13 Brutal Truths About Loving A Southern Girl (As Told By One)

Though I’ve lived in New York for five years and consider myself some sort of a hybrid of the East Coast, the truth is: I’m a born and raised Southerner.

I may not have an accent (sorry, dudes, I know it’s apparently sexy) and I take my tea unsweetened, but when it comes to chivalry and the importance of gestures in dating, my North Carolina roots always shine through.

If you’re lucky enough to be graced with the presence of a Southern lady, here’s a few things you need to know about dating these so-called belles (ahem, never call me that):

1. We don’t mind a little dirt.

I grew up next to a farm where I happily retrieved eggs from the hens for my neighbor every day after school. My dad taught me to drive a tractor when I was 1-year-old, and I learned how to ride a bike on a gravel road (I have the scars on my knee to prove it).

I spent more time outside than inside, and though I might rock stilettos and Calvin Klein dresses, I don’t mind a little dirt.


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The North Meets the South

Surrounded by a green wonderland, mountaintops flirting with the bubbly clouds, and the sweet Southern sunshine turning my office-colored skin a simple shade of pink, I stopped rowing and I listened. In my kayak, caked in mud and refusing to remain idle even in a non-existent current, I felt the motion below and heard the songs of birds in the trees and watched the dragonflies swarm near me. A few feet above, a fish bubbled to the top of the river hoping for food, and a yard or so behind me were my parents and Mr. Possibility. I had purposefully rowed far ahead, going with the pull of the water so I could have a moment to myself. A moment for…


I’ve always taken the serenity of my hometown for granted – especially the old dirt roads that learned to ride a bike and then a car on. I never took time to lay in my bed and watch the Oak trees blow in the wind or notice how the lines in my mother’s face fill in the sun. Or how my dad’s skin glistens at the height of day, scarred and beautiful from hard physical labor and fire fighting. I never saw the ironic peace that comes from mud squeezed in between your toes or a trusting butterfly that lands on your arm as you move.

It’s funny then, how each time I’ve returned to the South for a visit since I traded tractors for subways, I’m told how much more calm I am. That I’m more relaxed. That I’m quieter. While I’ve transformed in many ways, I don’t really think I’ve eased up – if that was the case, I would never make in Manhattan. However, I do think I appreciate North Carolina far more than I did when I lived here. As they say, you don’t really know what you have until it leaves or you leave it.

And so when I come home, when I sit down my bags and I don’t have to think about my metro, keeping my wallet close, walking with ambition and confidence, budgeting money and carrying my god-awful heavy laundry bags a block or two, I release it all. I do relax. I do become quieter because I’m not forced to speak or to hustle-and-bustle with the best and the worse. When I’m home, I  conquer what I always hope to do from time-to-time in New York – I master the art of just being.

It’s not just in the physical sense either, but it’s a mental unwind, too. I don’t worry as much, I don’t overthink, I don’t think about my weekend plans or wonder who is doing what and if I want to go. I don’t question if I’m spending the night with Mr. P or if he’s staying with me or how we’ll survive in an un-air-conditioned room for a night.

Of course I shouldn’t worry about such things while I’m on vacation – though if we’re honest, if I was truly on vacation, would I be writing this blog? Let’s hope not. But if I could capture the sweetness of the quiet I find here and bring just a little bit (under three ounces so I don’t have to pay $25) to New York – maybe I would be more peaceful. Maybe I would let things go easier, maybe I wouldn’t hesitate in my decisions but have a warmth about them, maybe I’d actually have a tan instead of spending far too much time indoors. Maybe I’d find less reasons to be angry and frustrated and more reasons to be happy and thankful. Maybe I’d spend more time enjoying right now this minute, this afternoon, this day, and stop fretting that tomorrow will work out how I’ve planned it to.

If the fierceness of the North met the sweetness of the South – what would happen? Is that what I am? A little bit of both, with one growing exponentially and one waiting in the wings of yesterday? I’m not a Southern Belle and I’m not a Manhattanite – so who am I? And how do I keep both part of the me I’m becoming?

Freedom From Myself

I’ve spent months upon months blogging about love. I’ve spent an unforgivable amount of time thinking about relationships in general. My own obsession with all things romantic, rose-colored and happily-ever-after approved is the reason I started this blog. I wanted to stop basing so much of my own happiness on if I was loved by a man or not. I wanted to stop fretting over getting married, on if there was something wrong with me that made men leave me or be continuously unavailable. I wanted to be able to have sex without having to think if that decision made me less of a lady.

Basically, I wanted to free myself…from myself.

