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

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In Defense of Charleston

I was one of those people this website made fun of for loving Charleston.

I’m a native of Mount Pleasant, but I’m not going to respond with personal attacks or vulgarities. I just want you to know that after 21 years of living in the same place, I’ve never been bored. All of the groups, places and activities I plan on mentioning I’ve experienced personally; moreover, this is not an exhaustive list. I am absolutely not an expert on Charleston, I’ve just lived here for a while and I hate that people might be missing out on what our city has to offer.

I get the whitewashed feeling, I really do, but I also don’t bemoan the commonalities and judge the people around me for how they choose to dress. I won’t get in to the how that attitude is substantially more damaging than someone choosing a buy a popular brand of t-shirt, because that’s another post I don’t have time for right now. Instead, I would very much like to assert that you could not possibly long for diversity if you can’t find it in Charleston.

Let’s open our eyes together.

WoSe Charleston

Photo courtesy of Ahren Ciotti

There is a very involved African-American community that celebrates their culture and shares it with the community. Let’s start with the various African Drum and Dance Groups like WoSe, Wona Womalan, Djole, and Adande. I absolutely recommend to you, and anyone else who hasn’t seen a performance, to glance at these websites and find one of many events you could go see; they are rather beautiful. There’s also the yearly Moja Arts Festival, which celebrates African-American and Caribbean arts and culture. There are various groups promoting and teaching Gullah Geechee culture including Gullah Geechee Group and African American Charleston, to name just two. I am personally particularly proud of this segment of the Lowcountry’s history. If you took some time and experienced it, you might be, too.

I’m incredibly confused by your inescapable boredom. I think it, too, is related to a lack of trying. There are hundreds of things other than the beach, going out on the boat, or walking the bridge that you could try (although I’ll never get tired of any of those and can’t fathom how you are). Let’s address your horror at our “two” museums. Do you mean fifty or so? Because if you hop on down to Meeting Street, on the Museum Mile there are “six museums, five nationally important historic houses, four scenic parks, a revolutionary war powder magazine, as well as numerous historic houses of worship and public buildings including the Market and City Hall, in just a singular mile of the entire city. Here are about twenty more in just Charleston county. I don’t know how being in such a historically important place can be wearisome, but you could try some of the many, many art galleries all along Broad, Meeting, and King, the Gibbes Museum of Art on Meeting, or the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston. I don’t mean to brag, but Charleston native and internationally-known graphic designer Shephard Fairey of Obey Giant not only had an incredible exhibit at the Halsey, but also marked up the city with his murals (on top of the Francis Marion hotel, splashed across the side of College Lodge Residence Hall at the College, on a pillar of the old Cooper River Bridge, etc.).

If you’re tired of looking at beautiful things, listen. Attempt to enjoy Charleston’s brilliant music scene. You can try the bigger venues like Charleston Music Hall, the Music Farm, The North Charleston Performing Arts Center, and Family Circle Stadium for big ticket events, or pay a couple dollars to listen to some locals and smaller sets jam at places like Kudu Coffee and Craft Beer, King Dusko, The Pour House, The Royal American or my personal favorite, Awendaw Green.

awendaw green charleston

Go to their Wednesday night Barn Jam for a really cool scene, good music, and yummy food. Finally, if you’re still not satisfied, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Jazz Artists of Charleston put on some incredible shows.

Bottom line: we don’t live in a vacuum devoid of culture.

I realize that you could possibly still be completely bored. It sounds like you’re into the outdoors so do a little research into the Francis Marion National Forest. You can bike, camp, fish, hike, and horseback ride to your heart’s content. Look, I found the woods for you.

