Runaway bride reacts with typical Southern belle attitude
Engaged women of the Triad, take heed: if you ever find planning your upcoming wedding to be somehow ‘just too much,’ do your family and community a favor. Please refrain from taking a bus to Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Timbuktu or anywhere else a mere half-fortnight before your big day. Guilford County taxpayers would be most appreciative.
Last week, I found myself, like many, engrossed in the story of Jennifer Wilbanks, the 32-year-old bride-to-be from Duluth, Ga., who went missing five days before her wedding date.
Now typically, I stay pretty ignorant about kidnappings, celebrity trials and other sensationalism masquerading as news. But one two-minute clip I caught on the morning news and WHAM! I was crying like a fool. Here’s the blur of facts: a bride-to-be last seen going out for a jog, her fiancÃ© clueless as to her whereabouts. Then, the obligatory press conference shot: a helpless mother weeping into the sweatshirt of her son-in-law-to-be, whose bewildered eyes belied his stoic, all-too-Southern strength.
But why was I so upset about this? After all, I see tragic happenings everywhere ‘— the environment, education, health, Palestine, Iraq, my Visa bill ‘— it’s enough to make anyone depressed for a month. The difference? These were people any of us might know: good old Georgia folks who could be neighbors, relatives, acquaintances, or at the very least, fellow Southern Living subscribers.
After watching, I quickly became convinced the girl had been abducted. All the sound-bite details added up: bridesmaid after bridesmaid attested how she’d been excited about her wedding, she’d never go off without telling anyone. And certainly her fiancÃ© could not be just another Scott Peterson ‘— this guy taught Sunday school.
All I could do was hope for the best. Obviously having viewed the Ashley Judd flick Kiss the Girls one too many times, I envisioned a triumphant escape scene from some deep woods Georgia cave where a kidnapper held her prisoner.
Needless to say, as the story shook out a few days later, Jennifer Wilbanks was not kidnapped at all, but simply needed to escape from prenuptial pressure (which was perhaps somehow related to the 600 wedding guests, 14 bridesmaids and 8 preceding bridal showers.) It was either fight or flight, and she chose the latter. However, her contrived story was met not with sympathy, but a shocked and furious uproar: How could she do this? All that heartache, energy and expense! All those volunteers and sleepless nights! How could she pull such a thing?
Well, first of all, the girl did quite accurately resemble a deer caught in the headlights in just about every photo that they released of her. Did this not indicate some kind of clue, folks?
I think it did. If you ask me, she wasn’t a victim of pre-wedding jitters or cold feet, or even temporary insanity. She has a whole different problem: Jennifer Wilbanks is quite simply, through no fault of her own, A WOMAN OF THE SOUTH.
And occasionally, as women of the South, these completely irrational and seemingly selfish shenanigans are just something we can’t help. Why? Because we’re expected to be graceful, perfect, and sweet as honey ALL THE TIME. And that gets very, very tiring and very, very stressful. And when something actually goes wrong or upsets us, we’re supposed to tuck it away under a cool glass of sweet tea. It’s the Southern way. We plan these huge weddings and act very ‘together’ about it all no matter what ‘— and consequently become incredibly frightened, insecure and desperate to escape. Perhaps to Albuquerque. It’s a curse. It’s our doom. Is there any hope?
Enter the Steel Magnolia. For her, there is always hope. The Steel Magnolia is the kind many of us know, love and probably honored this past Mother’s Day. Just like the characters in the namesake movie, the Steel Magnolia displays strength, beauty and ingenuity instead of fear, dishonesty and guilt. She handles stress of all levels with wit, courage, and most of all, friends. She is real; she doesn’t conceal. The Steel Magnolia is found in our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and friends, and it is what we strive for most in ourselves.
To become more like a Steel Magnolia is my hope for this poor woman of the South, whom I still regard with empathy and well wishes. But had she lived here in the Triad and pulled that stunt? Well now, y’all know we’d have to give that girl a good talkin’ to.