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We're Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle
     

We're Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle

3.9 45
by Celia Rivenbark
 

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"On the short drive to the preschool,
I dutifully unwrap a NutriGrain bar and
toss it into the back seat to my four-year-old.
Sometimes I'll even unwrap one for myself.
Studies have shown that it's very important
for familes to eat together. . . . "

Why couldn't the Sopranos survive living down South? Simple. You can't shoot a guy full of holes

Overview

"On the short drive to the preschool,
I dutifully unwrap a NutriGrain bar and
toss it into the back seat to my four-year-old.
Sometimes I'll even unwrap one for myself.
Studies have shown that it's very important
for familes to eat together. . . . "

Why couldn't the Sopranos survive living down South? Simple. You can't shoot a guy full of holes after eating chicken and pastry, spoon bread, okra, and tomatoes.

What does a Southern woman consider grounds for divorce? When Daddy takes the kids out in public dressed in pajama tops and Tweety Bird swim socks. Again.

What is the Southern woman's opinion of a new "fat virus" theory? Bring it on! We've got a lot of skinny friends we need to sneeze on.

Want to become honest-to-Jesus white trash? Spend two weeks' salary on hair extensions and pancake makeup for your three-year-old so she can win a five-dollar trophy in the Wee Tiny Miss pageant and the adoration of, well, nobody much.

What does the Southern woman think of Paul McCartney's marriage to a model thirty years younger? We're not surprised. Statistically speaking, it's almost impossible for billionaires to discover that their soulmates are fifty-five and restocking the shampoo end caps at Kmart.

In this wickedly funny follow-up to her bestselling Bless Your Heart, Tramp, Celia Rivenbark welcomes you, once again, to the south she loves, the land of "Mama and them's," "precious and dahlin," and mommies who mow. Ya'll come back now, you hear.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After winning Southern women's hearts with her SEBA bestseller Bless Your Heart, Tramp in 2000, Rivenbark has penned a new-and equally sidesplitting-collection of essays, offering Northern and Southern sisters alike a woman's "take on those irksome little yuks in daily life." Although she warns certain readers (Yankees, namely) that they may need a Southern lexicon to decipher her folksy, down-home prose style, Rivenbark's focus on familiar topics like family, relationships and child rearing should appeal to most females, regardless of geography or age. Marked by a feisty, sarcastic tone and tempered with plenty of cries of "yoo hoo" and "Well, shit," even chapter titles (e.g., "Stop Watching Your Plasma TV and Start Selling Your Plasma: How to Become Honest-to-Jesus White Trash" and "Here Comes the Bride: Let's Just Get 'Em Hitched Sometime Before We See the Head") don't escape the author's wry humor. The most mundane situations become laugh-out-loud scenarios. When, for example, Rivenbark is confronted by the "Pre-School Nazis" and intimidating "granola moms" at her four-year-old's school, she admits asking her daughter to lie about what she had for breakfast (a foil-wrapped breakfast bar instead of the required "scrambled eggs, a bowl of real oatmeal-the kind you have to cook on top of the, uh, you know, stove-two slices of whole wheat toast and a glass of soy milk"). Rivenbark is a hoot, and her book will be best enjoyed while listening to the Allman Brothers Band and eating "a plate of, what else? collards and cornbread." Agent, Jenny Bent. (Jan.) Forecast: Rivenbark's latest could hit regional lists, aided by a regional author tour, national print publicity, an author appearance at SEBA and a Book Sense campaign. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"The most mundane situations become laugh-out-loud scenarios ... Rivenbark is a hoot."

Publishers Weekly

 

"I loved Celia's book; it made me want to get myself a doublewide, head on down to Mama and them's, and start mowing my own lawn. I never knew that Southern folk had time set aside from cooking the best food in the world to grow such marvelous senses of humor. For a Yankee like me, Southern life has always been fascinating, but who knew it was so pants-wetting funny (like watching a hillbilly bang his head repeatedly on the door of the outhouse, because I've seen that, you know)? And there's also the mention of 'making doody,' which is always a shoo-in for me. Celia's book rocks; everyone is going to love it.