coastal climbing charleston

The Wall at Coastal Climbing

I took the liberty of finding several more things you could possibly do in this miserable place:
• As one of the biggest arts celebrations in the world, the Spoleto Festival is a must. Simultaneously, Piccolo Spoleto showcases more local artists, too. If you can’t find something that interests you in these two festivals, then I may not be able to help you.
• Just go a couple miles in various directions, hit water, and go kayaking or paddle-boarding. Rent equipment here: Half Moon OutfittersCharleston Outdoor Adventures, or even more
• You could go bouldering or climbing, even on a peninsula a foot below sea level. If you can stomach driving to one of the islands you care so little about, James Island has a great climbing wall, too.
• There are some incredible lectures at the College of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the Citadel that are open to the public. My favorite is the TEDx event.
• Sports fan? Try any of these: A Charleston Riverdogs baseball game, a Charleston Battery soccer game, a Stingrays hockey game, and The College of Charleston or The Citadel baseball, basketball, etc..
• The South Carolina Aquarium has otters. Really cute otters.
• Try the Sewee Center and see some really rare Red Wolves.
• Want to laugh so much it hurts? Try Theatre 99. It literally says, “Where boredom goes to die” on it’s home page, so you must not have been there yet. Improv night is my absolute favorite.
• The South Eastern Wildlife Expo is always cool.
Charleston Fashion Week always makes you feel especially chic.
• Visit a distillery, one of Charleston’s growing industries. These are just two of many local breweries: Westbrook Brewing and Palmetto Brewery.
Next, it is misinformed to claim that we have no corporations in Charleston. Look up Boeing, Kapstone Paper Kraft, Blackbaud, and BenefitFocus, among many. Speaking to the last two, Charleston is rapidly developing a reputation for high-quality computer science and digital marketing companies.

I cannot speak to your distaste for our food because I honestly cannot comprehend it. My favorite “ethnic” restaurants that you think are missing are Co Banh Mi Noodles Bar (Vietnamese, on King St.), Leyla (Lebanese, on King St.), Pane e Vino (incredible Italian food, on Warren St.), and O-ku (Japanese, on King St.). There’s also an ethnic grocery in Mt. Pleasant, Venta De, if you can’t handle driving to North Charleston.

Finally, I can’t help you find a date. That’s an intensely personal journey that Charleston is not responsible for. I do think, though, that if you try some of the activities and places I’ve mentioned, you’ll meet some really cool people.

I hate that you’ve had such a miserable time in a place I love so much.

I also hate that you had to receive so many awful comments on your original piece. I do have to acknowledge that there are awful people here and online, but they’re in Atlanta and every other city in the world, too. Surround yourself with people that build you up and please, in the future, don’t try and tear an entire group of people down. We don’t like getting judged. If you want diversity, find it in the people around you instead of lumping them into stereotyped groups. I hope you can find something in here that can improve your time in Chucktown before you move—and maybe even change your mind.

Rebecca Sydow

Rebecca Sydow is a third year psych and history student at The College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, who loves her hometown more than she thought. You can catch her playing with her cat, eating yummy food, or exploring the Palmetto State from the Atlantic to the Appalachians. Ask her to name all 46 counties in the state of South Carolina (in song form).

Letter From The Editor to All of Charleston

Dear residents & lovers of Charleston:

We here at aim to be a voice of the South, a place where your opinions can be heard. In 2010, Pretty Southern entered the blogosphere and social media. I, Lauren Morgan Patrick – with the help of my husband, friends, and fellow writers – launched this website as a home to tell stories, your stories, about the South. Being Southerners, born and raised in the South, hearing Southerners share their stories and love of this land is essential to our existence.

Before March 18, 2015, our most popular post Words Only Southerners Say helped us to reach more than 100,000 people every year who want to relish in those glorious Southern phrases distinctly our own. In the past 24 hours, we’ve heard from more than 43,000 Southerners who all have opinions they wanted to share about the city of Charleston.

A dear friend of Pretty Southern, whom most of y’all know by now, lived in Charleston for the past six months and decided that this city, your city, is not for her. After hearing her sentiments, I asked her if she would be willing to share her thoughts on Pretty Southern. It wasn’t about click bait, or yellow journalism; this was an opportunity for her to tell her story. We’ve all had different experiences unique to our own paths in life. Her experience in Charleston was her own.

Our Pretty Southern blogger had the gumption to share her thoughts, then was vilified for them.

No Trespassing Charleston

My husband snapped this pic on a trip to Charleston. It’s so true.

As a woman, especially a Southern girl who was raised on “yes ma’am”, “yes sir”, “please”, and “thank you”, I was appalled at some of the comments posted to this blog. From the 43,000+ hits and 400 comments – which have all now been taken down – I think I read every swear word in the English language. There were F-bombs. There was the n-word. The trolls crawled out from the depths of the internet to sling some of the most profane, misogynistic, and violent insults I’ve ever read. And these folks claimed to be Southerners.

