In June of 2013, not all too long ago, I composed the following blog post titled “My Kind Of Southern: Identifying a Southern Belle.” It was actually markedly successful on Pinterest for the content and imagery I previously paired with each section. My gut reaction is to apologize for the sheer existence of such a post, but I’m actually not sorry. I’m not sorry that I am not the person I was just over three years ago. I’m not sorry that I enrolled in a Gender and Women’s Studies degree program. I’m not sorry that I decided to identify as a feminist. I’m not sorry that although my perspective and experience are sometimes limited, I will always strive to be inclusive and understanding.
It’s hard to say for what exactly I was striving when I initially composed such a post. Frankly, I spent many years watching other bloggers who had worked for years to be deemed successful in the field, and tried to poorly imitate some of what I saw to expedite the process that is success. Without my feminist education and without countless individuals who attempted to keep me grounded in this journey, I would probably still be reaching for something I am not. The best advice I’ve learned in blogging is that no one is impressed by inauthenticity and failure to be transparent is obvious to your loyal readers and followers. When I stopped aiming to paint a perfect and often times fake picture of my life, writing became easier and felt more natural.
On this Thanksgiving, while I am of course thankful for my health, family, friends, and sweet puppy child, I am particularly appreciative of having had the opportunity to grow both as an individual and as a writer in this public forum. I’m proud to showcase how my thought, writing style, and voice has changed in just a few short years hopefully to reflect more compassion, humility, honesty, and inclusion.
Frankly, I felt like Jeb Bush at many times – living in the shadows of those who came before him, but still trying to please an audience and leave my own mark. So, please clap. Please clap for my soul searching. Please clap for coming into my feminist own. Please clap for realizing that social justice is often the foundation for progress. Please clap developing consistent thought and action. I am damn proud that I’ve evolved from who I tried to be circa 2013 – and I promise to continue this growth everyday. Follow me through this terribly narrow-minded and marginalizing post as I identify just a few of the grave issues with limited perspective and privilege.
Lilly & Jack
The further south you go, the bolder the prints is a general rule – Lol, I made up “rules” of dress for people I don’t know. Lilly Pulitzer patterns have been sported by
Southern women for decades. The trend includes bright colors, fun prints, and generally modest styles. These dresses are worn tailgating, on beaches, to dinner, generally anywhere. They are extremely versatile and there is a unique pattern for every woman’s style – Versatile maybe, always accessible? No shot. Nothing pairs better with a Lilly dress than Jack Rogers Sandals. I own the traditional Navajo Jacks in Platinum and they are truly one of the best purchases I’ve ever made – Not true, they hurt my feet so badly. Sold them last year. They are simple yet stylish and match any fun Lilly outfit you could dream of!
Sundresses & Pearls
Guaranteed way to make a southern man’s heart melt? Sundresses. Without question, the traditional sundress with a tight bodice and flowy lower half looks wonderful on nearly anyone – Is this really my place to say?. My closet includes precisely 42 of these wonderful dresses – Ok, I was a brat. They’re generally modest, showing just the right amount of skin to tease – Tease who? Omg. My favorite pattern on this simple style is eyelet – Hey, I still love a good eyelet. Usually solid colors, the eyelet pattern allows for intricate yet sophisticated detail, perfect for numerous social occasions. Looking for simple accessories to pair with this wardrobe staple? A Southern woman can never go wrong with pairing pearls with her sundress – Mine were always fake, from Claire’s. Again, simple and sophisticated. What more would you want to be? Umm, intelligent, confident, successful, respected. Merp.
Sweet Tea & the SEC
Any Southern woman knows how to make the perfect sweet tea – I’m actually pretty bad at this. Chick-fil-a’s is good enough for me. Whether you sip it out of a glass or a mason jar, the sweeter the tea, the sweeter the woman who made it – I’m just going to pretend I never said this. If a game is on, a fresh pitcher of sweet tea is not far because nothing pairs better with Buffalo wings and party food. While sipping her sweet tea, the Southern woman supports her allegiance to the Southeastern Conference – I’m sorry, when did a sports conference mirror religion or nationalism? The SEC is a way of life, unquestionably, and while each has her own favorite team and alma mater, the SEC will prevail in football and basketball. While the University of Kentucky has my undying support, when the national championship remaining in the South is dependent upon Alabama’s victory, the allegiance will shift – Did I just say I like Alabama? No shot. The conference is a powerhouse and I’d never live outside of it – Probs true, mainly because I like this region – not just for the sports.
