Help Wanted! or, Brother Can You Spare Some Time?

I need your help, and all it will cost you is two minutes of your time.

But before we get to that, there are a few things that I should tell you first. Right now I’m busy wrapping up my final semester of graduate school (woohoo!), which means that as the semester winds down, it’s coming time for seminar papers, final projects, and the like. This semester, in addition to my thesis hours, I’m enrolled in a course entitled American Women’s Memoir. It’s been a wonderfully provocative course, and it’s got me thinking about a number of things. Or, more specifically, it’s got me thinking about where I come from.

Okay, okay, I know it seems cliche to say that I’ve been thinking all of the usual questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? But, to be honest, sometimes the cliches are true. What this all amounts to is a confrontation between myself and my heritage. See, I was raised in the American South–South Carolina, to be more specific. Sure, I lived in different cities while I was there (Columbia, Rock Hill, Spartanburg), but on the whole I lived there for my entire life until I moved to Kansas for graduate school. Growing up, our school system gave us the usual state history, sending us on tours of the state museum and Robert E. Lee’s house the way kids in Philly probably go see the Liberty Bell. But despite my education, I never would have said that I claimed ties to my home state. I just didn’t feel a strong sense of connection, you know?

In fact, the opposite is more likely true. When I got to college, I picked up on a sense of derision that rode on the coattails of the term “Southern.” To be from the South, it seemed, meant that one was inherently bigoted, racist, and ignorant. So I tried to divorce myself from my heritage, tried to eliminate any trace of an accent and focused on expanding myself so that I could fit in with the “rest of the world.” It’s only now, as an adult, that I’ve begun to realize that there is no “rest of the world” or “rest of America.” There are just Americans.

So, in an effort to understand and reclaim my heritage and to validate the role and contributions of Southerners, I’m launching a bit of a multimedia project involving the dominant cultural perspectives on the American South, as well as finding ways to usurp and/or disprove the stereotypes. This is where you come in. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be collecting various images and/or urls for information relating to the American South. Using Pinterest.com as a form of social curation, I’ll be creating two pinboards. One that focuses on general stereotypes and/or perceptions of the South/South Carolina and one that focuses on revealing what South Carolina is–at least as I’ve experienced. When I’ve collected all of my data/research, I’ll then work on compiling it into a video that encompasses my various findings, thoughts, and arguments.

For the first phase of the project, I need to hear from all of you. If you’ve got two minutes to spare (that is, if you can sacrifice two minutes of playing/using Twitter/Angry Birds/Facebook/Zombies versus Plants), then please leave a comment on this blog post, responding to the following question:

If someone were to say the word “South” or “Southern” to you, what would immediately spring to mind?

In your post, please indicate whether you would call yourself a Southerner or not.

Thank you for your time.

–R.

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26 thoughts on “Help Wanted! or, Brother Can You Spare Some Time?

  1. Okay. I have family in the south, but I would not consider myself a southerner.When I think of the south, I think slow. But not stupid. But as in..leisure. Take your time. I think hot. I think front porch sipping lemonade and swatting flies. I think about long vowels and old-fashioned manners. I think of ladies and gentlemen. I think of the confederacy and the lost war people insist on recreating. I think of women who’d rather die than be seen without their makeup or their morals. (2 minutes. hope that helps! :).

  2. Hey Rebecca!

    I had to leave a comment here as I love your passion, and this has been a passionate subject for me too in recent years. My fiance was born and raised in NYC, where I lived with him for a short time and probably will again before much longer. Before I met him I was traveling there pretty often, and I came across a lot of well meaning but sometimes embarassing stereotypes from the people of different cultures that I would come across. Now that my fiance lives here in South Carolina, how these sterotypes are true/untrue is an every day topic for us.

