The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

August 22, 2010

Pledging the Southern Sorority of Sassy Omega

The founding mothers of Sassy Omega the week they invented the air kiss

Sisterhood  is powerful — unless it is accompanied by back-stabbing rivalry and hazing.  I am learning, having lived down South for some months now, that sororities have an enduring influence — often discouraging free thought and encouraging with every turn more and more group think.

Perhaps living in a house with other young women, wearing the  same haircut, attending numerous mixers with group-think boys in order to “snag” one, and engaging in the occasional community service as a substitute for real political engagement sounds more appealing than the bohemian and often solitary intellectual and artistic pursuits in which I have engaged ever since I saw the B-52s perform on Saturday Night Live and started dressing (back then, not now) New Wave and spiking my hair up (again, now I wear my hair unspiked).  I was never cut out for sorority life of any kind, at least until now.

One of the advantages of sorority life is an instant and institutionalized circle of friends.  I am a stranger here, and I find myself alone too much of  the time.  When I have managed to snag an invitation somewhere, I feel like a pledge about to be blackballed.  My haircut is just not standard issue, and neither  is the worldview under it.  I have been thusfar utterly NOKD — Not our kind, dear.

This all changed when I went to the Mississippi Writers Guild conference and met my Dixie Doppelganger — Lauretta Hannon. There I met a sister of a sorority I would LOVE to join  — the  one that has been occupied by women like Politico  Molly Ivins, Comedienne Brett Butler, and the shockingly frank and original girl gone wild Rosemary Daniell — that of incredibly funny and iconoclastic Southern women.  Let me call them the Ha-Ha sisterhood.  No, because it’s a  form of political subversion, not just empty laughter, the sharp collection of words these women have written, let me call them the Southern sorority of Sassy Omega.

We Northerners, Lauretta discussed in brief during her lecture at the conference, have the misconception that women down here are either manipulative and archly feminine a la Scarlett O’Hara or Super-cheerleader Republican Femmebots.  In fact, there is another breed of woman down here who dances between the expectations of ladylike behavior and subversive liberation.  They are funny in ways that men down here find a bit intimidating, unless they themselves are really, really cool.  They are sexually and politically demanding.  They are  not generally mean.  They are, however, stubborn.

The Southern sorority of Sassy Omega would appreciate my manicure and bodacious blondeur.  However, they would love it more that I’m funny and naughty and smart.  I  am pledging this Sorority.  I am willing to be hazed if necessary.  Please, oh sisters, please, invite me to the next tea dance!

Lauretta is about my age, spent time in Europe, as I did, and she, too, coped with her family’s dysfunction with bad 1980s  hair dos.  Later, like I did, she became a writer, publishing and promoting the bejeezus out of an autobiographical  book of humor and pathos entitled The Cracker Queen.  Lauretta is wickedly funny — called by one magazine “the funniest woman in Georgia.”  While I’m beginning to believe  that being the funniest woman in Georgia, given the general lack of irony present at most Greek Life functions, may be easier than being the funniest woman in Brooklyn, where unladylike funniness is generally encouraged, I nonetheless see this as quite an accomplishment.

Here’s a photo or two of  her from back then, and I think she looks marvelous.

Lauretta Hannon, a.k.a. The Cracker Queen, before she was ever a biscuit.

Okay, the hair is NOT spiky, but today, she has short, stylishly feathered hair that COULD be spiked, and today, my hair looks enough like her hair in Amsterdam, that — well — it sort of fits the matching haircut paradigm for sorority conformity, despite the time warp.

What is definitely in conformity is the sense of humor.  She is,  as some would say up North, a pissah.  She’s not a little bit funny — she’s hugely so.  She made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my chair.  I apparently have made her laugh, too.

I tried to scan in my photo just now of my bad hair days from Paris, not spiky so much as bright red and frizzy, with my white leather bomber jacket and my absurd combat boots, but my scanner is not cooperating.  Just take it from me — I am also stocked up on silly photos from the same continent and era.

Lauretta looks like this now:

Lauretta recounting a drole episode with all her Sassy Omega charm

If she looks hilarious, well, she is.  She tells her stories about her completely redneck and utterly provincial childhood in small-town Georgia in such a way that she makes the poignant absolutely side-splititngly comic.

