I don’t know if I can consider 3 days in the states of South Carolina and Georgia a “true experience in the South” but I’m going to for a few hundred words, OK?
I originally started to write this blog post in the airport at JFK, all sassed up, because New York does that to me. Even if I’m just there for the most pointless layover ever. However, after wanting to charge me $17.95 for WiFi, I decided I would rather drink than write. Forgive me, but Hemingway would have made the same call and we’re like… on par.
So instead, I’m now back on the West Coast sitting in my Mothers hydrangea garden, sipping stolen gin & tonic at 11am (bang on the nose, don’t worry) trying to recall how I felt about the whole thing.
I guess… it wasn’t what I expected?
One of my dearest high school friends was born and raised in Mississippi. Everything from his thick accent to his camo baseball hat screamed southern pride. When I met him, I was fresh off the farm and new to the city (we both were) and I was still chewing Copenhagen short cut even though girls don’t chew tobacco and listening to Skynyrd too loud when I pulled into the parking lot. We were two peas in a little weird pod and he planted this seed in my head that went something like “you should have been from down south.”
Of course as I got older, I really wish that what he had meant was “you strike me as a Southern Belle!” but it’s not. What he meant was “you are like Gretchen Wilson redneck.”
And god, was I ever.
A lot changes between the ages of 15 and 25 though, and while I still love my Skynyrd (ok, and occasionally my Copenhagen), I learned how to dress more Gone With The Wind than Deliverance (Most days. Give me a break, you can take the girl out of the honky tonk but…) Fashionable day or not, I have maintained however, that “the South” is a destination I was meant for. Made for. Born for.
So, when the opportunity presented itself at the end of my Florida adventure to meander my way through several of these states, I took it.
I promise you, no matter how well you can relate to the words of “skoal ring” and how similar you think “Here For The Party” is to your life, nothing can prepare you for the system shock that is wearing $125 sandals and a silk blouse to buy a Styrofoam cup full of Cajun flavored boiled p-nuts (yes, p-nuts) from a woman straddling a road side table in a halter top bikini. She was Gretchen Wilson. I was Shania Twain. The imposter.
“She’s never had boiled peanuts before.“
“NEVER?” said the man behind the table “you must be from North of the Mason-Dixon!“
Canada. Is that what he’s referring to? I don’t even know. All I know is that if boiled peanuts (p-nuts?) are any indication as to what I’ve been missing this entire time, Chris from Mississippi was wrong. I do not belong here. No one belongs here. Not even peanuts, because their fate is just straight fucky.
But after trying three (I’ll try anything three times. Mostly.) I couldn’t do it anymore. My facade dropped. I spat them out and held them like a dirty diaper. and made this face:
They were NOT my thing.
Luckily for me and my assaulted taste buds, this was the last experience I had in either of the Carolinas or Georgia that made me want to up and run. Actually, apart from the one Unicorn I saw on someones front lawn, this was the only experience I had that made me remember I was in the South at all.
South Carolina was beautiful and adorable and quaint. North Carolina was lush and mountainous. Georgia was… well… an Interstate and a big city. I was expecting Spanish Moss and bouffants and Lemon Breeland around every corner, but I didn’t get it. Which is probably a good thing because my hair kept falling flat despite all the back-combing and my skirt kept wrinkling.
Sure, I ate my fair share of fried foods, but I pushed for that. Turns out, you can order salad and veggie burgers in Atlanta if you want to (who knew.)
I’m not surprised by any of this, nor am I disappointed. I know that stereotypes are all about the company you keep, and my company was not ZZ Top or George Tucker. I know that if Chris from Mississippi was my company, I would have been sporting a camo hat myself by the end of the weekend and have probably shot something bigger and more alive than Smirnoff. I know if a girlfriend had been my company we would have hairsprayed the shit out of our hair and ordered sweet tea everywhere we went. As it stands, I got to experience exactly what I asked for: the South.
Not the South that exists in Garden & Gun or in television shows, but the South that exists where people have day jobs and real lives and enjoy the same things I do (except maybe with grits on the side.) It was beautiful. And it helped me remember that who you are and where you are are what you make of them.
I flew home thinking to myself I would still absolutely live down there and maybe Chris was still right, in a round-about-way. I also remember thinking hmm, I don’t know why I expected to walk into Gone With the Wind. It’s not like going back to Canada is like “Into the Wild” or anything.
I text my brother the moment I got home. “Word. I’m home. Weeeeoooooo.”
Out of nowhere I get this series of messages from him:
Right. So I maintain that stereotypes are all about the company that you keep and that basically, I’m going to have to return to “the South” to find this place that I am supposedly derived from.
Cheap flight to Macon, anyone?
xo & yw