    Of course the most common reason I cringe (mostly on the inside) when people introduce me as “southern” is because I immediately feel the need to recover by proving that I am not racist. That is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “southern.” People in NYC seem to think that we are still a segregated society, or at least still behave that way. Second to that is a sense of pride (southern girls with a little class are quite a cute commodity.) Southern charm is fetishised through song lyrics, magazine articles and the like, much to our advantage. Third I would say is the need to prove that we are worldly in our hobbies as much as anybody else. Through comparing NYC to SC I have come to view the way we live so close to nature as beautiful: how our activities and rhythms and experiences follow those of the earth and are for the most part not man-made or supplemented. The respect that we have for nature through our ancestry gives us a sense of peace that I think is lacking in other regions and makes my heart swell up with pride.

    To answer your question, yes I do refer to myself a Southern. Before I moved from the South I didn’t, because I considered other people who fit into a certain mold more deserving of the title. Now I see that the ties that bind us stretch much further to encompass many different mindsets, and by all of us carrying that title graciously we can open up so many doors for our future generations.

    • Hi Heather!

      Thanks for your response and for reposting this to your Facebook timeline! I know exactly what you mean about that internal cringe when you’re traveling out and about. I didn’t run into many problems the last time I was in New York, mostly because I was only there for a few days, but I find that it’s difficult everywhere–especially, at least for me, in some academic circles. And I’m definitely on the same page with you about not really feeling Southern until I left the South–same with being a feminist. Even though I had lived in SC my entire life and even though I went to a women’s college, the terms had never really crossed my mind. Now, though, I feel like they define a part of what I would consider my core self.

      R.

  3. I guess I do consider myself a southerner since I was born, raised, and still live in South Carolina. I guess I usually correlate the term *southerner* or *northerner* to things like food choices, accents, y’all versus you guys, snow savvy versus not, slower paced versus faster paced. I will let you decide which descriptor goes with with which group…

    Anyway, there is a mix between shame and proudness that goes with being called a southerner. As in all things depends on who you’re talking to and what kind of conversation it is. Overall, being called a southerner is a neutral event for me.

  4. I’ve lived in South Carolina for all of high school and college and I would consider myself, “Southern”. When I think of the word “Southern” I think of courteous, polite, and respectful individuals. Granted, some folks in the South are racist and ignorant, and I’m referring to all races and nationalities in that statement. Also I think of someone being “Southern”, an individual who does not want to have some entity governing over what they can or cannot do. Such as, gun laws, going hunting, pretty much no government control of their lives to a certain extent. I’m proud to say I’m Southern because I am not what the media depicts.

  5. In all honesty, the first thing that springs to mind is “dirty south”. Not necessarily with any meaning behind it, just the phrase itself.
    No, I don’t consider myself to be a southerner. However I do feel I share the same ol’ fashioned core values.

  6. First off let me declare that I am a southerner, would never claim to anything other than that. I have traveled all over the world and lived in many states and countries and have never found the unique combination of factors that make the south such a great place to live, work and raise a family. To be southern, at least to my generation, meant hot summers, swimming in the creeks and learning to hunt and fish as soon as we got out of diapers, we never locked our doors and we knew every person in the area and we always said yes sir and no mam and if we did not the closest adult would correct us, no matter what race or color. I grew up hearing how bad things were in the south, how raciest we were, how ignorant we were and the term Redneck was used as well as other terms indicating we were poor and dirty. Truth is that most of our parents worked long hours for little pay and were proud that they worked and no one every would consider going on welfare, and we helped our neighbors and friends out when there was a need, death in the family, we took a meal, someone sick we took a meal, someone had a baby they got a meal, many times when there was not much to eat at home there was always someone worse off. Hell I was 18 before I knew we had a race problem in the south, most of my friends were as poor as we were and we never worried about what color someone was, we y were worried about they were good people, that’s all that mattered .Sadly the south of my youth is dying, and the world is worse off for its death. Being southern means you love live, family your country (right or wrong) and your GOD. You can live and enjoy other places in the world but the south is in your blood, you may not acknowledge it now but as you see the rest of the world you will know what I am talking about.

