Sugar & Spice

The Sweet Girls pretend to be bad and try to be good, but Houston's newest social club fails at both

Whether or not Mary's connections got them the show, the Sweet Girls say that she was a little proprietary about the work that went up in her gallery. This put her on a collision course with Lisa. A conflict over the construction of the clubhouse degenerated into an argument about whose art degree was better (Lisa went to the University of Houston, and Mary graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute). Lisa finally pulled rank. "I'm the captain," she told Mary. "We're doing it this way." Both girls ended up shouting that they never wanted to work with the other again.

Now, Lisa criticizes nearly everything about Mary, from her taste in techno music to her valley girl accent to her intelligence. She says that Mary is manipulative and power-hungry, that she claimed to speak for the gallery owner when she didn't like the way things were going. "I can't be around that attitude," says Lisa, "mostly because I can't defend myself from it. I'm not good at fighting and yelling back." She plans to send Mary a letter, kicking her out of the club.

Mary doesn't need a letter to know that she is no longer a Sweet Girl. She trembles a little when asked about the falling-out, and says it's hard to lose a friend. She says she had hoped the Sweet Girls would be more collaborative than hierarchical. But in perhaps the sweetest move of all, she declines to criticize Lisa or the organization.

Sweet Lisa plays the proper hostess at the Girls' art opening.
Deron Neblett
Sweet Lisa plays the proper hostess at the Girls' art opening.

There aren't many Sweet Girls left now. Mary has been ousted, Holly has gone off to medical school, and Liz is about to move to California. But Lisa attempts to regroup at a recent club meeting at her apartment. Over white wine and mushroom pâté, the remaining few discuss reaction to the Lawing show and their plans for the future. Specifically, they are complaining about a review of the show written by Bill Davenport for the on-line arts magazine They are upset because Davenport called their ideas trite in the context of protest art. (Actually, Davenport wrote that the Sweet Girls' show wasn't really trying to be protest art, but this fact seems lost on the Girls.)

"I really think he's talked to Mary," says Lisa. "She's the only one who really talks about feminism."

"Protest against what?" Meredith asks incredulously. "Against sweetness?"

"The only thing we protest against is mediocrity and banality," assures Lisa.

Liz mentions that a woman she knows has likened the Sweet Girls to the Guerrilla Girls, a gorilla-masked collective of women artists who call attention to the male domination of Hollywood, Broadway, galleries and museums. But a caustic Michelle dismisses the comparison: "Who is she trying to be?"

The Sweet Girls realize that their ill-defined image is causing them problems, especially with recruitment. Women want to know what they're getting involved in. To that end, the Girls plan to express who they are through more events. It's time, Lisa says, to show their commitment to service and charity. They'll try to raise more money for Aurora Picture Show. But how?

Ideas are floated: How about a car wash? A craft or bake sale? A church carnival? An ice cream social? A male beauty pageant? But there is another problem. Any traditional sorority could put on any of these events. How can the Sweet Girls be different? How can they add a "twist"? The car wash could be of the wet T-shirt variety. The ice cream social could be advertised as "topless," with the girls wearing fake boob suits. The male beauty pageant could call on their talented arts and music friends. The bake sale could be… "Titty cupcakes!" Meredith finally shouts. That's it. Lisa loves the idea, and the Sweet Girls are off and running again.

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