Moving From the South to the City: Things You’ll Lose

by: Zach Stafford

Like many Southerners growing up in America, you always dreamed of fleeing your hick suburban/ rural/ hellhole of a town and moving across the Mason-Dixon Line into Yankee country to become one of the infamous city folk that you grew up watching on MTV. The urban jungle called to you with its promises of better shopping, real clubs, and brunch the day after. And upon moving, the city welcomed you with its urban sensibility, and forced you to assimilate into one of the numerous boxes you’re allotted as an urban dweller. However, over time – and between the trips to the Vineyard and exhibits at the MoMA – your Southern Roots begin to tug at you, and you grow to miss the culture and places that you hated so much as a teen. You’ve developed into a southern transplant with a complicated love/ hate relationship with your new home. Here’s a list of a few of your cultural mannerisms that are likely to go missing soon after you’ve made the move to the big city.

1. Your accent

Until about the age of 15, I used phrases like “all y’all” and “fixin” like it was my job, but that all stopped when I started dreaming of the urban life and decided I was moving to Chicago. I immediately started to develop a stronger tongue and the ability to enunciate.

When I got to Chicago, I remember meeting someone at my university. Before I could answer where I was from, my new friend blurted out “New York?” I was so excited – my Southern accent was completely gone. I reveled in saying, “Why, no! I am from Tennessee! I don’t have an accent.”

This was cute and all until recently. While reflecting on my old Southern life with a friend, I was asked to “talk Southern.” I couldn’t even form the words “all y’all” without sounding like a condescending Yankee, which immediately was followed by a huge wave of shame.

2.”Bless your heart!”

In the South, we say “Bless your heart!” in a passive attempt at being a bitch. It has a few translations: “I am so glad I am not you!” “Please walk away, I am done talking to you,” and “I hope you know you’re driving the bus to hell.” For some reason, as a Southerner, you don’t mind when people say this – it’s actually seen as polite. But after you’re in the city for awhile, you almost forget the expression entirely.

3. The stars

This one took me a few months to figure out. One of the things I knew when moving to a big city was not to look up at the buildings, because it’d make you look like a tourist. So, during all my time staring at the ground, I never looked up to see the stars. Once I finally did, I felt my heart sink. The fact that all these Yankee cities are able to erase the heavens is reason enough to know why crime is so bad in the major cities. Come home, stars.

4. Boot cut denim

Yes, I said it. I know “skinny” or “slim-cut” jeans are in right now, and yes, I do look skinny/ taller/ like I belong in the city when I’m wearing them, but who doesn’t like a good pair of worn-in boot cut denim? They’re slim in the thighs and flare out at the bottom in that perfect way that covers your boot like a glove. Try looking like an urban cowboy with your gator boots and those Helmut Lang skinny jeans – not going to happen.

5. Politeness/manners

Yankees, say it with me: “Hello… how are you?” Was that hard? Did you break a nail? NO! Say it, it will make you feel better. And how about, when getting on an elevator – don’t press the “Close Door” button when I’m a foot away. Or that whole cutting the line at the market when a new line opens – it’s not cute. I’m all about survival of the fittest, but your obsession to beat me to the cashier register to buy doughnuts and a Starbucks bottled frappuccino (which isn’t real) will only make this a survival of the fattest contest, and you will win… fatty. Above all else, try to smile. As a Southerner, I take pride in being “nice,” even if it is in that Clairee Belcher (see Steel Magnolias) kind of way that’s similar to a “bless your heart.” Being fake-polite – along with denial – is a skill that Southerners have cultivated for years. Resist the tendency to forget this skill; it may just turn out to be your bread and butter.

Note: This post was originally featured on Thought Catalog and was republished with permission. You can find the original here.

Zach Stafford is a Tennessee writer currently living in Chicago. His work has appeared at places such as: USAToday, Thought Catalog, The New Gay, and Bookforum. Outside of writing and watching Ally McBeal on Netflix, Zach is in the process of applying to PhD programs in the field of Cultural Geography & Urbanization. Also, Zach is the Production Assistant and a Contributor to the 50Faggots.com web series, which explores the lives of effeminate gay men in America. Follow him on Twitter @zachstafford.

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One response to “Moving From the South to the City: Things You’ll Lose

  1. Pingback: It Can Be Scary Coming Out As Black and Gay « In Our Words·

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