I saw this whole world outside of my own mentality and boundaries. A city that begged me to play, to explore, to dream, and to do. To take my life in my hands without worrying if I had another hand to hold. Did I really need the balance of someone else to keep my sturdy, or could it be possible that I can be just fine, with just me?

What I’ve found through daily memoirs and a growing base of loving followers is that I’m not alone. I’m not the only young woman who has waited anxiously by the phone or had more guys break up with her than she ended things with. I’ve discovered I’m not as ridiculous as I once imagined and that sometimes, people get so caught up in your life, without knowing you, that they draw inaccurate conclusions. You can’t blame them though – writing and blogging is meant to drive opinions. I’ve learned that if you publish your intimate, personal details, those you were intimate and personal with will be affected, and they probably will contact you because of it. And the one your with, well it is possible he is subjected to just as much ridicule as you are.

But the beauty of this blog is that while I’m on Step 8, in a lot of ways I think I’ve made it further than I thought I would. Maybe I can give credit to New York or to having a big girl job that demands my attention. It could be that time really is the magical cure that solves all issues of the heart and mind or perhaps it’s just that like all things full of life, change is natural and healthy. Over the last nine months (yes, can you believe it?!), I’ve freed myself from some very limiting thoughts. Much to my surprise and maybe to the delight of others, I’ve now developed new perspectives and opinions I didn’t have less than a year go.

Just to name a few:

I’m Too Young for “I Do”

Since I started this blog, my best friend L took a trip to the courthouse and is now officially a Mrs. I’ve watched my Facebook friends post engagement and wedding photos, publish statuses about their “hubbies” and their babys-to-be. It used to be that such albums and sentiments would drive me crazy. I used to have this gut-wrenching fear that if I didn’t get married by 25, then all hope was lost. That’s how old my mother was and by Southern standards, that’s actually pretty old. But it isn’t like that in New York. In fact, if someone is married under 27, it’s quite odd. And children before 30? Forget it. Divorce statistics are higher down South and multiple marriages more frequent. I’d rather follow the lead of the North and wait until I really know myself, until I am established and happy in my career and by myself, before I promise my life to anyone. I mean, if I spend the rest of my day-to-days with the same person until I die…what’s the rush?

I’m Not Afraid of the Birds and the Bees

I haven’t slept around ever. I used to think that to have mind-blowing, earth-shattering, give-The-Rabbit-a-run-for-his-money orgasms, I needed to be madly in love. Though I haven’t experienced a one-night stand or sex with a complete stranger – I’m no longer against it. I have several friends in the city who are liberated with their sexuality and as they chronicle their escapades, I find a seed of jealously start to grow. I used to think it was really important to keep my number low so that one day, when I met whoever it was that I was going to marry, he wouldn’t think bad of me for exploring other options. But the thing is, my sexual history (as long as I’m healthy) is not the business of my husband. And the only standards I need to live up to are my own. This doesn’t mean I want to start galavanting about Manhattan, shagging with a different man every night, it just means I don’t think women should be judged by who they decide to sleep with. Or how many they decide to sleep with. Having high standards doesn’t always mean saying “No” – it can mean knowing when to say “Yes” to the right person…and not making excuses if you mix up right and wrong from time to time. After all, do men ever need to make excuses when they’re bachelors?

I love me.

Well, most of the time anyway. The point of this journey was never to meet a Mr. Possibility or to find the answer to all of my problems. It wasn’t supposed to change the person I am or my little quirks. I just wanted to learn to love myself -and who knew it would take over 200 posts (and counting) to start to get there? And who knew to love yourself, you’d need to free yourself, too?

The Bird on the Subway

Without much warning at all, Spring has arrived in New York.

This season is so full of life: my favorite flower is in bloom, colorful raincoats and a bright spectrum are bursting from the back of makeshift-closets in makeshift-apartments, and the air just feels crisp. Even in the city, there is an undeniable freshness in the air, and as if New Yorkers are coming out of hibernation, everyone seems enlightened. Though it is a time of transition between the cold and the blistering hot, fellow inhabitants have been more inclined to make conversation about the changing temperatures, probably because weather is always an easy topic of interest to lead with or make meaningless conversation about. Nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier about the onset of a new season, apart from one thing this particular one brings:


I’m lucky my hair is naturally pretty wavy if I let it air dry – but with the city humidity somehow doesn’t even compare to the sticky stench in the South, causing my locks to frizz and curl in embarrassing directions as soon as one drop hits the pavement. And then there are the careless cars and trucks that speed through intersections right past women like me who are silly enough to stand as close as possible to the other street before they cross it, causing splashes that actually drench you, unlike Carrie Bradshaw’s opening scene where she’s simply drizzled on.

