not narrow-minded and am frequently the most informed in the room.
I’m tired of apologizing. I am who I am. I am a Southern born, well read, exceptionally educated, well traveled, whiskey fueled firebrand of a woman, and anyone who doesn’t like it can fuck right off. I am a Double Belle.