Agnes Williams

  City of Birth:
New Orleans

Agnes's Story

My Entire Life
Life in the South (1950-2007)
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Agnes's Story > Chapters > My Entire Life

"Best Advice I Ever Received" 


Date Range: 09/28/1942 To 08/29/2007   Comments: 4   Views: 13,731
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My mother, whom everyone called Miss Betsy even though she was married, was a refined woman. She was elegant, proud, but not to the point of condescending behavior (my goodness a Southern lady prides herself on her manners after all), and a cautious woman of strong temperament.

When my father had an affair with a Orleans showgirl, she gritted her teeth and in typical southern fashion she pursed her lips and made the best of the situation. When other people found out, the smile got tighter, the teeth more clenched, but the smile itself never wavered.

I overheard them night after night angrily whispering at each other over this. Back then, no one got divorced in the South. It simply wasn't done. Every house, every family, had its secrets but they were never discussed in public, only behind cupped hands and murmurings or closed doors full of schadenfreude.

So when my father's prurient behavior borderlined on obscene - obscene in the sense that he was starting to show up around town with his lady friend on his arm il delicto, my mother did the southern belle unthinkable - she divorced my father. Or rather, she had the marriage annulled, which wasn't an easy matter for women to do back then either. She was determined, and once she had her mind set there was no persuading.

There were battles, with the church, with him, with society's general favor. Most people sided with my father - more than likely because the "don't ask don't tell" was prevalant and many men had side mistresses.

Recriminations, tears (my father's, not my mother's), pleadings, threats later, she wouldn't budge. Later I was to find that many women, while publicly taking her to task, cheered from the confines of their own loveless marriages. My mother divorced my father in the fall of 1951. My sister and I were devastated as no one had divorced parents back then. We felt like pariahs at school, but my mother just told us to ignore those who speak ill.

We moved out of our house and into a much smaller one. My parents eventually settled into a routine - my father would come over to spend time with his family and beg and plead for mother to take him back, to be a family agan. This much have been very tempting, and an easier solution, and lord knows us girls wanted them to reconcile, but she was too proud.

Eventually my sister and I grew up, got married, had our own lives. Mother married again, to a youngish widower who was very well off, and seemed to be back in her comfortable enivornment of throwing tea parties and lunches for the ladies of society.

But one day, during a particularly rough patch in my own marriage, she pulled me aside and said in her pursed lip, no nonsense way, that had she known back then how hard it was going to be to make a second marriage work - two people being older, set in their ways and habits, that she might have tried harder to make her first marriage a success. She confided that Father wasn't the only one in the wrong.

I took her advice to heart. My husband and I worked out our problems and stayed together until his passing.

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Member Since
Aug 2007
Kimberly Johnson said:
posted on Mar 31, 2008
I'll remember that

Hopefully will make the first one work ;)

Member Since
Aug 2007
Susan Janneck said:
posted on May 16, 2008
Mom's best advice

What a grand lady to admit that he wasn't the only one that might have been wrong. She gave you some very valuable advice to live by. I know I have bitten my tongue a good many times (it's a wonder I have a tongue at all any more) but I will celebrate my 39th anniversary on 9/20. He tells me all the time that if I put up with him this long, there's no reason not to keep on doing so. Glad you worked out your bumpy spot.

Member Since
Feb 2009
Maria Amoroso said:
posted on Feb 09, 2009
Work on it

I really liked the positive tone in this story. And about a marriage. There are no perfect ones. But if there are problems you can sort it out most of the times. I heard a nice illustration: If you have a house, full of memories and it is planned the way you like. Then there is a leek on the roof. Do you throw the hose away? NO - you fix the leek!
Thank you for sharing.

Member Since
Aug 2007
Agnes Williams said:
posted on Feb 15, 2009

Sometimes my good Southern manners would escape me and I plotted my secret revenge. But it never amounted to more than putting skim milk in his coffee! tee hee!