Letter from Carlisle Cushing
To whomever finds this book in their possession:
Shred, burn or destroy immediately! If you must read, then I suspect I better tell you that my name is Carlisle Wainwright Cushing, of the Texas Wainwright family. More specifically, I am a Wainwright of Willow Creek. My mother is Ridgely Wainwright…Cushing-Jameson-Lackley-Harper-Ogden. I kid you not. Given my mother’s predilection for divorce, is it any surprise that as an adult I had become a divorce lawyer?
Just so you know, was dragged back to Texas (against my will, not to mention my better judgment) to deal with my mother’s latest impending divorce and the 100th annual debutante ball. Yes, me, killer lawyer, weighing the merits of beads vs. crystals on ball gowns and teaching eight eighteen year olds to balance books on their heads. Granted, I had been around etiquette, manners, and the waltz since birth. And true, I had made my own bow to society eleven years earlier in one of Texas High Society’s premier social events. But honestly, that was then and this is now and a lot has changed since I left …not to mention the people …in particular one Mr. Jack Blair, my first love, and the man who keeps making me forget that I AM ALREADY ENGAGED!!!
As Michael Corleone in Godfather III said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” And pull me back in they did. But the thing that kept me from throwing in the towel throughout the ordeal was this secret rule book that really should remain secret. So again, please burn!
Carlisle Wainwright Cushing
I am a firm believer that all men (and women) are created equal. My mother, well, is not such a big subscriber to the notion. As a result, she supplied the following list for The Debs.
- Stay away from all things chemical (peels, peroxide, polyester)
- Forego all things glittery (belly rings, Bedazzle, blue eye shadow)
- Unless you have an actual Her Royal Highness somewhere on your family tree, leave tiaras to pageant girls and girls who favor double wides.
- Avoid escorts with two names (think: Billy Bob or Joey Dean), a record (criminal or rap), or has Chico’s Bail Bonds on his speed dial (unless his name is Chico—we LOVE entrepreneurs.)
- If non-related escort can’t be found, turn to brother or cousin. (The Debutante Ball is the one time in life it is not odd or illegal to date a relative.)
- Eating, drinking, and chewing gum at Deb Balls are for girls who (mistakenly) got invited.
- Sitting by yourself (ever) is reserved for wallflowers, wannabes and girls in polyester. (See #1)
- Undergarments should be worn but definitely not seen.
- Leave surprising (and unflattering) new hair styles to Britney Spears.
- Leave surprising (and unconvincing) new British accents to Madonna.
My own list to keep me on track as I tiptoed through the landmines (of which there were many) of planning a Deb Ball and dealing with the girls–at least that’s what I was doing when I wasn’t shoring up boundaries (of which there weren’t enough) between me and the infamous Jack Blair.
- Eight girls of the eighteen to nineteen-year-old variety, made to look as if they have a fleeting acquaintance with innocence.
- Professional photographs of each girl sent out with the prayer that no reporter has a slow enough day to dig around for revealing photos on the Internet of any of my supposedly chaste chosen.
- One Debutante Ball Chairperson (that would be me) who must serve as referee as inevitably each debutante’s mother tries to out-do the other mothers with the extravagance of their individual (and required) coming out parties.
- Eight adult male, tuxedo-wearing relatives (preferably of the father variety) to present debutantes to Society.
- Eight eighteen to nineteen-year-old guys (preferably of the non-wild, non-drunken variety) to serve as escorts to debutantes.
- One Charitable Cause—for my purposes, the local Willow Creek Symphony Association, however a hospital, research institute or scholarship program that can benefit from the event will do.
The Debutante Season is the chance for girls to debut-or be presented- to society. Given society’s more recent inclination to put off marriage (or eschew it altogether—my mother still can’t believe unmarried women live with men—something about cows, milk, things being free) the Debutante Ball serves more as an excuse to Get Dressed Up and Let Down Your Hair than as a means to meet prime husband material. Unfortunately, given my mother’s antiquated notions on who is acceptable, after the first batch of girls bailed out—yes, it really happened—I was forced to get creative.
a) Perfect young ladies from wealthy families with fine old names: my mother refers to this as the target debutante pool.
b) Daughters of passably moneyed families with fine old names: perfectly acceptable possibilities.
c) Uppity girls from new-moneyed families and even newer names: only if things get desperate.
d) Wild girls from moneyed families with cringe-worthy names: no way, no how, my mother would kill me. (Guess where I found my girls.)
Note to self: Whether applicable or not, try to get the girls to think Virginal— be prepared to explain virginal, i.e. floor length white gown, string of pearls, white gloves, and white high heels. Add things like: Each sold separately. At jaw dropping prices. Additional note to self: If this in anyway causes heart palpitations for candidate’s mother, family is not cut out for the Debutante Season. Cut girl from potential invitation list immediately.
The Waltz can be tricky, but manageable once steps are learned—unlike the bow, or as it’s called in Texas, The Dip, that can give even the most poised girl nightmares when she realizes she has to dip impossibly low in order to touch her forehead to her billowing skirt.
Food must be as elegant as the girls, and when possible items on menu should be in shades of white, clear, or, at the very least, non-staining to avoid potential disasters should said food spill on pristine white gowns. Not that the debutantes will eat a bite, or for that matter, neither will I since Jack will be there and ignoring him always takes an awful lot of attention. But some men aren’t meant to be ignored and strange things can happen in strange places when you least expect it. Note to self: Stop thinking about Jack!
Brioche and Shrimp Appetizer
Fennel Salad with Walnuts and Grana Padano
Choice of Filet Mignon Or Lobster
Side of Fresh Seasonal Vegetables
Crème Brulee infused with Lavender
Open Bar (one in each corner of each room)
Champagne (champagne, and more champagne)
Steak and eggs breakfast shall be served the following morning when revelry is dying down (and hangovers ensue.)