P.S.: How much prettier is she than me?"—Laurie Notaro, author of The Idiot Girls' Action Adventure Club

"When the aliens come to study us, I hope they find Celia Rivenbark's work prominently displayed. She is one of our greatest domestic anthropologists, digging up and airing all those things we like to think others don't know. In other words, the truth. She knows the South and she knows women, but that's just the tip of it all. I think she might very well know everything. I don't know when I have laughed so loud and so long. I am forever a devoted fan."—Jill McCorkle, author of Creatures of Habit

"Celia Rivenbark's collection of essays, We're Just Like You, Only Prettier, is a must-read for anybody who wants a funny, no-holds-barred look at today's South, from white trash in all its glorious permutations, to Yuppiedom."—Haywood Smith, author of The Red Hat Club

"I laughed so hard reading this book, I began snorting in an unbecoming fashion. I loved it nonetheless. I'll be sending copies to everyone, especially my baby's daddy."—Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy

"I thought I was Southern until I read Celia Rivenbark's book. . . . What a funny, smart, and irreverent writer she is!"—Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429908252
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
182,485
File size:
490 KB

Read an Excerpt

We're Just Like You, Only Prettier

Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle


By Celia Rivenbark

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2004 Celia Rivenbark Whisnant
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0825-2



CHAPTER 1

STOP WATCHING YOUR PLASMA TV and Start Selling Your Plasma!

How to Become Honest-to-Jesus White Trash


I'm not sure when it happened but white trash is in. I just read it in a national magazine and all I could say was, "Well, shit fire and save the matches!"

You don't have to be Southern to be white trash, but it helps, mostly because Southerners know the beauty of a potted meat and mayonnaise sandwich better than most.

As a sort of on-the-bubble white trash girl myself (I've never, technically, had what car dealers describe as "bruised credit"), I'm feeling downright giddy.

Why is white trash chic now? Maybe it's just natural backlash to decades of greed and consumption. Whatever the reason, there's much to learn and I can coach even the snobbiest of y'all on how to be WT.

For starters, bad TV is a huge part of the WT lifestyle. White trash women spend their last dime calling Miss Cleo at the Psychic Screw-You Network. It takes a WT brain to stare at the screen at the butt-crack o' dawn and say: "Hey, she's never met me and knows nothing about me but I bet this crazy island woman can tell me what my future will be."

Psychics are nothing new to country folk. When I was growing up, I can remember the weird Madame Isadora down the road who had a huge red palm billboard right in her front yard. Even as a tot I was skeptical of the abilities of a "psychic-heeler" (sic) who couldn't afford underpinning on her trailer.

Aside from psychic infomercials, WT never wants to miss those midnight monster-truck marathons. Hell, the young'uns can sleep through second period so just nail that satellite dish on the most prominent tree in your front yard. No trees? No problem. Just use your Confederate flagpole. Buy your descrambler from the mullet-headed guy who runs the cockfight behind the landfill.

Mullet-headed, you say?

The mullet is the WT man's hairstyle of choice. It's long in back, short on the sides, and kinda fluffy on top. Mullet men think this makes them look young, virile, and rather like an Alabama roadie instead of the double-wide salesmen they are in real life. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Mullets, also known as the ape drape; the achy, breaky, big mistakey; and the Kentucky waterfall, are often favored by WT who are losing some hair on top. Curls flowing down their backs are not so much sissy as Samson.

Here's some other tips on being WT. Don't thank me now. Just give me one of the rottweiler pups when they're born and, yes, breeding 'em is too a real job.

Ladies, begin every sentence with "My baby's daddy." Even if you're married to him, it lends volumes of white trash cachet to a simple sentence. Yeah, it does.

Take to ending every declarative statement with "Yeah, it does." (Alternate acceptable WT: "I heard that.")

Take forty or fifty of your closest relatives to the emergency room with you every time one of you gets shot in the ass. This drives emergency personnel crazy but, hey! your tax dollars built this hospital. Well. They would have if you'd ever technically filed a tax return. Which of course white trash doesn't.

(Now on the matter of tax returns, if you do go high falutin' and file one, make sure you do not go to the classy accountant. You know the Edward Rothschild Ravensbottom firm with the picture of the old dude with the wooden dentures in the mahogany-paneled foy-yay. Choose instead the rather sad storefront Presto Fasto firm that shares office space with bad Chinese takeout and a "lingerie-modeling" agency.)

