Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Myrtle Manners

The last time I posted on this blog (quite a while ago),  I was a Northerner and Eastern Pennsylvania resident. This week marks one year since my husband and I became residents of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In that year, nothing has changed and everything has changed. Paring down to essentials after 60+ years of collecting stuff was painful, to say the least. And then there was the renovating/selling of the former home and the building of the new one. The first time we saw our new home was 2 days before closing. I do not recommend this approach to home construction. Thankfully, we had excellent realtors who visited the site frequently, corrected errors and sent us pictures of the progress.

For many years we had vacationed in Myrtle Beach, loved it, and finally decided we had had enough of the cold Northern winters and it was time to move south. So we did. The enormity of this move at the age of 65 did not really hit me until recently when I had some time to reflect on what we had done. We were initially too busy with all the details of the move and getting settled, and too excited about living in a place we had come to love, to think about the huge changes we had experienced and were still going through. I realize now there were days when I felt embraced by the warmth of the weather and the sweet Southern hospitality, and then there were days when it seemed as if I had been abducted by aliens and plunked down on a foreign planet. There are lots of former Northerners here, but most have quickly discovered that you either “go native” or get smacked with a cultural 2 by 4.

I’ve tried my best not to say things like “back up north we did thus and so or we did it this way.”  Southerners, no matter how sweet, do not like to be reminded that Yankees do things differently and often think the Yankee way is better. In some ways, being a transplanted Northerner is like being a high school student who has moved to a new school and is trying to figure out how to fit in without being “slushied” like the hapless kids on the TV show, Glee.  

I am trying to get used to a different concept of time. The combination of a laid-back Southern lifestyle and the perpetual vacation atmosphere of a resort area produce the prevailing idea that there’s no need to hurry anywhere or do things asap. The coin of the realm is the “round toit,” as in “ma’am, don’t you worry, we’ll take care of that when we get around to it.” Apparently it takes quite a while to acquire that coin. To an extent, this is a healthy approach, except when it results in Northern blood pressure rising when things don’t happen on schedule. Actually Northern  and Southern blood pressure has probably already risen because they fry everything here, including pickles.

After a year, we are still working on some of the punch list items we identified during the walk-through of our home last August. And we are still waiting on new doors to our refrigerator so that it will close properly; that’s another story. The builder’s construction manager has spent so much time here that our dog thinks he’s a member of the family. I don’t even want to mention the snakes, lizards, palmetto bugs, mosquitoes, fire ants, and feral cats, who sleep on our doormat at night. I’m slowly  getting used to the fact that at least some people sitting near me in a movie theater or restaurant are packing heat.

Although I still won’t eat grits, all in all, I am quite happy to be living in Myrtle Beach. There is very little, if any, snow, and it melts almost as it falls. You can go Christmas shopping in December in shorts and flipflops. There is an endless variety of things to do and restaurants to try. There’s world class entertainment such as the Carolina Opry and other venues. Yes, July is a big wall of humidity and tourists, but you can’t have perfect weather all the time, and the tourists keep our taxes low. People are usually friendly and helpful (even in Walmart), and a big smile and friendliness on your part can work wonders when you need a strong person to load heavy items into your car. Up north they just ignore you.

I have landed in a foreign culture, but I’m learning the language and the habits of the people. And I know useful things like always look for a parking space in the shade during the summer, put mothballs around the house to discourage snakes, South Carolina barbecue is tomato-based, and the plural of y’all is all y’all. So, all y’all, I love your city and your state, and I intend to stay here for the rest of my life. This is now home. Sorry, Pennsylvania. Oh, and the best part is that now when my career coaching clients tell me they’re too old to change, or change is too scary, I can say to them:  “You can do this. I know, I’ve been there. It’s OK to be scared. I was scared too, but when you make that needed change, it is so worth it.”