But worse than the rest, the problem with a place already saturated with a high population is when the sky revels in rain, everyone thinks they need an umbrella. Even when it is merely misting, everyone will pay whatever they have to pay to find protection- what went for $3.50 will go for $10, and the merchants get excited to sell out when the clouds turn gray. So walking down the street, with or without a personal overhang becomes a nightmare of dodging and lifting, nodding to the person coming at you to see if they will go above or under, and praying you don’t lose an eye before heading underground.

Not rain’s greatest fan, I was more than happy to descend the subway steps into a passageway that would protect me from the soon-to-be-passerngers unsuccessfully managing their rain-only accessories. Standing near the doors, reading this week’s New York mag, I attempted to flatten my hair and stand somewhat tall for the ten stops uptown to my gym. Leaving Times Square, the indicating sound of doors closing and opening ended and as if I was driving the curvy roads in my hometown, I heard a bird chirping. The sweet song caught me off guard – I can’t remember the last time I could hear a feathery-friend’s lyrics– I looked up from reading and met the eye of a mid-aged woman sitting across from me. Her expression, much like mine was of stunned delight paired with frank confusion, and we both turned our ears toward the sound, where we noticed we were not the only ones who noticed this unfamiliar voice.

Before I had a moment to examine the cart, near the ceiling, a little wren flew past me. Everyone on the subway, except for those drowned by their iPods, noticed this unusual straphanger and watched it go. Aware I didn’t know the first thing about capturing a bird or luring it out of anything, much less a moving train, I sat still intently observing, and hoped someone would help free it. As we approached 50th street, a few red-line riders stopped people from getting in and within a few seconds that felt like hours, the wren discovered an opening and made its escape.

It was difficult to go back to reading about Wall Street after semi-meeting the wren – as MTA doesn’t usually allow birds to have Metro cards. Because it was so unexpected, yet such a lovely thing to behold, I found myself identifying with the bird on the subway. This sounds as crazy to me to type as it does for you to read, but like a fish out of water, a bird in a subway just doesn’t quite go with the status quo or nature’s way.

And while I’ve finally mastered the transit system without having to Google (much) and I’m able to get recommendations to restaurants and unknown gems I’ve actually been entertained at (a few anyways), a lot of the time, I feel like a bird in the subway – still unsure of how this city is growing on me. I have friends who have been here for a handful of years, some who have never known any other address, and a couple who are ready to leave – and they each remind me that I’ll come to learn things about this place the longer I’m here. I’m told I’ll be jaded, I’ll discover why New York is notorious for its difficult mating , eh – I mean dating scene, I’ll figure out the parts to avoid, and I’ll stop doing things in the Southern tradition or with the same uninhabited optimism that I still mainly lead my life with.

I do get asked for directions on the street, but I wouldn’t say I look the part of a New Yorker, and I know I don’t play it. My friend and co-worker J, encourages me to buy more black every time we go shopping at lunch; my friend E’s famous words are “wait until you’ve been here five years, then we’ll talk“; and my friend K continues to amaze me with her endless knowledge and experiences of dining and dating – both things I’m discovering I have a lot to learn about. Manhattan isn’t on a pedestal anymore – it is a real, physical place, that feels much more like home than North Carolina – though I’ve always thought the term “home” consists of where the people you love the most are. Luckily for me, I follow e.e. cumming’s advice and I carry all the hearts I need in my own heart, so I can make a home anywhere.

And this city is home but maybe it hasn’t made a home with me yet. Maybe it’s still letting me fly through the carts, discovering what I can, determining which stop is my stop, and finding my way out of places that don’t suit me – with a little assistance from those who can open doors I can’t. Maybe time isn’t a measure of adapting or accepting where you are in your life, emotionally or determined by the U.S. Census, but sometimes it takes a few rainfalls to free yourself from all that was holding you back, and sing your own sweet song on the streets.

And not politely as a Southerner would do, but at whatever pitch and tempo you preferred, at whatever hour of the night, regardless of who was or wasn’t watching, like a New Yorker who’s more concerned with the stride of the city than those who think she’s out-of-place. When in fact, she’s exactly where she needs to be…for now.

Little Miss Too Much

So this is the point in the blog when I admit that once upon a time, I competed in pageants.

Now, before you go imagining Toddlers & Tiaras, I was far from your average beauty queen. I won a handful of titles but mostly enjoyed having permission to dress up for no particular reason at all. The older I became and the more of a feminist I grew into, I realized how parading oiled up half-naked across a stage and being quizzed on my current events knowledge with a pound of makeup on my faces can seem a little contradictory and not give me the best image of integrity. And while I did attend school with the infamous Ms. South Carolina (I met her, she’s actually quite smart), pageants taught me how to be comfortable on stage, how to own my power when I’m nervous, and how to fake a smile even when I’m shaking.