Dress your young'uns in little black NASCAR T-shirts but teach them to hate Jeff Gordon on account of he's just too damned pretty for his own good. Make sure you enter your girl young'uns in all the Wee Tiny Miss beauty pageants because it's the ultimate WT lifestyle to spend two weeks' salary on hair extensions and pancake makeup for your three-year-old just so she can win a five-dollar trophy and the adoration of, well, nobody much.

Take up smoking again and learn how to talk and smoke at the same time, preferably while saying hard-core white trash things like, "Ever since I got on the disability, I've had to do whatever I could to put food on the table. Your Honor."

Ladies, keep those bra straps hanging out on both sides, okay?

Drive the non-WTs crazy by going to the post office and buying lots of money orders. You don't need no stinkin' checking account. ("Let's see, here, I need one for fifty-eight dollars and twenty-one cents, one for sixty-two dollars and forty-four cents, that one goes to my choir-o-practor....") Ask the postal clerk why they never have any stamps that say Hate. While you're there, ask the clerk the difference between certified and registered mail. Follow his painfully thorough three-minute response with the classic WT rebuttal: "Say who?"

If you're sincere about wanting to join America's trendiest new demographic, you gotta start buying lottery tickets, and lots of 'em. ("Keep scratching, Melva, the young'uns can eat mustard sandwiches another week or two.")

Of course, you don't have to be poor to be white trash. Not long ago, that point was proven by a couple of bigwig South Carolina politicians who argued the benefits of the lottery to a roomful of high school boys attending a leadership conference.

Democrat Dick Harpootlian told the boys that state lottery funds would provide up to $4,500 for college, and could "buy a lot of beer and girls," but he was countered by Republican Henry McMaster who pointed out that while Democrats are for beer and girls, "Republicans are for cold beer and hot girls."

And all this time, I just thought they were for a bunch of boring stuff like wilderness drilling, silly missile shields that don't work, and protecting tax breaks for the stupefyingly rich.

Just so the whole thing wouldn't get too partisan, Mr. Harpootlian summed things up by saying that while the parties disagree in principles, they certainly "agree on beer and girls."

Mr. McMaster said he was just using humor to grab the teens' attention before discussing issues like gun control and education.

I don't see this as a natural segue, myself. ("After a tough night of paying for sex and getting knee-walking drunk, I like to contemplate the legal and ethical arguments behind our right to bear arms and, if'n I'm especially wall-eyed, I like to ponder the philosophical and moral arguments of the school voucher system or increased charter-school funding versus the moral obligation not to abandon our failing inner-city schools.")

Say who?

Maybe Harpootlian and McMaster can speak to Girls State and say something equally insightful about cold beer and hot guys. I'll bet those Bush twins, Fluffy and Muffy, who have a notoriously hard time just saying no to a margarita or three would appreciate that. Yeah, they would.

Politicians of all races have a lot of white trash in them. They have to rein themselves in, is all.

Not too long ago in my state, Elizabeth Dole (separated at birth from the Joker from Batman although I don't have actual proof) was running for the United States Senate against a fellow named — and I am not making this up — Erskine Bowles.

They both started out their campaigns by saying they wouldn't buy "attack ads." But that was then, and this is two weeks before the election.

Not long before Dole won, I turned on the TV in time to hear her say, "Oh, yeah? Well, your mama!" to Bowles, who replied with, "Your greas y grandma!"

Or words to that effect.

It's fun to see how money and influence can make things seem more polished but, deep down, once white trash, always white trash.

In high school, if you didn't like the candidate for student council president, you could just trip him when he walked by.

In the big leagues, tripping is frowned on so there is a "war chest" of campaign money that is raised and spent. This money represents small contributions from concerned individuals from across this great land. Oh, I crack myself up. This money comes from corporate fat cats who want their candidate to vote in ways that will benefit the fat cats. This is known as busting one's erskines.

The interesting thing about political campaign ads down South is that, because we are considered by the fat cats from other parts of the country to be, well, stupid, they will hire a very non-white-trash-sounding spokesman for the commercials.

His buttery voice will ooze behind a backdrop of imported bumpkins who look just like real people, only slightly hickier.

See, the irony is the candidate wants the white trash vote but doesn't want to seem white trash himself or herself.

The real fun begins with the "counterattack ads," which are designed to confuse the voters even more.

Voice of solemn announcer: "Liddy Dole plans to take all of your hard-earned social security money to Atlantic City and gamble it all on the Big Wheel, nickel slots, and Penn and Teller tickets."