    • Thanks, Dad. Though we may not always agree on things, the more I travel and talk with other people, the more I realize how proud I am of my heritage and the people who raised me. To me, being Southern encompasses much of what you’ve already said–love, compassion, taking care of others, being honest, being respectful, working hard, using good manners. There are very few, if any, days that pass when I don’t think about how thankful I am for my upbringing and the opportunities that I’ve been given. I’m hoping to use this project to demonstrate that while there may be “bad people” in the South (like there are everywhere), there are just as many, if not more, good ones and that the South is a wonderfully complex, culturally rich region that hosts just as much diversity as the rest of our country. Thanks for the comment!

  7. I am a Southerner and wouldn’t have any other way! For me “southern” is caring and hospitable, not simply entertaining type hospitality, but caring and compassion. From making eye contact and nodding to a stranger to a offering a sympathetic, caring expression to the stressed parent with a misbehaving child in the store to taking a casserole to someone who had a death in their family; to me this is a big part of who we are and how children were raised (and still should be). To me manners were and are important. I am proud that my daughter is raising her children with many of the core values that were also instilled in me. From respect, family, church and the good old USA, this is my south.

  8. I felt really tempted to read the comments before posting, but I decided I would just go for it. I have a major, I mean huge, love/hate relationship with where I’m from. I don’t consider Texas the South (lack of sweet tea being reason #1). Getting out of SC has given me a lot of space to think about what my relationship really is to The South in general.

    In a broad sense, I am very grateful that my dad ultimately did not become a marine biologist and move to California or New Jersey. Looking back now, I love that I grew up in the South. But a loathing for the South Carolina I recognize when I return home occupies pretty much the same space in my heart and mind as my love for growing up there.

    Thinking back on my childhood, I remember mild winters (my favorite) and going barefoot an awful lot throughout the year. I also got a deeply embedded sense that my raising was different from others around the country. Church was a given, as was sweet tea in every restaurant, Chineses, Mexican, or country cookin’. Perhaps there are equivalents in other cultures, but these were important to me as a child. They have certainly shaped my vocation and my likes and dislikes as an adult, and I like who I am (for the most part.) I grew up grateful for easy access to nature. I relished the ability to travel from the mountains to the ocean in an afternoon. I have a love of small towns with two hundred year old cemeteries under live oaks and spanish moss, hidden and haunted places, picturesque and almost frozen in time. I like idea of spending time in the woods, in the dirt, four-wheeling. I love southern roots music.

    But I realized the problem with being frozen in time as I got older. I love certain things about where I grew up, but when I think about the reality of it now, I’m not nostalgic for the things that most people come to see the South as. Like you mentioned, racist, bigoted and ignorant. That part of the picturesque small towns does exist. I have a very difficult time expressing my philosophy on life, my politics, and even my theology with my much of my family. I can’t eat the foods that my grandmother usually prepares because I’m a vegetarian now. Although I’m not nostalgic for the fatty, fried meats and vegetables cooked in bacon, my grandmother has a very hard time coming to terms with my new eating habits. It’s as if she feels I’ve lost my southern identity. And I vary in my feelings about that.

    I want to feel Southern. When I moved to Texas I picked up the phrase “Bless your(insert appropriate pronoun) heart” sometimes it’s just “Bless” or “Bless ’em.” I didn’t get it from Texas, I seemed to have brought it from home as a stowaway.

    And that’s when I realized that my Southern identity can’t really be shed. I’ve lost most of what could have been an excellent Southern drawl because of classical singing. It reappears when I’m tired or have been drinking or when I need it back home to convince people I’m actually from there. But it’s there. Like a stowaway.

  9. My 5-year-old came home from school last year and was talking about the “crowns” that they were using to draw on paper. I couldn’t understand her, and asked her to repeat herself a number of times. She finally went to her room and came back with that well-known Crayola product, telling me that they were “crowns.” We worked long and hard on the two distinct words, “kray” and “on.” She now calls them cray — ons, with a noticeable gaps between the syllables.

