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What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

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Good Manners Never Go Out of Style

courtesy quoteWhen Southern babies are born, one thing is immediately instilled in them: good manners. “Please” and “thank you” are taught right after “ma-ma” and “da-da.” Leave off a “ma’am” or a “sir” after a “yes” or “no” just once, and it will be the last time you ever do. Southern charm starts with a smile and a wave, whether you know the person or not. It’s just what we do.

My boyfriend Kevin is a born and bred New Jerseyan (we met in college at Virginia Tech). Sometimes his bold Jerseyness comes out quite predominantly, and still takes me by surprise, even after knowing him for almost four years. But bless him, he’s slowly adapting to the Southern ways of life.

Back in November, he visited me in North Carolina from Blacksburg for a weekend. We made a quick trip to Harris Teeter one afternoon to pick up a few items for dinner that night. When we’d paid, the lady at the register told us to have a nice day, and Kevin responded with, “Thank you ma’am, you, too.” When we were outside, Kevin said, “Man, it feels so good to be in a place where I can say things like that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled. “Why can’t you say that anywhere else?” He chuckled.

“If I said something like that at home in Jersey, people would tell me to go to hell, probably with a certain hand gesture.”

Umm…what? I was genuinely confused. Was he joking? The thought of someone being unfriendly about a polite “thank you, ma’am” did not compute in my head. Who spit in their grits? Apparently some people can’t be bothered to say something nice, or even smile, when someone greets them. Were manners not part of their raising? Is “ma’am” or “sir” offensive? Maybe they think “ma’am” makes them sound old, and that offends them.

I really hope he was joking.

My freshman year of college, my boyfriend at that time was visiting my family in Pennsylvania from his small hometown in central Virginia. As we pulled out of my driveway one morning, we passed a neighbor out for his morning run. Boyfriend waved and smiled out of politeness, but when the neighbor didn’t return the gesture, he seemed upset, even offended.

“He didn’t wave back,” he huffed. “That was rude.” I didn’t disagree.

I’ve never understood why good manners—and general politeness—aren’t common everywhere. It’s not hard to smile or say “please” and “thank you,” and it makes a world of difference. A biting response—or no response at all—can dull someone’s sparkle just as much as a smile and, “hey there, sugar,” can brighten it.

Good manners transcend geographical boundaries, and they will never go out of style.

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, a Virginia Tech alumna, and a current graduate student at Elon University in North Carolina. She’s working toward her MA in Interactive Media, and afterwards hopes to further her career as a kick-ass writer.

Originally from Atlanta, Kate enjoys exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina, especially its wide offerings of wineries. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.


How to Survive Winter: a Guide from a Southerner Trapped in the North


If there’s one thing (most) Southerners are terrified of, it’s winter. Three months of cold temperatures, bitter winds and questionable weather forecasts is no one’s idea of a good time.  Gray and brown take over, as most flowers, plants and other vegetation have died or gone into their “hibernation.” Sometimes the sun doesn’t come out for a week; when it comes back, we’ve forgotten what it was.

And Heaven forbid it snows. What is snow, anyway?

After living in the Great White North, I’ve learned how to deal with winter and how to get through those long, gray days without losing my sanity. I’m no expert, but nine years (ugh) of experience in blizzards, subzero wind chills, icy roads and shoveling driveways has provided me with plenty of insights to share.

Here is my best advice on how to survive winter, straight from a misplaced Southerner.

Invest in a snow blower. My parents never had one for six of our years in Pennsylvania; our neighbors have one, and they graciously clear our driveway when snow strikes. But a few years ago, Mom broke down and bought one of our own. And you know what? We haven’t had a rough winter since. Omen? I’d like to think so.

Don’t buy cheap shovels. They break too easily. No one wants to hear that snap! in the middle of shoveling the driveway. It’s the worst. Shelling out for a sturdier shovel will be worth it later. Buy them early, too. The early bird gets the good shovel.

Don’t leave the house unless you absolutely have to. “I drive good in the snow,” said no Southerner ever. Cabin fever will eventually set in, and you’ll have to make a choice. For me, that choice is easy. As long as it’s cold and/or there’s snow on the ground, I’m staying inside.

Pull out all the thick, soft blankets and keep them within reach. Snow is much nicer when seen from inside, wrapped in a blanket, sipping on hot chocolate (or a Hot Toddy).

Stock up on the essentials well in advance (if possible). Sometimes icky winter weather strikes with little to no warning, and you may not have time to refill your supplies. If you do, though, bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, soup and non-food items like batteries run out fast. May Publix be ever in your favor.