Voice of counterattack ad announcer: "Erskine Bowles was Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff."

Voice of solemn announcer: "Liddy Dole led the fight against raising minimum wage, thus ensuring that you would never be able to afford a better life for yourself or your children."

Voice of counterattack announcer: "Erskine Bowles is ugly and his mama dresses him funny. Oh, and he worked for Bill Clinton."

Solemn announcer again: "Liddy Dole hates being called Liddy and that's why we keep doing it in these ads."

Voice of counterattack announcer: "Erskine is a dumb name. The kind of name a man who cheated on his wife while president might like."

It would be wrong to imply that white trash politicians are limited to the South. Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura embodied many of the fine white trash traditions of all of us who have lived, at one time or another, on a chassis.

Yeah, he did.

CHAPTER 2

BABY BORN Won't Poop

How a Constipated Doll Baby Sabotaged the Hap-Hap-Happiest Time of the Year


The scene on Christmas Day afternoon was straight out of a Norman Bates, er, Rockwell, portrait. There we all were: me, my husband, and our three-year-old, lovingly surrounded by assorted grandmothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins all staring, rapt, at the festively decorated dining table.

And there, in the center of the table, was no pineapple beringed ham or golden turkey but rather a foot-tall baby doll balanced, but barely, on a too-small pink plastic potty.

"Why won't she go?" my brother-in-law moaned. He stepped forward and began to squeeze, pinch, and then pound Baby Born on her pink potty.

Aunts who had helped feed the doll, my daughter's only Santa request "because she performs seven bod-diddy fun-shuns," stood back and clucked their tongues.

"Maybe she needs some prunes," one finally said, apparently serious.

The brother-in-law continued to pound Baby Born up and down on her potty. Saliva was now dripping from both corners of his mouth and his eyes gleamed like Jack Nicholson's in The Shining.

Baby Born had taken over our holiday and made us all a little crazy. She is made of hard plastic, has slightly maniacal blue eyes, and isn't even fun to hold. She was one of the most in-demand toys that Christmas, leading me to realize that our wacky dining table scene was probably being repeated in hundreds of thousands of American households.

Baby Born came with instructions that you should only feed her the specially formulated cereal (sample packets included) before sitting her on her magic pink potty and waiting for nature, or something like it, to take its course.

There was a warning: "If Baby Born does not go on her potty, push her down and hold her in position until she is finished. Do not let go!"

I could only imagine what horror would ensue if we let go, so, like paramedics doing CPR, one member of the family would hold on to Baby Born until they got tired and another would take over immediately.

As my brother-in-law continued to pound away, my daughter began to cry.

"You're hurting her," she wailed.

"Don't — be — ridiculous," he panted through clenched teeth. His voice got all high and squeaky then. "Baby Born likes the trampoline jump, don't you, Baby Born, don't you? Oh, yes um do."

Okay, so he'd lost his mind.

With several aunts taking turns, we decided to try to get Baby Born to at least cry real tears As Seen on TV.

When she couldn't even do that, I felt like crying a few of my own. For damned near fifty bucks, Baby Born should perform at least two of the seven fun-shuns.

"Seven?" my husband mused. "That's more than I got, I'm pretty sure." The aunts laughed at this so he said it a few more times.

The instructions advised that Baby Born would need to be rinsed frequently so she "would not be allowed to grow moldy inside."

Oh, great. Instead of a precious doll for my daughter to cuddle with at night, I was going to wrap her arms around a fungal, constipated, and vastly overpriced piece of plastic.

The instructions further advised that, in the event of a blockage, you should "shake her vigorously in all directions, set her on the special potty, and repeat the entire procedure several times." Note to self: Postpone life.

We worked on this until late into the evening. Finally, six hours behind schedule, we sat down to a proper Christmas dinner. At my daughter's tearstained request, Baby Born sat in her own chair, smirking I thought, as her place at the table meant the brother-in-law had to balance his plate on a tiny Hollie Hobbie TV tray that one of the aunts found rusting behind the dryer.

I believe that if he could have, he would've taken Baby Born for a long ride into the country that cold December night.

Over the next few months, we tried, in vain, to get Baby Bitch, as I took to calling her, to do anything at all except sit there and look snotty.

She didn't pee or poop, she didn't cry "real tears," she didn't squeal "Bah!" when you lifted her arm (pumping vigorously according to the directions). She didn't do shit.