    While we were in the midst of this linguistic retooling, I overheard her asking her 8-year-old sister why Daddy was so crazy about crayons. Her older sis told her, “Sophia, when you talk like you’re from the south, people will think you’re stupid.”

    I know that my girls aren’t going to grow up sounding like they’re from Iowa, but I’d like to do all I can to keep them from being pre-judged as soon as they open their mouths.

    On the other hand, I’ve lived in one southern state or another for almost two decades now, but no matter where I go, I’m still considered a Yankee. It might be my accent (a long-mellowed Pittsburghese), or it might be my disdain for arguments about “states’ rights” and other such obfuscations, but no matter what it is, I find that southerners dish out the condescension and stereotypes as well as they receive them.

  10. Hey Rebecca —
    Even though I was born and raised in Kansas, the South was my home for three years during college. I attended the Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, GA. I call Savannah my second home, and have returned to visit every year since I graduated six years ago.
    I enjoyed my “southern” experience. People seem to move at a slower pace, even sit on their front porches and talk to passers by. Never in my life had I sat on my front porch to just sit and be still…..until I lived in Savannah. I don’t necessarily think people in Kansas are rude, but in the South it seems that people make the effort to say ‘Hello’ to everyone they meet. Everyone is a Mr. Or a Miss., and of course it was said in that funny southern drawl. Most of the “stereotypes” of the South that people make fun of can on one hand be annoying when you live it but then you find them endearing once you’ve been removed from them….they don’t call it Southern charm for nothing!

  11. I love what Mr. Marty and Ms. Jane said, and that is how you guys raised us! To be polite and respectful (above all else!) play in the yard instead of sitting inside, and stay there until you hear the crickets chirp. To help out those in need, and the healing power of a good home cooked meal. To be proud of what you earned, and “it’s better to give than to receive.” I remember feeling so excited every year to pick out my Easter dress and gloves, then my Christmas dress. We were not allowed out without a slip and hose on, and eating on the fine china was a rare treat. When someone would pick peaches, or pecans, or strawberries, they would bring you buckets of them because they had more than enough. We had to tend our own gardens and pull the weeds. Once in a blue moon we would get to pick a rose out of the flower garden – just one. We were mini zoologists, and experts on bug bites. Fire ants and splinters were the worst since we hated wearing shoes! We were the protectors of trees and mothers to lost baby animals, collectors of feathers, speckled eggs and snail shells. Mommas could make anything, Daddies could fix anything, and we would do *anything* for a friend. A man would always defend a lady, and a lady would always act like one (feminism aside, I was raised to believe that we are born with an inherent delicacy.) I wouldn’t trade being raised anywhere else, really.

  12. I had to think long and hard before I posted…I, too, am as Southern as they come…some may call me a redneck, or call me country, but I am proud of who I am amd the people I come from…when I think of the South (becuase it will always be a capital S to me) I think of a simpler way of life… I think of sweet tea, and lightening bugs, I think of fireworks, lemonade stands, and covered dishes; of not knowing all the old ladies at church, but knowing that they ALL knew who I was and would correct me at the drop of the hat… I think of yes ma’am, no ma’am, please and thank you; holding the door for someone and smiling while you do it…I think of ‘yall’, ‘honey’ and ‘darlin’…fishing in the back yard with my kids, and climbing trees…flip flops in March and most of all I think of family…not just the blood kind, but the choosin’ kind…I think about walking into Wal-Mart and never getting out without having at least one 30 minute conversation with someone you ran into…and I think of pride. We are proud of who we are, where we came from and what we stand for. We love God, country and mankind and are willing to fight for each one. I am proud to be an American, but I thank God that I am Southern…

