Thursday, October 19, 2006

Moral Dilemma

I'm having a dilemma right now, and I've got to make a decision before Simons comes home. His parents are members of this group, which is this really old fashioned society type thing that has a gigantic shmancy ball every January. However, it only allows members if they are white, protestant, probably rich, and date their geneology back to Charleston in Noah or something. So I'm fundamentally opposed to it, since my family was in Charleston in 1792, but were all Jewish and weren't allowed. Now that I'm married into it, they want me to be the freaking belle of the ball, where I get to wear my wedding dress and eat dinner or waltz with the president. So do I tell them to fuck off or do I leap at the chance to wear my wedding dress one last time? See, I'm very shallow. Actually, Simons' dad offered to fly us home for it, and I am DYING to see my two nieces again. Dying, I tell you. Are nieces worth dropping my principles? And maybe it would be fun, albeit elitist? Or would my soul wither and blacken (like my heritage)?

Sigh.

22 comments:

Lissa said...

That is a hard decision and I'm only going to give you my opinion which lets face it isn't worth all that much.

The point is do they still only allow members that fit that criteria, because if the answer is yes then that could be a problem. Do you think you are going to be paraded around like see we do have Jewish members! Hence you become the token Jew. I have been the token Mexican (and while that is race this is religion you get the idea) and I felt like everyone was staring at me but I had fun anyway.
And you are right it could be fun and you could get to see your family! I guess what I'm trying to say is if YOU don't have a problem with it then go and have fun.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I think you should tell them you will go but you are going to wear a RED dress. :) And then have a little tea party at a fancy place with your neices and wear your wedding dress to that.

Thespian Libby said...

Jem Darlin' - Go to Saint Cecelia and be the belle of the ball, and see your niecelets. Face it, the old white men who run that particular anacronysm are hardly going to change. There are always going to be principles on which to stand (trust me!) And just think - you can always tell the nieces what torturous events you suffered just so you could come visit them. They will adore their noble, self-sacrificing Auntie even more.

Jennifer said...

Maybe you could bring a little new, more openminded, blood the their society. At the very least, it's free airfare home... I would take it. But I'm pretty shallow and weak. Power to you if you tell them to shove it!

barbie2be said...

i'm going to try this comment again because blogger ate it the last three times i tried.

i heartily agree with thespian libby. go. wear your gorgeous wedding dress. make your in-laws happy. visit your adorable nieces. and have fun.

there will be many other things to take a stand on in your lifetime.

Anonymous said...

If you think the organization is elite and rich, think again. The organization passes membership from father to son, and has done so virtually from the beginning. I cannot argue over the wealth of the founders, but if you think everyone that is a member is rich, and elitist, you are badly misinformed. Like so many other things in Charleston, this is impossible for people to understand.....family and ancestors are important, not cash or social standing. You cannot join this club unless your father was/is a member. That's it...no other qualification. It is a beautiful organization in that it honors tradition and manners; in its operation it expresses a formality sadly missing in our culture today. If you don't appreciate the organization for those reasons, then don't go to the Ball. Their acceptance of you, as the bride of a member, is unconditional, regardless of your family, wealth, "eliteness", or not.

I hope I see you there.....I'll be the one in tails.

Thespian Libby said...

I'm sorry. Not elitist? In only allowing WASP men to be members? And only then if their father is/was a member? Silly me. I totally misunderstood the definition of elitist.
And you are absolutely right, Anonymous, tradition is such a glorious thing. Slavery (in all nations, not just the American South) was a tradition. Why that very tradition made Charleston one of the wealthiest cities in the country just before the Revolution! What a shame to let that one go. Think how much money could be saved if the St. Cecelia membership didn't actually have to pay people to clean up after the party. The Chinese tradition of binding the feet of girl children was so clever! Why do you suppose they ever gave that one up? So many many traditions.....younger sisters not being allowed to marry before older sisters.....parents only bequeathing property to sons......parents only educating....sons..... Oh law - let's not forget the tradition of wearing a corset and hoopskirt - so ladylike! And where are those traditions now, I ask you? Poof. Gone with the wind, if you will. Quelle damage.......
I truly do apologize again, Anonymous, on behalf of the silly little women of Charleston for accusing a society which only allows membership to the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant sons of member white Anglo-Saxon Protestant fathers of being elitist. You're right. How could we possibly understand?

charlie said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with elitism.

Saphyre Rose said...

Check Anonymous's post, it passes from FATHER to SON, I guess the daughters aren't good enough for the membership to pass to, I suppose.
I live here in Charleston adn have read your blog through the lowcountry bloggers. I am a Wiccan in this community of Baptist's. See my blog for a really open minded sign from West Ashley.
I say go and wear the most tasteful dress and make their head turn, just make sure you wear an obvious Star of David necklace.
I wear my Pentagram all of the time, you got to love some of the reactions.
Go and show them how shallow their whole way is.

Anonymous said...

Thespian...a predictable slap down of things Southern. When in doubt, cry bigotry. Since you do not understand, you cannot accept. Since your perceptions form your values, your values run the risk of seeming emotionally and culturally derived. The organization honors the formalized manners of a by-gone era. Your loss. As for your recitation of history, methinks you must have taken some sort of "Feminism in the late 1830s" history course where your professor, examining the past through the lens of her post-modern, secular progressive morality, must have taught you that life for the fairer sex was an unbearable succession of male imposed dominance. I look forward to NOT seeing you there.......

Thespian Libby said...

Anon. I do understand. And I am Southern. And I bow my head in shame for calling St. Cecelia "elitist". Horrid error on my part. I should have said "exclusionary". As for your closing wish, it's too late. You've already seen me there.

Thespian Libby said...

