A collection of essays that are "like being seated beside the most entertaining guest at a dinner party" (Atlanta Journal Constitution), from the New York Times bestselling author of American Housewives
“Thank you Helen Ellis for writing down the Southern Lady Code so that others may learn.” —Ann Patchett
Helen Ellis has a mantra: “If you don't have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way.” Say “weathered” instead of “she looks like a cake left out in the rain” and “I’m not in charge” instead of “they’re doing it wrong.”
In these twenty-three raucous essays, Ellis transforms herself into a dominatrix Donna Reed to save her marriage, inadvertently steals a Burberry trench coat, avoids a neck lift, and finds a black-tie gown that gives her the confidence of a drag queen. While she may have left Alabama for New York City, Helen Ellis is clinging to her Southern accent like mayonnaise to white bread, and offering readers a hilarious, completely singular view on womanhood for both sides of the Mason-Dixon.
A vibrant storyteller with a penchant for the perverse, Ellis pivots from short stories (American Housewife) to nonfiction in this ribald collection of essays on manners, morals, and marriage, all colored by her off-kilter Alabama upbringing. From Marie Kondo's tidying-up magic to Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers and being a teenager in the 1980s, Ellis's sharp eye for pop-culture preoccupations inspires smart-mouthed provocations. She humorously describes her 23-year-old self in Manhattan on her way to a date "with a panty liner stuck to my back. Yes, it was used," and discusses happy couples and three-ways; the difference between gay men and Southern Effeminate men who "wear seersucker and bow ties... collect salt shakers and cookie jars"; and being a good airline passenger ("I wipe down the seat like I'm giving it a tetanus shot"). Ellis shares her mother's etiquette advice for handling street crime ("Always carry money for a mugger three one-dollar bills wrapped in a five... then throw the money and run screaming Officer down!"), and tells of her father staging pretend gun violence to liven up a birthday party. Ellis is a strong, vivid writer and this book is gut-busting funny.
Trying too hard
I read a review where the reader said it made her laugh out loud. I did not laugh once. The writing is contrived, each piece ends with a ‘feel good’ line that made me roll my eyes.
No depth to her humor, basic at its finest.