Charleston is the perfect getaway.
Beyond a few jam-packed weekends, site seeing and eating, lies real life. The days that happen between bursts of fun and fancy. This is the Charleston I am getting to know.
Charleston is HOT right now. Everyone is moving here in droves. Students and grad students that come for school and never leave, young professionals looking for a faster or slower pace (depending on what direction they may be moving from) and retirees. Tons of retirees. My fiancé says that Charleston has been a transient city for some time now. There are always people coming and going.
I have encountered an equal amount of people not from around here as southerners. I am from Chicago and I was born in New York, so I am used to living around many different types of people. I associate this melting pot idea with the concept of a city and Charleston is rapidly expanding. There is change occurring at every corner (literally, there is a TON of construction) and I can feel Charleston bursting at the seams. Traffic is heavy; you can’t even find a parking spot at Publix. Maybe, this is just America. We can’t fight the mass developers from turning even the most historical places, like Charleston, into Anywhere, USA. Where there is money, there is this inevitable cookie-cutter assimilation. I have started to see it when I visit other cities. Everywhere is starting to look vaguely familiar.
I hear accents from New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan more often than I hear the soft drawl of Charleston. I don't mind this, especially since I am an outsider myself. The people not from around here are the ones that seem to want to help me find a job and actually respond to email (more on this in another post). Charleston just isn't what I expected. Tourists came to visit and were charmed into relocation. It all makes sense. But, where are my belles and gents?
You see, I dreamt of Charleston as some kind of magical fairyland. I imagined that all the ladies would look and speak like debutantes and they would smell of honeysuckle and jasmine. Men would pull my chair out and compliment my hairstyle and tell me I was "real sweet" just like Crush does. I only wanted to see Lilly Pulitzer and seersucker. I thought I would be invited to the finest parties and drink mint juleps and sweet tea and wear ball gowns and gloves. People would be envious of my figure and poise. Everyone would admire my ability to make lovely conversation and my big city ways. I would be referred as "very cosmopolitan!" I thought that I would learn how to shag and that someone would show me how to set a table properly, using only the finest china and silver. Down South, I wanted to believe that I could eat all the fried chicken and biscuits I desired and then I would slip on my bathing suit and head to the beach looking as pretty as a picture. This is my fantasy, dammit. There are no societal boundaries or calories.
I set myself up for something that doesn't even exist. I do this a lot. I get stuck on how something should be without processing how it really is. Then, I get disappointed that life isn’t what I imagined. Exhausting. And even worse….sometimes my over sweeping generalizations come from TV, movies or books. WTF? Nothing is how I wanted it to be. WHAH WHAH. The weather, the people, the service, the job market, the common courtesy, the social life, the parties, the food….it was ALL supposed to be different!
I made my move into what I needed it to be. It gave me hope and positivity and motivation. It made me excited. It got me through a very tough time in my life. My idea of Charleston may not be where I am living now and that is okay. My Charleston is a place of fantasy, magic and whimsy. It is a figment of my imagination that I depended on to give me the strength and courage to leave everything I was once familiar with. I will always be grateful that I loved the idea of Charleston before I even moved here because it shows me how much I trusted and believed in my relationship with Crush. And, if anyone knows of a city that allows anyone to join every club (even people like me, who had a grandfather who owned a deli and NOT a plantation) and where I can eat biscuits by the dozen and still lose weight, please let me know…I will buy a one-way ticket and get on the next flight!
PS: Thank you for the wonderful, thoughtful and kind comments yesterday! They really made my day and I appreciate the terrific feedback. Also, sorry about the post fonts looking inconsistent, sometimes when I copy and paste (like I have with the last few posts) I cannot get the words to take on the default font (I am not very tech savvy).