The directions were very specific about never giving Baby Born anything but water in her useless specially designed bottle. Lemonade, tea, or "even milk" would damage the "intricate interior workings" of the doll.

One day my daughter and her little friend were giving Baby Born some orange juice, although I'd told them she could only have water. She had so much damned water sloshing in her now that she sounded like a coconut when you shook her. Which I had taken to doing a lot lately.

"What are you doing!" I shrieked. "You know she's not supposed to have juice. It will make her sticky inside!"

"So what?" my daughter asked.

"Good point. Carry on."

I have no idea where Baby Born is at this moment. Presumably she's sitting around in her permanent squat position, full of mushy cereal, OJ, and water. Which, now that I think about it, sounds just like my aunt Sudavee before she went to the home.

This Christmas, my daughter is angling for something called the "Make Me Pretty Talking Styling Head." You tote it around by the hair and adorn its pretty face with makeup and curl its pretty hair, but, at the end of the day, it still looks like what it is, a severed head.

She's also asked for something called the Fisher-Price Loving Family Home & Stable. I don't really get the stable connection unless you're supposed to pretend that if daddy comes home feeling less than loving, the little plastic family can retreat to the stable.

My daughter's wish list is very long this year, perhaps because she has learned that one lousy toy can wreck your whole holiday. So, as insurance, she's asked for two popular dolls: Bratz and Divas, which really gives me new hope for her generation. ("What do you want to be when you grow up? A brat or a diva?" Of course, the inevitable answer is the same: "Britney.")

She's also asked for a "kiddy recliner." They're hot this year, but I don't get it. Isn't there some dues-paying that has to be done here? You can't just turn four and get a recliner to relax in after a tough day of finger painting and playing army.

Nope, you have to earn a recliner, preferably after working many thankless years for an abusive boss who is as innovative as drain hair.

Christmas can be excessive at our house, but I'm still not ready to follow the advice of those killjoys at Money magazine who advise us to "shop sensibly" and "avoid debt." Why don't they just "bite me"?

Obviously these folks have never put off their kids' immunizations so they could use the money to buy more icicle lights at Wal-Mart.

Oh, calm down. When's the last time you actually knew someone with typhus? I thought so.

I suspect these fancy-ass writers for Money are the kind of people who put portabello mushrooms in their stuffing instead of giblets or, worse, drink likker to celebrate our Lord's birth.

They probably all live in fabulous clapboard houses in Connecticut, wear sweaters from Barney's that they paid too much for, and love to tell funny little inside jokes about pork-belly futures.

What makes them the experts? A few diplomas from some so-called Ivy League school, a high six-figure salary, and a bony ol' trophy wife?

Gosh, I hope that doesn't sound bitter.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from We're Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbark. Copyright © 2004 Celia Rivenbark Whisnant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Celia Rivenbark is the author of Bless Your Heart, Tramp. She writes a weekly column, "From the Belle Tower," for the Sun News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her husband and daughter.


Celia Rivenbark is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank; Bless Your Heart, Tramp; Belle Weather; and You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning. We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier won a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Book Award for nonfiction and was a finalist for the James Thurber Prize for American Humor. Born and raised in Duplin County, North Carolina, Rivenbark grew up in a small house “with a red barn out back that was populated by a couple of dozen lanky and unvaccinated cats.” She started out writing for her hometown paper. She writes a weekly, nationally syndicated humor column for the Myrtle Beach Sun News. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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We're Just Like You, Only Prettier 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Sarah Sands More than 1 year ago
Bought based solely on title...so glad I did!! Hilarious book..easy read...comic relief from the mundane. Highly recommend!!
BillieJo Partridge More than 1 year ago
laughed so much that my husband would ask me not to read this book in bed! I'm a fan!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reminds me a little of the Sweet Potato Queen books, if you've read those. I'll read more of her funnies!
Rachel11 More than 1 year ago
Same as another review - I brought the book based on the title and could not stop laughing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some funny sections, others not so much; definitely a mixed bag. Not worth the money, in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Somr funny things...not worth your money.
EllenKuo More than 1 year ago
Laugh out loud. A lot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laugh out loud funny.  I'm a Texas girl and it never occurred to me that "mama and them" would sound unusual to the rest of the world.  Love her style, can't wait to read her other books!
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