Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
From the perspective of nearly thirty years, Florence King has re-created what was unique about herself, her family and her upbringing, and the universalities of her experience as well. She balances the humor and wit with a candor and honesty that are too often missing when the topic is oneself and family. The result is a funny look at marriage, male-female relationships, sex, families, the South, independence, and femininity.
King begins with her Virginian maternal grandmother and the courtship of her mismatched parents. Granny arrives for Florence’s birth, seizes the chance to rear a lady, and never returns home.
From her mother, Florence learns disdain for “femininity,” and learns to value independence, frankness, and courage; from her father (Herb), love of books, writing, and knowledge. From Granny, she learns unwillingly what a Southern lady is supposed to be: delicate from either a nervous breakdown or female trouble, a possessor of spotless silver but a dirty house, and MARRIED.
For Florence’s use, Herb coins the word “malkin” for those girls whose primary goal in life is getting married; to Florence, malkins were to be avoided at all costs. In this pursuit the reader shares her experiences with dating, a summer with the Marine Corps (the attraction of the uniform), a year of graduate school at Ole Miss (which allows primary observation of the Southern belle), and her first love affair (with a woman).
At Ole Miss, she earns money from a true confessions magazine for stories based on the melodramatic ones she remembers from childhood, and thus a writing career is born. King’s book is highly entertaining for its view of Southern women (the conversation is sometimes reminiscent of the cartoon character, Foghorn Leghorn), its portrait of an unusual family, and the development of a unique woman.