Her stories, in the oral tradition of the Southern tall tale, are at least as much about the spoken word as about the page, but that said, run, don’t walk to your local independent bookseller and buy at least twelve copies of  The Cracker Queen (2010, Gotham).  Make my sorority sister rich so she’ll let me wear identical dresses with her at the cotillion — and then we can take our husbands, doubtless both brothers from the fraternity of Messy Mu Delta, out on the dance floor and give each other the thumbs-up and the okay sign over their shoulders during the foxtrot.

Lauretta and I laughed a lot at the conference at each other’s comments, and she impressed me to no end when she told me  she  was having lunch at a snooty tea salon with Rosemary Daniell before the end of the month, that they intended to “defile the temple” of Southern smug womanhood that this institution constituted with its cucumber sandwiches and sweet tea.

I have asked her for absurdly precise details about the lunch.  She has, much to my great honor, promised to include me in the conversation — at this point, possibly given this blog entry, preceded by the comment, “I have this odd Yankee stalking me,” but I’m hopeful they may just let me decorate the float with them this year for homecoming.  I can crumple tissue paper with the best of them.

I am pledging.  I am baking cookies.  I am hoping they will let me clean their peau de soie heels with my toothbrush, then give me a Sassy Omega pin in a ceremony involving a rubber chicken and some Jack Daniels.

I am ready, girls.  I am desperately ready.

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18 Comments »

  1. Sister Anne has done it. She has captured the essence of The Cracker Queen in this entertaining, insightful, and funny-as-hell piece of writing. I am The CQ, but she RULES. Thank you. Yours in satire & subversion, Lauretta (PS-You have been approved for sorority membership. Next week you will be taught the secret handshake we like to call the Sassyfrass Ball Buster.)

    Comment by Lauretta — August 22, 2010 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

    • Dear Sorority Sister Sassy Queen,

      I can hardly wait to flash gang signs with you!

      Air kisses,

      Anne

      Comment by annebabson — August 23, 2010 @ 1:58 am | Reply

  2. Great post. And yes, she is a “pissah,” or as we say in the South, “piss’r.” Either way you say it, she’s Good People, and I’m honored to call her friend.

    Comment by blogthefarm — August 22, 2010 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

  3. Enjoyed this commentary immensely. Queen Lauretta speaks truth to power, constantly, with a “Smile” on her face and make sure her audience leaves with one too. Sign me up for the “Sassy Omega Sorority”, “Georgia Cracker Queen Chapter”. Admit to knowing a few “Messy Mu’s” in my time also. It is obvious Ms. Babson that you “get” what a Cracker Queen represents, I like that. I’ll share a glass of sweet tea with you anytime. Ya’ll come see us.

    Comment by Kathy Massey — August 22, 2010 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  4. Being a redneck scholar,I appreciate that yankees don’t know about true southern women and lump them all as “southern belles”. The real southern women (emphasis on “real”) are a bit different from Scarlett. Lauretta is the epitome of the “real” southern woman–a woman who is a bit crazy, loves to laugh, and will do anything for you as long as you don’t get on her wrong side.

    I sort of figure that in Georgia we have rednecks in the northern part of the state and the designation slowly segues into crackers as you move south maybe into and south of Columbus. Lauretta is a dignified Cracker–definitely a “Cracker Queen”.

    Comment by John Schulz — August 22, 2010 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

  5. FABULOUS! You nailed our Cracker Queen perfectly. She gives all us other GRITS ( Girls Raised In The South) someone to look up to. Please put me on the list for possible inductees to the Sassy Omega chapter. I too had bad 80’s hair and would like to apologize for any damage I personally caused the Ozone Layer. Perhaps I can make up my past misdeeds by being allowed a position on the Sassy Omega Environmental Committee.

    Comment by Gina McNew — August 22, 2010 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

    • The Ozone and that sad-looking polar bear in Al Gore’s documentary, if they had seen your big hair, just like the girl in the White Snake video, would have certainly forgiven you, sister Sassy Omega.

      Air kisses, without coughing too much from the Aquanet,

      Anne

      Comment by annebabson — August 23, 2010 @ 2:06 am | Reply

  6. Love your blog… mainly because I love Lauretta Hannon as a sister in the truest sense of the word. She is my sister! No truer words have ever been spoken about Lauretta. She is fun and funny!
    When she did a private one-woman show at the Springfield, GA Public Library approximately 6 yrs, I feel in love with her wild Southern humor and have been a member of “the CQ Posse” ever since. At that show, I bought her first CQ stories published on CD (no longer available), and to this day, I never tire of hearing her speak about her life which resounds with a deeply-southern sisterhood.
    She inducted me into the Cracker Queen Hall of Fame last May at her book signing party in Savannah, GA, and I consider it an honor to be a part of the SORORITY of the CQ’s.
    Welcome to the club, my sister! Survival makes us of one blood and we can stand tall as we honor those who stand with us. God bless the Cracker Queens for their wild sense of humor, and for sharing their laughter with the world.
    As Lauretta always says, “Laugh loud with your mouth wide open!” It is, after all, the best medicine and it makes your spirit happy.