  13. I know this will probably sound like a cop-out, but in full honesty, when someone says “the South” or “Southern,” my perception is greatly influenced by the context in which it’s said. [geez, Kaeser, way to avoid the question! :P] That said, I usually try to correct whatever I think they’ve insinuated by proposing my own vision of what Southern means. Having been raised in the South by Yankee parents, I fully understand the bad aftertase “Southern” can have, but I am proud to say I’m Southern (to whatever extent it’s true). I usually call on images of the plantation aristocracy with an emphasis on holding to the ideals of tradition, especially things like manners, education, and standards of meaning in every action. To me, these begin to delineate the difference between Southern and Redneck (which, contrary to popular stereotypes, exists everywhere and not only in the south). I see Southern as stubborn and hardworking (I know, not a very aristocratic trait, but come on, those gentlemen made a war to get their way; that’s pretty hardcore!), loathe to let go of their values as well as their way of life.

    That said, there’s definitely a negative undertone in some of my concept of the Southern identity. As I told my midwestern friends when I moved out here, Southerners are hospitable because they’re supposed to be, Midwesterners are hospitable because it’s who they are. A Midwesterner will dislike you to your face, but a Southerner will dislike you behind your back (and probably to a bunch of other people who feel and act the same way). A lot of Southern identity is about having the right facade, putting the right image forward (which makes me wonder if other regions in America spend as much time trying to parse out who they are and what their heritage means… different project for another day 😉 ), but this isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes the right facade forces you to clean up the rest of the house or the right image can only be shown when the source is in line with it. At any rate, it’s not a perfect system, but it’s the one we work. 🙂

    Hope this helps! I love the concept of this project & I hope you’ll share the results with us!! Keep on truckin’, you’re almost done! 🙂
    ~Jennifer

  14. Hmmm… let’s see… sweet tea, kitchen window curtains blowing in a cool but sticky breeze, a hearty woman in a flowered dress and apron carrying a pie, rocking chairs on a front porch of a white house that looks like it’s from gone with the wind or the notebook… “y’all”s and Southern drawls… bloody marys… swamps and willow trees… rebel flag in the back window of a pickup along with a shotgun… dirt roads… bare footed kids in overalls… Baptist churches… things like that 🙂

  15. My biggest exposure to ideas about the South probably comes from country music, which depicts a very clear picture of rural, agrarian life: a deep connection to the land, a focus on living every moment, living simply, and not caring about money or possessions or life in the “fast lane” (there’s a heavy anti-consumerist message).

    It’s an idealized, religious world of loving one person forever (marriage between one man and one woman only, please!), driving your tractor down the middle of the road, drinking sweet tea and eating fried chicken (made by the loving woman–insert stereotypical gender roles here), raising a family, going to church, all that good stuff. They work hard (physical labor, no desk jobs) and play hard–drinking, hunting, dancing, fishing, etc.

    Over and over again, the same message appears: it’s the simple things in life that make it worth living. You don’t need money if you have the love of a good woman, and by the grace of God, you can make your living (but not much more) off of the land. Men are manly, not metrosexual, and women are either sexy (wearing white tank tops, jeans or miniskirts) or ladylike in pretty dresses. You live in a farmhouse and your kids run barefoot through the yard and you all go to a little white church every Sunday.

  16. As a lifelong South Carolinian, when I hear “South” I think “home,” and my love/hate relationship with it. I regret that I didn’t live somehere else when I was younger, though I think I would have eventually returned had I done so.

  17. There was a time when I called myself Southern. From the age of 4 to the age of 11 I resided in northern Georgia, with every other weekend and summer visitation in extremely rural Tennessee. Then one day I switched from Mom to Dad, Dad moved my family up to Wisconsin, and Georgia became the place to visit. Slowly but surely, my long As and Aaarrrs gave way to long Oos and short essses, and I was essentially a northern girl with southern roots. Ish. (If an army brat with nomadic parents can be said to have “roots). A quick jaunt to Missouri brought me back down south, but it was a different kind of south. A south where people called coke “pop” and sweet tea wasn’t guaranteed at every restaurant. Now I’m on the cusp of the West, in totally different country, though the values and the entertainment are reminiscent of the south — if the manners don’t quite meet up with typical southern hospitality.

