I'll be honest, this post was originally going to be aimed at Jenn Ciccarelli, the woman who posted a now infamous blog entry on prettysouthern.com last week. If you didn't get a chance to read the post, it's copied below. I'll be more than happy to sum it up for you though. A 30-something woman from Atlanta (by way of up North) moves to Charleston, then six months later announces she's moving back to Atlanta, citing the fact that, while the rest of the world (well, Conde Nast at least) is charmed to the point of giddiness by our fair city, Charleston is a horrible place. The reasons for her discontent? Among other things, the fact that there is no diversity (depends on what part of town you're in, but that's a pretty broad stroke to paint), there's a lack of subculture (where exactly were you looking?), the traffic (you're from the ATL and you're knocking our traffic? REALLY?), and the lack of good food (she complained that everything was either barbecue or covered with gravy, or some such shit. This coming from a transplant whose previous city's most well-known culinary delight is the chili dog from The Varsity). There was much, much more I could pick apart, but honestly, life's too short. Like I said, the whole post is down at the bottom of this page.
The best part of the post, at least for me, was the addendum at the end. Apparently, Jenn got butthurt when folks started objecting to her views on the Holy City. "Why do YOU care if I don’t like where you live? Oh right, because Charleston is so boring there’s nothing else to do," she says, rubbing salt into an already angry wound. Boring? Really Jenn? Pick up one of the many free papers around town and look at the calendar. I just got home from watching legendary punk rockers The Dwarves at Tin Roof in West Ashley. I have your subculture right here. Your blog post, had it been written a little more politely and with less of a snatchy tone, could actually have served to show some of the faults that exist in Charleston. We're certainly not perfect, and given that about 40 people move here each day, we've been experiencing some growing pains the last few years, but overall, this is an incredible place to live.
Not surprisingly, the post went viral, at least locally. We Charlestonians are a polite bunch under normal circumstances, so polite in fact that we are barred from winning the "Most Polite City in America" title for the foreseeable future due to too many previous wins. Despite that, even we can only stand by so long when our honor is besmirched.
Now, I'm not a Southerner by birth. I was born in San Diego and ended up here in 1982. Aside from a stint in the Army that took me to Europe for three years, I've lived in and loved Charleston ever since. I've lived in Mount Pleasant, downtown on the peninsula, and in West Ashley, where I currently hang my hat. I married a Charleston native (who takes great delight in reminding me that, even after nearly 33 years, I'll never truly be a Southerner), and have two Charleston-born sons. I don't plan to ever live anywhere else. I've watched this city grow and thrive to become the jewel of the South it is. In 1982, Charleston Place was a vacant lot surrounded by decrepit buildings, women didn't go downtown unescorted for safety reasons, and the town of Mount Pleasant ended where I-526 now intersects Bowman Road. I've watched the downtown area be revitalized, the birth of Waterfront Park and Riley Park, the building of the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center, and the flourishing of Spoleto and the numerous other festivals that dot the local calendar. In short, I've been fortunate enough to see a good historic city become a great one. Only Florence, Italy tops us in terms of must-see world destinations. Charleston, while certainly not as large or cosmopolitan as New York, Chicago, LA, or, yes, even Atlanta, is nonetheless a vibrant, growing city.
My love of my adopted hometown is such that I become somewhat crotchety when folks choose to talk shit about said city. I was originally going to address this writer's criticisms line by line, letting her know which ones were justified (and there were a couple that were spot on) and on which ones she was completely off base (most of her blog). About a day after the blog entry reared its extremely ugly head, the editor of the blog, one Lauren Morgan Patrick, decided in her infinite wisdom to take the blog entry down. But Patrick didn't stop there. She wrote a post of her own, a post that essentially scolded the people of Charleston (and anyone who loves our city) for reacting negatively to the original post.
As I've learned to say down here in the South, "Do what?"
"As a woman, especially a Southern girl who was raised on 'yes ma’am,' 'yes sir,' 'please,' and 'thank you,' I was appalled at some of the comments posted to this blog. From the 43,000+ hits and 400 comments – which have all now been taken down – I think I read every swear word in the English language. There were F-bombs. There was the n-word. The trolls crawled out from the depths of the internet to sling some of the most profane, misogynistic, and violent insults I’ve ever read."