    Comment by Annselma Wood — August 22, 2010 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

  7. Please, oh, please, pledge me, too, in the Sassy Omega’s!! What a terrific blog!!! Loved reading this and love Cracker Queen. I am yet a Cracker Princess, but hope to one day win the privilege of Queendom. And a big thank you, to both of you, for establishing a place for the Southern women (and Northern) like me. You guys are awesome. Keep the sharp wit and funny writing going!! I love it!

    Comment by Myra — August 22, 2010 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

  8. Welcome to the South! Come play with us in Atlanta. Sign me up for the Sassy Omegas. I think we will have to have a Sassy Omega Tea Dance at Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore and break out the “Cracker Salad” and “Cracker Toffee” in honor of the Cracker Queens. I see our pins now, cute little Red Lipsticks. Love Lauretta, Love you and Love Rosemary Danielle. Feeling the love for all my Sassy Omega Sisters. Girl, you just do not know what you are in for pledging the Sassy Omegas. It might just be more fun than you can handle.

    Comment by Candace Apple — August 23, 2010 @ 12:52 am | Reply

    • Dear Sister Sassy Candace,

      Bring on the fun. I can handle it all.

      Comment by annebabson — August 23, 2010 @ 1:56 am | Reply

  9. I was not drawn to traditional sororities at college during my time there as my upbringing was much like Lauretta’s, but I was raised in the presence and with the help of a wonderful extended family of quintessential Cracker Queens. They were both pious and profane,but had incedible wit,grit and had no problem speaking their mind in the most colorful of metaphors. I would have loved to have had a Sassy Omega chapter at my school. We could have taken over within a year. I am also fortunate to have Miss Lauretta live just a few streets over in my little southern town, where she has been generous with her time and talents. At our first meeting, their was such a kinship established that we could speak in a form of Cracker shorthand – just saying a word in a certain tone and inflection and all was clear to us while others stood bewildered by our laughter & head nodding.

    Welcome to the birthplace of the delicious, sassy souls of Southern women, Ms. Babson. Just remember, you don’t have to be born here to have one. Hope you can visit us in Georgia soon & we do have a tea room that appreciates our style.

    Comment by Karen Beard — August 23, 2010 @ 1:26 am | Reply

  10. We’ll put you through the hazing of a lifetime (it involves muscle cars, apple brandy, and my cousin DeWayne), but I think you can handle it. Welcome to our sisterhood! Squeal!!!!!

    Comment by anticsincandyland — August 23, 2010 @ 3:32 am | Reply

    • I’m sorry to disappoint you, Candy, but women from Brooklyn really can’t squeal. We have that part of our vocal chords paralyzed with Botox at an early age to avoid lines around the throat. Hence, you will simply have to imagine my approval of your squealing as I raise an eyebrow and purse my lips.

      Sassy O-nassis-ly,

      Anne

      Comment by annebabson — August 23, 2010 @ 3:51 am | Reply

  11. The most fortunate of the fortunate are those of us who grew up in the South, but didn’t have the luxury of doing it with a silver spoon in our mouths. See, we can pull off the southern belle, full of charm and polite manners, but we can call you a heifer and make you think we just complimented you. Lauretta is my kind of gal and “The Cracker Queen” is a must read. As for the sorority, is there any other?

    Comment by Stacy Shelton — August 23, 2010 @ 3:39 pm | Reply

  12. […] The busiest day of the year was August 22nd with 98 views. The most popular post that day was Pledging the Southern Sorority of Sassy Omega. […]

    Pingback by 2010 in review « The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi — January 27, 2011 @ 7:20 pm | Reply

  13. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems? A number of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any tips to help fix this problem?

    Comment by Brooke — December 21, 2012 @ 4:32 pm | Reply

    • Honestly, no. I have never had an issue with Word Press of this kind.

      Comment by annebabson — December 21, 2012 @ 10:22 pm | Reply


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