    I am no longer Southern. I cop to it. But I’m not Northern, either, or a Missourian, or really a Kansan (tell me I’m not the only one unnerved by all the brown, and the stunted trees, and the vast, flat openness!) I’ve lived in nearly every region of the US, now, so I call myself an out and out American.

    However, having lived in the south, I do have different ideas when the word “Southern” comes up. Mind you, the two parts of my family that originated in the south were as different as night and day. My mother’s family were progressives, Presbyterian, educated, townsfolk, the kind of people who picketed schools for not desegregating. My step mom’s family were conservatives, southern Baptists, school of hard knocks type farmers, the kind of people who moved to a new county when they started desegregating. Both also influence my outlook on what it is to be “Southern”.

    What I imagine when I think “Southern”: Muggy heat; hilly mountains; very tall trees; four different accents — the Appalachian, which is quick and nasally, the antebellum, which is long and drawn out and mostly spoken by the over-50s in the Carolinas, Mid to Southern Georgia and Alabama, that weird, quick, mumbly thing they speak in Mississippi and southern Louisiana, and pockets where they speak a combo of antebellum and Appalachian (This is my mother’s accent. She hates it, and finds it “unrefined”); very religious people; a strange mix of racism coupled with not racism (the younger folks have been drilled with proper behavior and exposure around people who are “different from you”. I don’t think I really experienced someone being overtly racist until I moved to Wisconsin. However, there are still old folks who say embarrassing things, and letters to the editor, and racially split dances and debutante balls); debutante balls; coon huntin,; people without teeth before meth was a thing; people who really love old plantation houses and work hard to preserve them — even the slave quarters; country music; American flags; baseball caps with Braves logos; very particular manners with particular rules (e.g. “Would you like something to drink?” “Oh, no, I’m perfectly fine.” “Are you sure? I have coffee, tea, coke…” “Well, maybe a little coffee…” As opposed to “Would you like something to drink?” “Oh, no, I’m perfectly perfectly fine.” “Okay, then!” or the guest asking right out for something); EVERY woman EVER calling you “hon” “sugar” “baby” “honey”; potlucks; church picnics; church clothes and hats (don’t wear JEANS to church, ruffian!); passing revival tents; FOOTBALL being KING — high school and college; signs for Rock City and Lookout Mountain on the sides of barns; four-wheeling; battles to keep dry counties dry while the wet counties welcomed the overflow; everything being scraggly and on the road to decay — the humidity, I think, does this; afternoon thunderstorms in the summer happening more than twice a week; snow being an anomaly; COKE is KING; kickass marching bands; so GREEEEEEN; people being nosy and allowing privacy at the same time — a magical feat; “bless her heart” will always mean “she’s an idiot/whore/thief/I hate her guts.

    Anyway. Hope that helped!

  18. As a displaced Southerner (a Georgia peach living in Michigan), I have to say that the word “South” brings a smile to my face every time. It brings the smell of dogwoods and pine trees, the heaviness of long hot summer days, and the warmth of hugs where hand-shakes would have sufficed. It brings the sound of the Southern drawl, the pain of picking blackberries in July, and the rewarding smell of fresh-baked pie. It brings to mind everything that defined my childhood and the desire to live there again, raising a family beneath the pines.