Yes, it is indeed unfortunate and horrible that the n-word was dredged up by some obviously racist and idiotic trolls. Welcome to the Internet. As we begin our guided tour, please look out your right-side window and you'll see a few of the numerous trolls that populate the interwebs. Those guys (and yes, they're mostly male) are everywhere online. If there is a comment thread going on any subject, it's almost guaranteed that at least one troll will show up for his noontime feeding. I'm by no means defending these immature, moronic individuals, but there's really nothing you can do but refuse to feed said trolls. I also heard that a handful of individuals attempted to contact Ciccarelli at her place of work here locally. I will totally agree that sort of behavior crosses the line, but again, there are all kinds of folks online with nothing better to do than pull that sort of crap. The f-bombs are a different matter. I can certainly understand the f-bombs. Given how ridiculous most of the accusations in that blog entry were, I can totally let a few f-bombs go. Obviously, Patrick couldn't. Oh, and let's not kid ourselves, Lauren. You went to UGA. I assume you attended a football game or two in Athens during your time there as a student, right? I'm also guessing that at those games and on campus, you heard your share of four-letter words. I'm also guessing that you occasionally hear them on the streets of Atlanta from time to time. Come on, I doubt that you're the delicate Southern magnolia you make yourself out to be in the post on your blog. You're a grown-ass woman. Seriously, spare us.
"And these folks claimed to be Southerners," Patrick continued in her lecture. "We Southerners are supposed to take pride in our manners. Thomas Jefferson, a Virginian and Southerner, espoused the right to have an opinion, then the right to disagree with it. What disappointed me the most was the lack of respect shown by all parties. We could have done better, and y’all – the collective, commenting masses – could have done better too." Patrick also claimed elsewhere in her post that the original writer's post "wasn’t about click bait, or yellow journalism; this was an opportunity for her to tell her story."
Don't even act like you aren't proud of the more than 43,000 hits your site has received since that original blog went up. You're loving that. The more people that see your site, the better. That's how a blog site survives. Disinterest is like strychnine for a blog, whether that disinterest comes from the writer or the reader. Click bait? Of course it was click bait. Why did you take the whole thing down though? Were you actually ashamed of the words your blogger wrote? Doubtful. As for the offensive and misogynistic comments, why not just either remove the offending comments or close the ability to comment altogether. Sprinkle a little HTML pixie dust and sha-blam! The ability to troll has disappeared.
But no, you, like Jenn, chose to take your ball (or in your case your blog entry) and go home, stopping only to waggle your finger at your target before throwing your nose up with a "humph!" That would make Olive Oyl of Popeye fame proud. What's the matter L.P., you can't take some negative feedback when you publish something that in itself is a not-so-cleverly disguised troll of its own?
To top it all off, you then went on local radio station Mix 96 FM late last week to speak with the 2 Girls & A Guy morning program. During the interview, you showed absolutely no remorse for the horrible things your blogger had said about Charleston, and indeed, you seemed pretty matter-of-fact about the traffic your site was now getting. I commend the three radio hosts—Mike, Brooke, and Tanya—for the way they exercised restraint in talking to you, especially the way you all but endorsed the writer's ideas, then said in the next breath that Charleston was one of your favorite cities in the world. The deejay's collective reaction was priceless. Tanya's revelation about her time in Portland, Oregon showed that some people can indeed just not click with a new city. I also agree with Tanya that there's obviously something else going on with Miss Ciccarelli beyond her obvious disdain for the Lowcountry.
Oh, and Jenn, the nice guy in me—and by the way, I own zero bow ties—would love to show you some of that diversity and subculture that you apparently couldn't shake out of the bushes around here. I fear it's too late, though. Enjoy Atlanta. I hear the Coca-Cola Museum is really rad the fifth time you go through...that is if you can get through the traffic. God forbid it snows.
The blog post that started it all:
"Southern Charm-less: A City Girl’s Take on Life in Charleston"
I moved to Charleston six months ago from Atlanta and quickly learned this was not the town for me.
It’s funny because I’d been here so many times to visit and was so taken by this city that I was actually completely surprised by my own distaste for it. Like a gorgeous girl who turns out to be a real “see you next Tuesday,” a lot of the things I thought I loved about Charleston were not what they appeared.
If you’re a House of Cards fan, and caught up on this season, you can remember the scene where they pan over the faces of folks waiting in line for Frank’s job plan. If you haven’t watched, the point of the scene is that America is made of many different faces. We are different colors. We come from every race and creed. We believe in different Gods. We eat different foods. Some of us are tattooed. We wear unique clothes, come from various places, and have all sorts of hairstyles. WE ARE DIFFERENT. To me, this is what makes us beautiful.
You know what isn’t like that? Charleston.
Oh sure, they toss a brunette into the mix every now again, but for the most part, this is a city filled with sameness. I’ll give it to them; the people here, they are stunning. But, as we Southerners like to say, LAWD, Y’ALL! They look the same, they dress the same, they believe the same (or a close variety of the same) they eat the same foods and drink the same drinks. Everywhere I look, SAME. SAME. SAME.
I LONG for diversity.
In addition, I made a dire error when reading about the demographics of the city. When it said 100,000 people, I didn’t realize I’d move from a city of 7 million people in Atlanta to 100,000 residents scattered about historic Charleston and multiple islands.
WHAT WAS I THINKING?
