It happens all the time.
You meet someone somewhere–at a convention, a vacation, a meeting, a resort, even on line or while conducting business on the telephone. They ask, “Where are you from?”
Any more, I sort of hate to say South Carolina. Because inevitably, there is a squeal of pleasure, “Oh, we LOVE South Carolina,” and they go on to prattle on about Charleston or Hilton Head or Pawley’s Island or Beaufort. About seafood and beaches and live oaks and palmetto trees and golf courses.
I have to grit my teeth and politely say, “We’re from the Upstate.” You know, near Greenville?
The Upstate, it seems, is invisible to the world.
We have our own topography, red clay and hills, lush and green and punctuated by cow pastures, chicken farms, hay fields and deer leases. Flowing with brown silty rivers and creeks with the occasional rocky shoal.
We have industry and farming and our own regional accents. We have a rich history of Piedmont blues musicians and textile league baseball. We are dotted with former cotton mill towns and historic sites from the Revolutionary War. We have miles and miles of beautiful lake shores, campgrounds and state parks. We are covered with liberal arts colleges and state universities.
Aside from the expected–a local variation of barbeque sauce–we have a regional cuisine. It is pinto beans and cornbread, fatback and fried chicken. Peaches in the summer and collard greens in the winter. It is potatoes instead of rice. And a squash is a yellow crookneck, not a zucchini and not one of those Yankee things that looks like some kind of little pumpkin.
We have a sense of self, an identity, a pride.
We are the Upstate.