Check your flashlights and charge your electronics. Put fresh batteries in your flashlights and lanterns, and make sure your cell phones, tablets, etc. are fully charged. Power outages can happen, and they aren’t always resolved quickly. Be prepared.

And most importantly, be careful. I joke about snow and driving and cabin fever, but winter weather makes for treacherous driving and travel conditions. If you feel uneasy about being on the roads, by all means, stay in.

Remember, winter is short. Come March, the grass will be much greener on the other side…literally.

* This might be more applicable to our friends in Maryland and Virginia, where snow is a little more common. 

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, a Virginia Tech alumna, and a current graduate student at Elon University in North Carolina. She’s working toward her MA in Interactive Media, and afterwards hopes to further her career as a kick-ass writer.

Originally from Atlanta, Kate enjoys exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina, especially its wide offerings of wineries. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.


Gone With the Wind…But Not the Eyebrows

Scarlett O'Hara Eyebrows

When most people think of “Gone With the Wind,” they think of Vivien Leigh’s tiny waist, “I will never go hungry again,” the curtain dress or Clark Gable’s gorgeous self. There are so many moments that have made their marks on our minds.

But when I think of “Gone With the Wind,” the first word that pops into my head is eyebrows. Yes, eyebrows.

In 2009, mere weeks into my life as a full-time journalist, I was assigned to cover the 70th anniversary celebration of the film “Gone With the Wind” on the historic Marietta Square. There would be local politicians breaking the Guinness World Record for the Virginia Reel, dressed in period clothing and taking a break from their usual suits, pearls and ties. There would be GWTW enthusiasts from all over the world, reveling in the nostalgia surrounding them. There would be a giant, 8-feet long, 6-feet tall cake made to look like Scarlett’s home, Tara, which took three people 40 hours to make using 250 pounds of fondant icing. There would be Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, sharing the history of the film and introducing some of the stars of the celebration.

Ann Rutherford Vivien Leigh and Evelyn Keyes

Ann Rutherford played an O’Hara girl along with Vivien Leigh and Evelyn Keyes

And there would be Ann Rutherford.

While the name might not be familiar to most – certainly not as familiar as Gable and Leigh – Rutherford did have a speaking role in the film. Rutherford played Carreen O’Hara, Scarlett’s sister, in the film. She also had roles in the classic film “Pride and Prejudice” and as Polly Benedict in the famous Andy Hardy films. While her role in GWTW might have been small, Rutherford knew it was her legacy.


10 Things I Will Not Miss From My 20s

Editor’s note – this article was contributed by our fabulous blogger Katy Ruth Camp.

My 20s. They were very good to me, but here are 10 things I will not miss from my 20s:

UGA at Oxford.

The ladies from UGA at Oxford – some of my best friends.

1. Not knowing how to cook. Mamacita’s cookbook is now my kitchen treasure and grows everyday with new recipes.
2. Eating Ramen noodles and PB&J sandwiches far more often than the FDA should allow. See number one.
3. Worrying so much about what people think of me and if they like me. I strive to be happy, friendly and positive. I like to be around people who strive to be happy, friendly and positive. If you don’t like me, so be it. Not my problem.
4. Cramming everything I own into 700 square feet of living space and thinking it’s a good idea to cram 20 more people into said 700 square feet for a party.

5. Taking shots out of paper medicine cups. No, sir. You can put that in a glass.

southern girl tube top

Good God! I found a tube/halter top pic!

6. Extreme indecisiveness and constantly second-guessing myself. I am now much closer to knowing who I am and what I want.
7. Tube tops, bootleg jeans and heeled, foam flip flops. Especially together. Just, no.
8. Staying out until 2 a.m. on a work night with friends then getting to work at 8 a.m. the next morning. If one of those is happening, the other definitely is not.
9. Making volunteerism a significant part of my life and becoming less selfish with my time. Still working on that one, but being involved in the community and working for a nonprofit has really helped me to come a long way.
10. Thinking 30 could be considered “old.” I’m not old. If Jennifer Lopez can look that good at 45, then I’m just getting started!
Katy Ruth CampKaty Ruth Camp, Pretty Southern’s college football contributor, was born with football in her blood. The daughter of a longtime high school football coach and UGA football letterman, Katy Ruth was raised in a football home in the small town of Cartersville, Georgia. Katy Ruth graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in journalism and literature and, during that time, she worked as a writer and media assistant for the UGA Athletic Association. After college, she hosted a high school football show for three seasons and won first place from the Georgia Sports Writers Association for football reporting. She has also won state and national awards for business and feature writing. She continues to write on a freelance basis but is also the director of development for The Georgia Ballet and the owner and artist of little crow handmade jewelry. Read more on Pigskin Peaches blog, like them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and check back weekly on