  19. Chicken-fried. Unfortunately one of my first associations with the South is the cooking cliché that remains an ingredient mystery to me. When I first came to the South over nine years ago I did not feel culture shock or that the people were significantly different from those I had grown up with in New England. The main difference was the climate, the thick heat and nearly non-existent winters. However, a few years later, I changed cities, from Greenville to Spartanburg; I changed schools, from Bob Jones University to Converse College. The culture shock was immediate. I realized that the people I had known in Greenville were almost entirely Northern transplants, like me. In Spartanburg I was surrounded by people who were raised here. One of my first meals at Converse College was “chicken fried steak”. However, when I cut into the thing I couldn’t tell if it was chicken or steak. It was during my education that I first encountered the Zack Brown Band. I was pulling beers for the concert at school, where the band sang their hit “Chicken Fried.” A little over a year later I was working in an office where I mentioned the mystery meat and the band which I had found equally distasteful (sorry country fans) to a co-worker. The co-worker and I had gotten along just fine until I related a humorous story about a Northerner eating Southern food. She found my dislike for all things chicken fried a slight against the South! She got up out of her chair and fumed that if I didn’t like the South I could go back to where I had come from. I was in total shock. I apologized for my Northern impudence and we went back to work.
    Thankfully, my associations do not end with chicken fried. As I mentioned I began my education at Bob Jones where I was an art major. So, in a sense my first impression of the South should have been art and beauty. And while I received excellent artistic training there, it was not until I worked at The Johnson Collection, which specializes in Southern art, that I found the most important Southern association I would make. I encountered two artists who would change the way I see the South. Joseph Rusling Meeker was an outsider, like myself, who came to the South in the nineteenth century as a soldier and fell in love with the Louisiana bayou. He painted a romantic series of landscapes with the iconic vines and Spanish Moss draping the trees. Meeker left no doubt in the viewer that he was painting a Southern scene. The other artist, Elliott Daingerfield, worked around the same time, but his work stretched over the Eastern coast. He was as well known in New York as he was in the Carolinas. In Daingerfield’s work there is no distinction between North and South. He painted landscapes, seascapes, people, and advertisements, yet the world he painted was without a Mason Dixon line.
    After years of living in the South, reminders of the great distance between the North and South are still evident every day. My work cafeteria still presents me with food I cannot name. I still hear phrases that make me laugh: “I haven’t seen you since god was a child!” is one of my personal favorites. And I still hear the differences in accent and even inflection between my co-workers speech and my own. However, I have also come to wonder if the reason those differences remain is because I notice them, tell people about them and allow them to create a barrier (no matter how small) between what is normal in my mind, and what is Southern. If I couldn’t hear and see the differences would they eventually cease to exist? Should they cease to exist? Are they all part of the great American melting pot? For my part, I like the differences, the change in pace, that the woods smell different, that people can tell I’m “not from ‘round here,” and that occasionally, at the vegetable stand, I buy something I’ve never tasted before.

  20. Rebecca,

    First off, what an awesome project!

    I consider myself a Southern person. My accent comes out most when I am tired or angry or talking to my family. There are a lot of bad things about the South as there are a lot of bad things about pretty much anywhere you go. I wasn’t as proud as I am now about being Southern. I didn’t realize what a privilege it was until I moved to Lexington, Kentucky. Most people would say that that is still the South, but believe me when I say that it is not. I count the days until I can return somewhere close.

    The word I most frequently associate with the South these days is charm, probably because that is what I so sorely miss about South Carolina. There is a soft haze that presides over the south. It has its snares and entrapments, namely racism, ignorance and good ol’ fashioned guilt and manipulation. But it also has its beauty. To put it simply, people are just nicer in the South. At least that has been my experience. There is a sense of community, a desire to welcome, feed and bless. I feel relaxed when I visit. There really are smiling faces and beautiful places. People aren’t just caught up in their daily routine, too busy to look up and make eye contact, ask how you and your whole family are doing. Granted, it may be just nosiness.

    I thought I may have been imagining the difference between the South and everywhere else, until I took my husband there. He has lived all over as his dad was in the Navy. He has lived in California, Virginia, Louisiana (which he hated) and Kentucky. He had never been to South Carolina until he visited with me and he confirmed what I had been thinking all along; it is a magical place. It’s easier to breathe, easier to just be and it feels natural and happy.

    When I think of the South, I think of sunshine, smiles and of course, sweet tea.

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