Most Photogenic Winning Photo 2006/NC Pageant

When I first expressed interest in this tired Southern tradition, my mother -who is far from the Débutante; she’s everything but – couldn’t understand why I would purposefully encourage someone to judge me. I was raised to believe everyone has their own level of loveliness and by words of the renowned Ms. Eleanor that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Fearing I’d compare myself to the other contestants and lose some of my self-worth and value, or worse – develop an eating disorder of sorts, she wasn’t easy to convince. She eventually gave in, seeing the potential confidence and public speaking ability it could give me. However, I had to vow to be honest and to remember beauty is as beauty does, and while it may only be skin deep, I’d have to keep my head high and not fall too hard into the pageantry world.

And while I was part of this microcosm, more than the elegant dresses, the spray tans, and the dazzling crowns that still have their place in my childhood bedroom, being a so-called title holder taught me how to think on my feet. Or really, in 4 inch sparkly shoes. It has been a while since I traded in my mermaid dresses for a voice recorder, and my economy-sized hairspray for a higher, modern hemline – but throughout my journalist career and adult life, being able to think quick and speak elegantly is well worth any dues I paid as a pageant girl.

However, as a 20-something fielding cascading lines of bachelors who strut the streets and trains of Manhattan – while I often play the part of judge, picking the contestant who is a winner in my book, sometimes, I feel like I’m back up on that stage, lights shining, and gracefully fighting for a title. In the past, that title was always Ms. Girlfriend or when my overly premature and idealistic self would take over, Ms. Love of His Life or better yet, Mrs. Right.

But the one title I always felt like I claimed without trying (or was it trying too hard?) was Little Miss Too Much. All those lessons about thinking on the spot flew out the door and putty I become in the hands of the man of the hour.

Whenever I started to like a guy or date him regularly, I always developed this fear of being “too much.” We’re instructed by the women older than us, by our friends who have been there, by everything female that surrounds us that guys are easily intimidated and deathly afraid of commitment. I won’t deny either of those statements, even if they are rather generalized. However – in an effort to prevent the stepping-on-the-loafers of men who I hoped would eventually deem me worthy to be their girlfriend and tie up their loose ends with other ladies – I held myself back. I acted uninterested when I was highly intrigued, I bit my tongue instead of speaking my mind, I held back my frustrations and my longings instead of expressing what I felt, when I felt it. Because while men want to sleep with the beauty queens and date the women who hold the highest title, I had never met a man who wanted to date Little Miss Too Much.

That is, until I did.

When I decided to date above the curve, to raise my standards, and demand more out of a partner, I stopped worrying about being too much to handle. And in return, I found guys who wanted someone just like me – who may be outspoken and demanding and opinionated – but they find it beautiful and inspiring. Because really, those apprehensions come from insecurities and also partly derive from the remains of men who exited without a notice or didn’t care to stick around when the going got going – or got tough. From the dudes who prefer women to be their escorts about town and hang quietly and nicely on their arms, without pressuring or condoning or challenging them. They are the ones who would never fit the bill of what it means to date a woman who has things going for her, who wants to be with someone who not only encourages her thoughts, but engages in wild conversation with her.  They are the guys who are too little for a girl who is seemingly “too much.”

And those emotional outbursts or those topics that make our blood boil don’t grant us the title of the crazy ex-girlfriend or the gal who pressured a man into a relationship, with no avail. There really isn’t such a thing as being too much unless there is also such a thing as being too human. Because if we didn’t worry from time to time, if we didn’t let certain things crawl under our skin because we were passionate about them, if we didn’t desire to only be with someone who only wanted to be with us – then what would be the point of attempting anything? Or developing opinions, tastes, and desires? Or deciding how you’ll give world peace to the nations, as every pageant coach instructs you to stay abreast of?

Now, when I’m dating and when I’m with Mr. Possibility and I feel the need to test the waters that I normally wouldn’t have waded for fear of sending a potential partner sailing away- I instead make quite the splash. I don’t make excuses for why I’m upset or why something they say rubs me the wrong way or if I don’t agree with a viewpoint they stand firmly about. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not just to be crowned Ms. Irresistible. I’ve learned they’re competing to be center stage in my life as much as I am in theirs.

Because while pageants may have given me great balance and the ability to bullshit when need-be, they also showed me to be my greatest and most forgiving fan. If you trip, you trip – and you keep walking. If you stutter, you stutter -and you pause and move on. If you lose, you lose – and you try again.

And if you feel like you’re being too much, you put even more out there and give a little extra kick to that hip. Because no one – not even a pearl-ridden Southern girl with hair almost as high as the heavens – makes excuses for being herself.