Seeking: Southern Gentleman
I spotted the young hunk leaning against the bar at The Gritz, a popular hang-out in downtown Charleston. Tall, muscular, dark-haired. All I desired was for him to drawl all over me. I sauntered over and cooed, “Hiya, handsome.”
At least, so went my fantasy.
In reality, my peri-menopausal hormones had done the speaking that April morning during my yoga class. They salaciously demanded an “opened leg” pose instead of the “crossed knee as if at a bar” pose our teacher had suggested.
Clearly, I had some learnin’ to do about Southern manners.
That same morning all signs had pointed to a saucy adventure in Charleston. I’d been intimately caressed in my dreams and had awakened to an email from a guy named Hitter04 from the online dating site, OKCupid.
“I was caught by your page and could bear (sic) the beauty you wore and the lovely smile on your face so I had to kindly write,” he wrote. His non-command of English skills unsettled me. His unfortunate choice of photos displayed a menacing, large and unfriendly face. Our match rate was a lowly ten percent. I passed.
I was due for romance. A writing conference in San Miguel de Allende two months prior had rekindled the dormant flame of a libido stamped out by my controlling ex-husband. I’d hinted at my dalliance to Linda, our writing coach.
“Did you have an assignation in Mexico?” she asked. I figured she meant a paid writing assignment, since she snagged a lot of those.
“No,” I answered, then paused and asked for the definition.
“My dear, it’s a more cultured way to say a ‘fling’,” she replied.
Clearly, I had some learnin’ to do in English as well as about manners.
I decided that my Charleston assignation, should I choose to accept it, would have to involve a Southern Gentleman. I’d had enough of guys from the West Coast and Northeast. To date, my primary boyfriends had either been unemployed and under-mature, lawyers or should-a-been lawyers. All weighed a bit heavy on the narcissistic scale. And my ex? Well, let’s just say there’s truth to the joke, “Why is divorce expensive?” (pause) “Because it’s worth it!” (applause).
In search of my Southern sample, I changed my OKCupid location to Sullivan’s Island and set the match parameters to Jewish men between fifty and fifty-nine. OKCupid replied, “This is embarrassing, we didn’t find anyone.”
I mused about the emotional capabilities of a search engine, then let it off the hook and took Jewish out of my requirements. I kept my height requirements (5’9”- 6’3”) and awaited the responses. I didn’t have to wait long. First came Lowcountryman#1’s profile, which bragged about his tongue’s talent in performing something “unmentionable.” I renamed him #Lowlifeman and passed. Zingman2 posed by his shiny motorcycle in one photo and proudly dangled two sizable fish in another. I questioned our compatibility. When Undercover4me popped up in all his bare-chested glory on my new high definition iPhone 6 screen, I aborted my online search.
I retreated to fantasy once again.
My Southern Gentleman will be Pierce Brosnan-handsome, and his perfect tongue will be used to twill his Southern brogue.
“Darlin’, you look lovely,” he’ll murmur when he comes to call.
My face will glow in the light of the downtown street lamps, my peach chiffon gown flowing in the spring breeze.
We’ll dine at a fine four-star establishment, drinking one another in. He’ll comment on my eyes and my dark lashes. After sipping a mint julep or two, we will stroll, arm in arm, through George Washington Square behind City Hall. My gent, of course, will make no reference to the statue of George, with its hint of an erection hiding in the folds of his bronze trousers. I, of course, will make no mention of its minute-man size. Naturally, I’ll be wearing my new “foundation” garment, a brassiere I’d purchased from a shop near Charleston Place on the advice of a beautifully-endowed South Carolina native.
Some time later—hours or maybe moments—the sight of my ample and unfettered bosom will inspire him to whisper into the nape of my neck, “I find something about you in every moment that entices me.
Unfortunately, all week my Southern Gentleman eluded me, though I did my best siren call. One night, my group of women friends tried out a new ‘in’ place outside of downtown, named Edmund Oast. I sauntered up and down the length of the crowded bar, my new “foundation” garment proudly supporting my efforts. It almost made my teal cotton yoga shirt look like it was from Victoria Secret instead of from Costco. But alas, no tall, muscular, dark-haired Pierce look-a-like looked back at me. Instead, I sat down at my table of full of supportive women and satisfied myself by chatting up Jason, our eager, goateed waiter sporting a red gingham, button-down shirt.
We conversed between courses that included Brussels sprouts, pickled shrimp and peanut butter beer. I suspected Jason was a gent because he offered to drive us home if we ordered too much alcohol.
I asked Jason point-blank if he was a Southern gentleman.
He answered, “Yes, Ma’am.” I knew I was on the right track.
“What makes you a Southern Gentleman?” I questioned.
“My mama,” he said, proudly, and with no hesitation.
Each of my boyfriends definitely had “issues” with their mothers, often “loving them, but not liking them.” I mentally put “mother love” back on my list of dating musts.
“But how would you define a Southern Gentleman?“ I persisted.
Jason thought a quick minute, then answered, “He is someone who puts others first and treats everyone well, especially women.”
I thanked him and noted (regrettably) a dearth of men who fit that definition in my dating history.
Clearly, I had some learnin’ to do about Southern Belles.
Nancy Alpert was born in Long Beach, CA and transplanted to the Bay Area to attend rival schools Stanford and Berkeley. She graduated with an MSW, worked twenty years as a geropsychiatric social worker, and launched the Senior Peer Counseling program in San Francisco. When her career and marriage ended almost simultaneously, Nancy turned to writing. This lifelong hobby—evidenced by umpteen journals and a high school poetry award—led to her first publishing credits, essays in Venturing in Italy: Travels in Puglia, Land between Two Seas (Traveler’s Tales) and Wandering in Costa Rica, Landscapes Lost and Found (Wanderland Writers.) Along with essays and poetry, the children’s picture book world calls her, enthralls her, and (so far) has stalled her. Nancy has a bilingual following—she edits a weekly K-8 public school newsletter, Noticias, in San Francisco’s Mission District. Nancy spends time at home with her thirteen-year-old daughter/editor; cats, Donut and Cupcake; dog, Latke; their edible namesakes; and an undisciplined Muse. She is always on the hunt for the best writing pen.