I feel like Charleston is primarily comprised of lifers — I’m sorry, but being born and raised in Mt. Pleasant is not an accolade – with a smattering of college kids and Junior League military wives. It, with its lack of corporations, is missing that bracket of creative 30-40 year-old professionals who said “marriage and kids can wait while I do me for a minute.” It’s also in dire need of ANY kind of subculture.
Even the hipsters here are boring.
The (Lack Of) Things To Do
I used to believe “If you’re bored then you’re boring.” Then I moved to a small, sleepy town where there is actually nothing to do. Yes, yes, the beach. The beach is amazing and wonderful. I cannot go to the beach every day. Yes, yes, Downtown. Downtown is amazing and wonderful. I can’t go out and party like I’m in college every night. I’ve already tired of these things, so what to do now? I could take a boat to a fort. Go for a walk on a bridge? Visit one of our two museums? Wait for all of the tourists to show up and sit in traffic to go to the grocery store? I choose moving.
I also can’t blame this entirely on Charleston. There were days when I was bored of Atlanta, but within an hour’s drive could be in the mountains, a few more to the beach. Here, an hour away is another town just like Charleston. Or Columbia. Let’s not even go there. I pretty much think now we were wrong in our decision to not let South Carolina leave the Union.
How do people sustain themselves here? I guess they have kids. But what about the rest of us who never made “wife” an end goal?
People here don’t even like to leave their own island, never mind posses a sense of adventure to get out of Dodge for a bit. But they sure do like going out on a boat. Every. Single. Weekend.
If one more person tells me how awesome the food here is, I will go Postal. Ok, not really as I’m not a going Postal sort of girl, but there will definitely be an exaggerated eye roll. Don’t get me wrong. There are great places to eat here. They’re just the sort of places where you have to spend a lot of money and have a sit down. Everything else is either BBQ or covered in some kind of gravy.
I love Southern Food. Like everything else here, I don’t like it when it’s my ONLY OPTION. Forget ethnic cuisine. We have one Asian market 30 minutes away. Forget being healthy. Everything is fried. And the pizza? Well, I’m sorry but Antico ruined all of our lives and nowhere but Italy can ever compare again.
A new restaurant pops up here every week, it’s just the same as all those who popped up before it. The food here is average. I like to say it’s a B+ in a C town. I think that’s more than fair. I need the people here to stop touting the mediocre.
Part of this is my fault. I am 34. By society’s rules, WAYYYYYY too old to be dating. I’m just not ready to settle down yet and I know that I will face unique challenges for taking the path less traveled. That said, I lived in Atlanta for 12 years and was single for like, 15 minutes.
I heard there would be beards and boys who like Panic and fishing and camping. I assumed this meant like myself. Still into the hippie culture, but functioning, successful adults. What I got was a bunch of unmotivated beach bum burnouts who want to work in Food and Bev until they’re 50. Or, I could hit up one of the bars in Mt. P and score a super vanilla dude in pastel pants and bow ties. Perhaps I could respond to one of the Marines on Tinder hitting me up for a threesome.
Never in my life have I actually feared dying alone. It would most assuredly happen to me in Charleston.
Listen, I get it. It takes all types. And these (plain white) faces are just as important as all the others I talked about earlier. The sorts of people who make Charleston their forever home do so because they fit here. I wish for all people to find that.
The thing that Charleston has taught me most is the value of home. The value of finding humans who are like you (or in my case, not like Charleston citizens) and taking the time to get to know them. It’s taught me that stepping outside of your comfort zone will shake you to your core, but you’ll come out the other side so happy where you landed. Which for me, is back in the A.
Jenn Ciccarelli, Northern transplant and Marketing enthusiast, is currently living in Charleston but not for long. She and her three dogs will soon be making their way back to the big city of Atlanta. When she’s not busy with work, you can probably find her in the woods, in a river, with a fly rod. Or at the bar with her friends, whiskey in hand. Hobbies include writing, thinking too much, eating great food and avoiding the gym, and traveling to weird faraway places.
Editor’s note – an update from the author
I’m decidedly unclear how so many of you could be offended by the opinion of a stranger, but you’ve made some incorrect assumptions about me that we need to clear up.
I’m 34 and unmarried by choice. This close-minded thinking that something must be wrong with me for making choices that are dissimilar to yours is PRECISELY why I an leaving Charleston. If you all choose the same path, excellent. For those of us who decided to make our own, well, sorry that offends your delicate sensibilities.
I’m the happiest person I know. In fact, it wasn’t until moving to Charleston that I was ever unhappy anywhere. I wanted to try out a new place, it wasn’t for me; now I’m returning home to friends and family and the city I love. Bless my heart indeed. Why do YOU care if I don’t like where you live? Oh right, because Charleston is so boring there’s nothing else to do.
I’m sorry, y’all, but your comments read like children saying “FINE, WE DON’T WANT TO PLAY WITH YOU EITHER.” The good riddance and #byefelicia is right back atcha."