The Debutante Ball
Part I: The Invitation, The Queen City, The Protestants

As most of you all know, I attended Boston University last year. BU is full of its little quirks, one of them being that many of the students who attend BU are filthy rich.

"Say! What's wrong with being filthy rich?" All of the Republicans reading this are asking. Nothing, really. Being filthy rich is fine and dandy if you don't flaunt it. It's one thing to flaunt it if you've earned it, but it's another thing to flaunt it if daddy is paying for your bills from the Armani Emporium and Verizon wireless. These types of things were commonplace at BU, and I stayed away from people that fit the above description.

One of my friends, Lucinda, does not fit the above description. Luci does have a cell phone, but she uses it sparingly, and unlike a lot of other people at BU, Luci does not suck. In fact, Luci is rather cool. That is why I was surprised when she asked me to escort her at her debutante ball. The invitation to do so was one of the more interesting conversations I had at BU, and through the magic of The Weekly Complaint's Verbatim Dialogues™:

Lucinda: Alex, I have to ask you something.
Alex: I keep telling you, I'm not ready for kids.
L: Will you escort me at my debutante ball?
A: What the hell is that?
L: It's kind of this old-fashioned southern thing... It's supposed to represent the girl coming out into society... that sort of thing.
A: Ohhhhhhh, yeah. I know what you're talking about.
L: So, will you do it?
A: No!
L: Why not?
A: The very purpose of such an activity is to uphold a rich white aristocracy. I want no part of that.
L: Come on! It'll be fun! You'll get to spend the weekend with me. I'll pay for your tux, I'll pay for your food... Alex, think of the material!
A (pausing to think): Can I offend southern people?
L: Sure!
A: Can I write a column on it?
L: Of course!

And thus, I went down to Charlotte, material my motivation. I am a selfish bastard, aren't I?

I got off the plane, and upon greeting the lovely debutante, we went out to her car. Now, for those of you who have never been to Charlotte during the summer, I will tell you what it is like: It is somewhat akin to walking through and breathing 95-degree water. I kept, without avail, gasping for air that was somewhat less humid, only to inhale more of the sticky, hot humidity. Mmmm.

We got into Luce's car. The first thing that I noted about Charlotte was that the name of the street we were driving on was Billy Graham Parkway. And this was no podunk back of the road street. In Chicago, when we give a street an honorary name ("Siskel and Ebert Drive." I'm serious. It exists), we put it in an alley off a side street of a side street that leads to an old pig slaughterhouse that hasn't been used since the late 1890's. But Billy Graham Parkway was a major street. A four-lane street, in fact, going from the airport to a major residential part of Charlotte. All named after the famous televangelist himself, The Reverend Billy Graham. I found this hilarious. Lucinda did not find it all that much out of the ordinary.

Alex (Laughing): We're driving down Billy Graham Parkway?
Lucinda: Yeah...
A: That's hilarious!
L: Why?
A: Because he's a televangelist! And he has a major street named after him! That's funny!
L: I guess I can see the humor in it. It's just that he's lived here all his life, he writes a column for the newspaper...
A: He writes a column for the newspaper?
L: Yeah. Now that is funny. His solution to everything is the power of Jesus.

Which made me wonder, if a person wrote into Billy Graham about an etiquette problem, what would he say?

Dear The Reverend:
My husband and got married about six months ago, and received a lot of wedding presents that we really don't have any use for. Some friends of ours are getting married, and they want the exact cappuccino maker my aunt gave us, which we have never used. It is still in the box! Would it be in bad taste to give them the gift since it was given to us as a gift?

-Cheap in Charlotte

Dear Cheap:
My child, you must look to the power of Christ to answer this, a perplexing question that has plagued mankind forever. I encourage you to look to the inspiration of the words of the Holy Gospel during this time of need in your life.
Also, a blender is a tasteful, useful, economic wedding gift.

-The Rev. Billy Graham

We also passed a building with a large satellite dish on top of it. "Ah! We are passing a local tele-vision or radio-transmission facility! I shall inquire of its mono-gram, 'BBN,'" I thought to myself. I was shocked and delighted to find out that "BBN" stands for the Bible Broadcast Network. The joke just speaks too well for itself. The Bible Broadcast Network located on Billy Graham Parkway! Such Christianity! Such fundamentalism! Such stereotype fulfillment! When would the fun ever end? Not until the plane back to Chicago, I was soon to find out.