Charleston, I love you. You’re beautiful. I loved walking down your cobble streets, exploring the tombstones of Unitarian Church Graveyard, and photographing your iconic homes. I loved your food and your coffee shops. I even loved Upper King Street at the drunken hour as frat boys left one of the several CBD shops (or were they bars? I couldn’t tell.).
But this Northerner thinks your ladies need a little adjusting. Before the inevitably offended speak up, hear me out. I think some things need to be said without reservation.
I’m a born and raised New Yorker, I didn’t move here from the mid-west, or Florida, and as such I was taught two very important pieces of life information to get by: learn when to have your bitch face on and learn when to take it off. Bitch face goes on as a way to avoid being taken advantage of, because in this city it’s inevitable someone will try. It comes off at all other times. It’s simply survival. Some of us may have RBF (resting bitch face) but it’s just an unfortunate side effect. Otherwise, I’m a pretty open, friendly person.
Charleston women, conversely, seem to live by the Golden Rule of ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all’ and that’s why they’re always smiling.
After spending a week alone in Charleston, the Queen City of Southern Hospitality, I quickly learned that when it comes to the women of the area southern charm is only skin deep. I’ll be the first to admit that everywhere I went I felt welcomed. Or maybe it was my tourism money, ‘Yankee walking this way!’ I’m a dead ringer. In a city that greets nearly 7 million visitors annually they have the pretty smile and warm small talk mastered perfectly. But any attempt at an actual connection, female to female, and I might as well have the Scarlett letter on my forehead.
Back home female empowerment is sweeping the area. If I compliment someones outfit in person, or comment on an Instagram photo, suddenly I laid the groundwork for a potential blossoming friendship. Numbers are exchanged, I’ll get bombarded with dozens of supportive ‘likes’ on IG, and the friendship dating game begins. It seems the female population is constantly striving for something in common and a new way to network. However, Charleston women just don’t care. I wasn’t one of them and they made sure I knew it.
In a city that only removed the Confederate Flag in 2015 and still holds a statewide ban of off-premise hard liquor sales on Sunday, I guess it’s no surprise that all of the Charleston women I interacted with were reluctant to further any sort of camaraderie with me. They were married and culturally discouraged from chasing substantial careers. Then I show up, an unmarried Yankee, traveling alone, writing a book.
The cultural difference is palpable and very real. Yet, what got to me wasn’t the lack of interest but rather the backhanded way they’d go about it.
I had numerous conversations with women I actually grew fond of, whether it be for their fashion, lifestyle, or other, and wanted to stay in touch for the next time I visited. Keeping contacts in other destinations is in my nature, I genuinely enjoy a global network of personalities and foster those friendships. And yet when the time came to actually follow through on potential plans, or exchange numbers, the opportunity was intentionally lost.
If I’m disinterested in something, or someone, I don’t pussyfoot around it, I walk away, there are better ways to spend my energy. Southern girls are the opposite.
It’s not that I was rejected but rather blatantly disregarded from the get-go, without my knowledge.
I’m actually shocked I didn’t hear the words ‘bless your heart’ once during my trip (FYI, as I learned from a gentleman in town, ‘Bless your heart’ is a euphemism for ‘Go fcuk yourself’).
So, Charleston ladies, if you’re reading this, try and be a little more open minded to strangers. Or, tell us to get lost. Either way, it’s fine. But what I don’t appreciate is the fake sense of kindness that seems to penetrate the cities culture and is masked in pastels. Insincerity doesn’t suit you.
2 thoughts on “A Northerners Advice To Charleston Women”
Such an honest and accurate observation! I was raised in the south and canattest that
“Southern Charm” often is blanketed towards southerners too readily. Gossiping is rampant especially amongst the “religious” folks. The hypocrisy is often a cover up for deeper insecurities and inherited ignorance of growing up in a culture that’s historically built on exclusion and segregation rather than the northern legacy of cultural diversity and international sophistication. I left behind the passive-aggressive back porch ways and found my voice and zest for honesty and directness as a New Yorker along with social network of friends that socialized as much as they worked.
Also wouldn’t discount that you may have unintentionally triggered some feelings of inadequacy in even the most secure southern charmers..;)
Let’s hope the modern southerners grow from their past generations.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, lived in LA, SF, NYC (for many years as a TV producer) and now Atlanta – and I’ve traveled all over the world and experienced many, many different cultures (just so you know I didn’t get my life experience sitting on the couch with a remote in my hand or hunched over my laptop googling far away destinations). Yes, the women in the south are different from women in the northeast – thank goodness they are – because cultural diversity should be encouraged, so we all don’t end up like a bunch of Big Macs (meaning, the same everywhere). So my advice to you (an educated female writer who should have empathy for cultural diversity), if you don’t like the character or personality of a group of people – just don’t go back there. And by the way, I think I speak for all the women of the south – bless that tiny little heart of yours!