We Southerners are supposed to take pride in our manners. Thomas Jefferson, a Virginian and Southerner, espoused the right to have an opinion, then the right to disagree with it. What disappointed me the most was the lack of respect shown by all parties. We could have done better, and y’all – the collective, commenting masses – could have done better too.

To protect the institution of Pretty Southern, albeit a “puny blog” as someone called it, I took down that editorial. Pretty Southern is my labor of love, my digital home. I invited a guest into my home to share her opinion with our Southern readers and things got completely out of control.

Tomorrow morning, Friday, March 20, at 8:10 a.m. EST, I will be live on air with Charleston’s The Mix 96 FM. Please submit your questions you would like for me to address in the comments section below.

If you have an interest in contributing to Pretty Southern, we would love to have you. We reserve the right to edit your material, but this is a place for y’all to be heard to. As a disclaimer, no other media outlet was responsible for taking down this post. It was in response to the uncontrollable rascals sharing their rather violent two-cents.

Thanks for reading, and (seriously) bless your heart.

July 4th outfit
Lauren Morgan Patrick is the editor of Pretty, a native Southerner, UGA graduate, and Georgia Bulldogs fan. Y’all can find her writing, wining, and dining in Atlanta. Keep up with her & Pretty Southern on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Why I’m Not Watching Southern Charm

Southern Charm Meme

Southern Charm? More like Southern chump.

For some god forsaken reason, Bravo has brought back Southern Charm for Season 2. The first time I saw the promos splayed across social media for the show’s launch back in 2014, I was disappointed.

Here we go again. Yet another portrayal of Southerners doing supposedly Southern things in the lovely landscape of the South.”

But none of it is authentic. There’s nothing particularly Southern or charming about Southern Charm. Just like the shows kindred spirits at The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Party Down South, the scripted drama that these characters act out is more narcissism than an ode to the South.

tastes like drunk

“It tastes like drunk”. Real classy, y’all.

The audience sees them prancing around in seersucker suits and pretty dresses, sipping juleps that “taste like drunk” tossing out “y’alls” like it’s their job (because it is).

As Southerners, we need to collectively say no to the further perpetuation of these stereotypes by refusing to tune in to these shows. I’ve never watched an episode of Southern Charm, Real Housewives, or any other reality show and don’t intend to. My time in the South is too precious to worry about somebody else’s baby daddy drama or some chick who claims she’s a Southern Belle but sports fishnets, Louboutins, and jets around on her older boyfriend’s plane.

I’m all for the idea of a modern, Southern woman…that’s just not my definition.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the “gentlemen” of Southern Charm. For any guy out there who claims to be a gentleman but then can’t handle his liquor, here’s a little lesson for y’all courtesy of Gone With the Wind:

A lack of the niceties of classical education carried no shame, provided a man was smart in the things that mattered. And raising good cotton, riding well, shooting straight, dancing lightly, squiring the ladies with elegance and carrying one’s liquor like a gentleman were the things that mattered.”

It’s the last two items in this sentence I think would do well to serve the rather knavish male characters on Southern Charm. From what I’ve seen in the promos, there is no refinement or elegance. The drunken brawls demonstrate the incapability to carry one’s liquor like a gentleman.

I implore anyone who calls him or herself a Southerner not to watch Southern Charm. Please y’all. I’m begging you. Instead of spending 30 minutes watching this show, you could read multiple chapters of Gone With the Wind for free here. I promise y’all, the characters in Margaret Mitchell’s fiction have a lot more to offer, and an award-winning story, than anything else on TV.

Recently I was contacted by a reality television development company considering a “Buckhead Betty” show. They found Pretty Southern and wanted to pick our brain about the Buckhead Betty. In my 15 minute conversation, I advised that no respected woman from Atlanta, who actually could be considered a Buckhead Betty, would deign to appear on a reality television show. It’s the same reason why real debutantes, Southern women who had a proper debut, don’t do media appearances about being a deb.

We have much more important things to concern ourselves with when it comes to our own party down South.

July 4th outfit
Lauren Morgan Patrick is the editor of Pretty, a native Southerner, UGA graduate, and Georgia Bulldogs fan. Y’all can find her writing, wining, and dining in Atlanta. Keep up with her & Pretty Southern on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


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.