No Book Burning Clubs, Please
October 18, 2010 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Help my mom find her social bearing in the South.

My mom just retired as a teacher for 25+ years, and kind of surprised the family when she moved to Camden, TN. She lived in busy, 24 hour Las Vegas over half of her life, and had many close friends there- she was also very active in her community, and volunteered as much as she could.

Since moving to Tennessee, she has been trying to get out into her new community, but she is having a hard time finding where she fits.... she was very excited to attend a "Meet the Candidates" event- only to find that it was a Tea Party Meeting. She attends church once in a while with my grandfather, but he is very Southern Baptist, and my mom is very progressive Catholic, and not to pick one side over the other, but I want to help her feel more comfortable. She enjoys Harry Potter and loves her non-Christian daughter...I want her to find people she can be herself around.

So, if you're in the Camden area, or have any experience in that area, what social events, volunteer groups, etc could you recommend for her? Are there any cool places I could tell her to go check out? I know they have to drive 45 minutes away just to see a movie, but she also loves bookstores, going out for dessert.
posted by haplesschild to Human Relations (13 answers total)
I've never been there but just looked it up on the map. It looks like there are a lot of state parks and nature preserves. If she's into that sort of thing volunteering at one of them would be a good way to meet people.

There is a Catholic Worker group in Nashville that she could check out.
posted by mareli at 12:13 PM on October 18, 2010

First of all, remember that there are different social norms in the rural South than in a big city like Las Vegas. While they both are America, they are very different Americas. That being said, not everyone in the South lives up to the tea-party, bible-thumping stereotype that Hollywood gives them. My experience is that differences are just city mouse / country mouse, democrat / republican kinds of things.

Maybe your mom should stay away from big political rallies (Political rallies are typically held by those on an end of a spectrum, rather than the moderates, and it stands to reason that a conservative region would hold conservative rallies.) If she is interested in politics, maybe she should try to get herself involved in local politics. While it will be more conservative than she is used to, people tend to be much more moderate on local scales.

Also, if she is progressive catholic, maybe she should check out the local parish. Southern Baptists can be a bit much for anyone not used to them. If the local parish is too conservative for her tastes, maybe try the local Episcopal church?
posted by chicago2penn at 12:14 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

How about the public library? They usually have programs going on and librarians can help a new person find their way in a new town.
posted by zzazazz at 12:17 PM on October 18, 2010

Benton County library.
posted by zzazazz at 12:18 PM on October 18, 2010

Wow, Camden is way out there and tiny. For what it's worth it looks like it is in Tennessee's 8th congressional district and there's an election this year, she could volunteer for the Democratic candidate.
posted by ghharr at 12:23 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've moved here from Los Angeles, 2 yrs ago, to a town 90 mins south of Nashville.

Community here is built on church activities. The first question you get from strangers is "where do you go to church." A born & bred local told me that Catholics are just one step above atheists so she might not want to broadcast that. Extra fun for me, as an atheist.

Also might be good to avoid publicizing her affinity for Rowlings' works.

One good thing, though, is that there is a community of intelligent people, though they may be heathens! see this previous question for more info. and look for my post of the organizations.

tell her to keep her eye out for like-minded people. Not everyone in TN is a teabagging bookburning biblethumper.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 12:25 PM on October 18, 2010

Has she gone to local Catholic churches? Catholic churches in the South can be socially pretty tight-knit and supportive because they are in a minority position.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:28 PM on October 18, 2010

As someone who lives in the area (see Paris, TN northwest of Camden, follow Highway 641 to Murray, KY) I can attest that there are lots of "thumpers and stumpers" but it's not all bad. Look towards Paris for a lot of things, it's the closest "big city" (very loose term), and it's fairly broad in it's depth and offerings. There's usually some community event going on there that I hear from the radio, and generally one of the more busy places around, without going to Jackson or Nashville. If she likes the outdoors, she's an hour drive from Land Between the Lakes (LBL) and it's seriously one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been. Not much more going on towards me, but my hometown of Murray is pretty cool, at least in my opinion, and worth a couple days of exploration.
posted by deezil at 12:40 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

My family moved to the south from the northeast 20 years ago, and we are not religious. My mom is now over 50 and has finally started meeting men who are liberal enough for her via internet dating. Even if your mom isn't looking for romance, maybe she could meet friends that way too?
posted by ecsh at 2:08 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's an awkward position to be in, as most likeminded people have learned not to broadcast their questionable-society tendancies. A friend in Alabama who's an atheist large-town (small-city?) doctor had to modify his answer to church questions to keep from losing patients. I agree that her future friends are out there, but they may be undercover, making it hard to find them. Her best bet is to test the waters at a few local gatherings, and get contact info for her favorite person at each of them. Her best bet for ferretting out a likeminded soul may be to go somewhere mid-range and wait to hear somebody badmouth "Nancy" for her questionable ways, then give Nancy a call.

In addition to previously mentioned outlets, volunteer at the local NPR pledge drive - my mom made some good friends there (and found a part-time retirement job) while working the phone bank.
posted by aimedwander at 2:19 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would suggest looking for (or starting up) an area atheists & agnostics meetup. If she starts one it might be better to do it in Paris, or better yet Jackson. Another idea is to google around for any groups or communities connected with anything that conservatives might turn their noses up at: Eastern philosophies, New Age stuff, traditional martial arts, etc, as that might put her on the trail to make some like-minded connections.

I once lived in a city of 25,000 where adherence to church was almost cultlike, and we barely found any fringe community at all worth mentioning. It seemed the town met every possible Southern stereotype, with the population divided into either churchly types or addicts. If there were others, they made no efforts to connect.
posted by crapmatic at 4:01 PM on October 18, 2010

And seconding the Catholic church idea.
posted by crapmatic at 4:02 PM on October 18, 2010

I have lived a number of places in my life. The hardest place to adjust to within the US was the Southeast, where I lived in a moderate sized city. I'm not saying this to criticize the Southeast, just that while I could never put my finger on why, the transition to living there was distinctively hard for my Great Plains self, more than the transition to the several other US regions where I've lived. So it really is a hard transition; it's not that she's not doing something right.
posted by slidell at 6:16 PM on October 18, 2010

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