And Charlie - I agree. There's nothing wrong with elitism. What I should have said was if something is elitist, don't say that it isn't, and not all traditions are necessarily good ones.

Anonymous said...

Thes...then we can add hypocrite to the mix. But no matter, we can further discuss matters next Jan....but how will we know each other? I am male, white, older, not rich, certainly not elitist in appearance or bearing, and a lousy waltzer. Since I am do not know you or Jemima, it is also unlikely that we will share a dance. I will know her if she is the Belle, so perhaps she can point you out.

Corky said...

This is from Wikipedia:
The St. Cecilia Society was founded in Charles Towne, South Carolina as a music society. Today the St. Cecilia is an annual ball in Charleston, South Carolina where debutantes are presented to society. There has been a St. Cecilia Ball in the city of Charleston every year since 1821.

Only the first families of Charleston—those with deep-rooted connections that stretch back to the city’s founding—are invited. The Society that administers it is overseen by a 16-member Board of Managers who are all male. According to tradition, no one who is divorced can be invited. Membership rules today also don’t deviate from the standard set down in the 19th century; no one from a Jewish or African American family can belong, and women are subject to special regulations. Ladies from out of town may attend if invited, provided they meet family requirements.

Marcheline said...

I wouldn't go if I were you, Jem.

But I'm an extremely stubborn girl who hates elitist, chauvenistic, racist, religiously prejudiced groups who doll themselves up as "historical".

- M

Anonymous said...

Jemima, my dear, where is this Jewish heritage coming from?? As far as I know,your family is of Huguenot descent. Are you referring to the mass exodus of Jews from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition? If so, they mostly fled to France and became "francophiles" and that was in the late 1400's...hardly counts when you look at World War II and the concentration camps.I don't think you have a moral dilemma, I think you have a big case of confusion from being in California. Since when does a person turn on their family and traditions??

Anonymous said...

I happen to be a romantic when it comes to history. I've had dreams of having a "coming out" at the St. Cecilia since I was a little girl. But, alas(sigh) I'm a YANKEE and a CATHOLIC! To tell the truth I don't know what I'd Do! I am now a married woman of 35, and damn proud of my Polish/Catholic heritage! But I love my husband with all my heart, and I would sit down and talk with him and my parents. A family decison is called for in delemas of the heart

Anonymous said...

Jemima, I hate to be the one to inform you but someone with your anger, vulgarity, and lack of charity to those who are different could never be the belle of the ball. I really don't think you could possibly have a lovely evening. I am equally convinced that you would make those around you, especially your husband, have a perfectly miserable evening. Please don't stoop so low to attend an evening which will be delightful for so many and horrendous for you.

Anonymous said...

I can remember not being able to invite your parents to go with my ex-husband and me, despite the fact that they were our best friends (we never told them of the dilemma)...I myself should not have been allowed to go, since I am an actress of sorts. I wouldn't go now, just on principle.

generic cialis said...

I, of course, a newcomer to this blog, but the author does not agree

Anonymous said...

The hour is late in a city beyond the sunset at Charleston. I've stumbled on this site after cocktails. I must remain anonymous because I'm sure posting on this site will not lead to ever attending the St. Cecelia Ball. I had a platonic relationship with a woman now deceased in my city whose grandmother was a St. Cecelia debutante, and 30 years ago we discussed looking into just one evening at that lovely I'm sure event. Clouded in family history and DAR research is some reference to my being a direct decendant of Henri Patriche of South Carolina who I believe was in the legislature in the late 1700's. Henri was in and out of Charleston but may have not ever been invited to participate in the St. Cecelia, although our family has a very long musical tradition (our ancestor was orchestra director at the palace in Stockholm in the 1700's). The gentlemen's club without walls that I belong to way over here west is over 100 years old and preserves the traditions of the gentle folk of this area, including presenting Debutantes. We allow divorced women to attend and occasionally elect a married new male member.

There is probably no record of all of Henri's social connections. No Phi Delt pen lying around. I have no way of knowing if Henri kept his dues current, although it is a family tradition that while more gentile than wealthy (we don't use the word rich), we always have money in the bank. I will leave further comments for another rainy night west of Charleston. I'll only say that I've only heard nice things about the St. Cecilia Club. We have some nice friends in Charleston, but they are newcomers and we've never mentioned the St. Cecilia Club to them. I don't believe in snobbery but I think tradition and good manners are just fine. I wonder what the St. Cecilia Club thinks of Pat Conroy and his views of Charleston. Pat (I resemble his brother) writes awesome comments about Charleston. He's still in awe of Charleston. Charleston is no more complex and dysfunctional than life itself. Here's to Charleston and the St. Cecelia Club. It's been years since I owned my southern mansion, but it still stands, with 8 columns and a balcony. Attending the St. Cecilia Ball ranks for me along with attending a black tie party on a spring night in Venice in one of those splendid sinking palaces on the main canal.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone who reads this posting is a member of the St. Cecilia group. Does Henri Patriche ever show to have been a member ? Perhaps his being in politics kept him from membership, although I believe he did have some cotton connections. Maybe that's as irrelevant as saying that 135 % of Mississippi residents seem to have grown up in The Delta. He indeed was musical, a noted connection of the St. Cecelia group. I myself can play piano by ear in the key of C, although I have also have formal piano training. My favorite songs are "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" as done in the movie "Ziegfield Follies of 1936" and "One Morning in May" from about 1921 as well as the old favorite it had to be you. I read a lot of Fitzgerald and am looking for Zelda. But I admire the better parts of the world of Edith Wharton, in the age of innocence. I'm sure the St. Cecelia group is a group of very nice people who aren't too concerned with the more unfortunate elements of southern society in 1850. I'm sure that they are for civil rights of all Americans, short of a Bolshevik type revolution.