Rocking Chairs & Front Porches —> Birmingham & Savannah
Every Southern woman has a fantasy of her married life – HAHAHAH WHO WAS I?. Whether she lives it out or not, her ideal home is a plantation home in the Deep South, with a wraparound porch, swings and rocking chairs. There is a pitcher of sweet tea on the table, a dog running and children playing in the yard. I like to think this life exists in Birmingham and Savannah, where the overall pace is slower and the beauty of the South is truly appreciated. This ideal image for the Southern woman’s future isn’t about marrying rich or owning land, it’s an image of a strong family, a safe and welcoming home, where everyone wants to be – I’m pretty sure I had just listened to Tracy Lawrence’s song, Paint Me a Birmingham, and became momentarily delusional in wishing for a lifestyle that is far from my own.
Boys & Bowties
Southern women fall for the traditional Southern man – Why was I so heteronormative it hurts? This man is equally simple to identify: he knows his style and his confidence is reflected in his appearance. The Southern man isn’t afraid of color and patterns, and ties take the shape of a bow. The image of the fraternity boy comes to mind when I envision who stands next to the ideal Southern woman – Let’s all vomit together at my general exclusivity. While how much you spend on your clothes is trivial, there is an ideal look to achieve. The Southern man can pair colorful shorts, a Polo oxford, Sperry’s, and Ray-Ban Wayfarers and look extremely put together – All of these things are really expensive, but I said money doesn’t matter. Hmph. As much as sundresses are their weakness, this image is ours – Yep, pretty sure I still don’t speak for every woman living in the South.
Tailgating is a Sport
While also patronizing the SEC, Southern women take the tailgate almost as seriously as the game itself. Your outfit matters – while you might own the jersey of your favorite player, the warm-weather tailgate outfit includes dresses, accessories, and heels in the colors of your team. For the evening game, say around 7 PM, the Southern woman is prepared to tailgate well before noon, dressed to the nines – It still astonishes me why girls need choker necklaces and heeled OTK boots to get blackout drunk and not actually go to the game… At the University of Kentucky, students gather in what is recognized as “the bowl”. This area is quite the party where boys and girls celebrate the sport of tailgating well before any real game is played – Kentucky football still sucks so of course the tailgaiting is more enjoyable; At least I realized I can wear whatever I want now.
Koozies & Coolers
Alongside the tailgate, accessories for the Southern woman’s drinks are equally valuable. Koozies, bearing the Southern woman’s favorite brands, keep cans and bottles cool under the hot sun on game day, poolside, or just on the farm – WHAT FARM DID I EVER HANGOUT ON? Coolers, hand-painted for the Southern gentlemen – but are they really?, are a must as well. Whether you’re headed to the lake or the beach, the cooler must be equally appealing on the outside as it is on the inside. To see a tutorial for a hand-painted cooler, click here. – RIP to the girl who painted “Raised Right” on the side of not one, but TWO fraternity coolers. I’m so sorry.
Jack & Jim
Some of the most trusted men in the South, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are never far from a Southern man or woman’s reach. Whiskey and bourbon are integral parts of Southern history and no other drink will ever measure up. – I still love bourbon, but my God, there is better stuff than Jim Beam. Also, I’m pretty sure I trust men (or most people) infinitely less when they’ve been drinking.
If something doesn’t bear your monogram, how do you know if it’s really yours? The Southern woman’s obsession with the monogram isn’t a new trend. The sophistication of leaving your mark on clothing, wall décor, accessories, and more has been around for quite some time. The embroidered monogram dresses up the simplest of items and is relatively expensive if you know where to go. My personal favorite items to monogram include over-sized solid color, pocket t-shirts and Columbia PFG Fishing shirts as bathing suit cover-ups. What do you like to monogram? – I still like a monogram here and there. This is probably the least marginalizing bit of this whole article. I am, however, a little disgusted with the fad of wearing fishing shirts when I’m not fishing…
Country Music & Cutoffs
Music makes my world turn. Just recently, I returned to my roots and embraced the music of my wheelhouse – My “roots”, in the second largest city in the State. In the South, making music is a way to cope, celebrate, and make your way. Whether it’s bluegrass, folk, or something more modern, country music is comforting to the soul of all who live below the Mason-Dixon line. While its critics say the themes of country are limited, I think those artists who sing about what they truly know and understand are the most successful. Where would this world be without Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., and Luke Bryan? – *tries not to hate on bro-country* The country music genre also has its own style. Call it the style of the farm or the simple life, but there is something undeniably appealing about cut off jeans and button down shirts. It is a style that has stood the test of time and the Southern woman isn’t compromising her sophisticated image by donning this apparel, she’s merely living out the destiny of girls born in Dixie – My destiny is NOT to wear cut-off shorts.