Culture Shock City

Written by on November 5, 2012 in Charlotte, NC - 6 Comments

This month I’m participating in NaNoWriMonofollow. Since I won’t have as much time to blog, I asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me – and some of them were actually willing to do it. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do; they have become my friends through this crazy little thing known as the internet, and I’m grateful for their support. 

By Holly Hughes

The first question I’m asked once someone learns I left LA is, why Charlotte?

My answer is simple; we wanted a better place to raise our daughter. We wanted her to grow up where she could be a kid a little bit longer and where sex, drugs and rock and roll weren’t waiting on a silver platter at the end of the driveway.

It’s ironic because I love Los Angeles. I spent my 20s, 30s and some of my 40’s here. I love the urban sprawl, the sunsets, the ocean and having mountain views on clear days.

I paid my dues there, working 14-16 hour days in production and made a good living. I knew the insider scoop on celebrities, got my brows done by Anastasia and shopped the trendy fashions. I even fell in love and got married. And in 2008 I became a mother to an amazing baby girl.

That’s when my acceptance for LA shifted. I didn’t know how to protect my girl from the pervasive mindset that there is always something better, skinnier or prettier out there. Do you know what I mean?

How would that affect my daughter? I wanted Izzy to grow up where people liked themselves. I wanted family friendships, like the ones that surrounded me when I grew up. I depended on my friends as if they were family because I had none in LA. But people don’t always show up like we hope.

For example, once upon a time I had a babysitter. I used her once a week and I grew to depend on her assistance. I enjoyed having her in my home and loved how she treated my daughter, so five months down the line when a friend expressed her need for a nanny I recommended mine. I thought I could help everyone out. My brother said I shouldn’t do it.

He was right. Tensions immediately flared in the friendship until ultimately I decided to fire my sitter. I thought it would end the silliness and I needed help from someone who could be flexible.

The morning after I fired the sitter, I was laying in bed, recovering from a D&C after suffering from a miscarriage, when my phone started incessantly ringing. When I finally picked up, it was my neighbor screaming at me “Who the fuck to you think you are? Why did you fire her? You should have come to me first. What the fuck is your problem?!”

I yelled back. “What the fuck is your problem? It’s none of your business. I fired her in a letter in Spanish, so how do you even know?” Then I confessed I was in bed, on heavy medication, recovering from my D&C.

“I know you lost the baby,” she said. “but you shouldn’t have fired her. Blah blah blah she kept going.

I figured she’d calm down and call the next day to apologize for her horrendous behavior. But she didn’t. I couldn’t fathom how a neighbor and self-professed friend was okay with cursing me out over a babysitter on the day my miscarried child was wrenched from my body.

That was not an environment I wanted to raise my girl in.

Then there is the cost of living in LA. We all know it’s expensive. But after having a child you have to add on, diapers, formula, clothes, toys and the biggest one of all education.

Everyone in LA knows that public schools aren’t an option, unless you move to Culver City, Manhattan Beach or Pales Verdes. Educating my daughter could start at $12 grand a year for macaroni art and go up from there. It all felt so wrong to me.

My OB-GYN once said, “You know, if you open a bank account in your daughter’s name, and put all the money you would spend on education into it until she is eighteen she’ll be a millionaire. So you can put her in public school and it’ll be okay if she’s stupid because at least she’ll be rich.” My husband laughed, but I didn’t think it was funny. It was too honest to be funny.

LA started feeling like a shrinking designer wool sweater. It didn’t fit, it wasn’t comfortable, and it cost a lot to maintain.

Last January my husband and I sat down at the kitchen table and talked about our life. We spoke about what we wanted our future to look like. The home we dreamed of living in, the trips we wanted to take, the golf we wanted to play, the second child we hoped to have and how to raise them with self-esteem and a good moral compass.

Then we talked about the emotional, financial and physical costs to do all of that in Los Angeles. I didn’t know how to do it without working ourselves to the bone.

I looked into his pretty blue eyes and I asked, “Do we want a life where we have to work hard to get by or do we want a life we can enjoy?”

Talking at the kitchen table, Rusty and I dreamed about a city where the cost of living was more affordable, public schools were viable and where we would be closer to family. Since he is a commercial real estate broker, our options were unlimited.

We started with a list that included Texas, Maryland and Virginia. Rusty researched work opportunities and obsessed on housing costs and taxes. There was no point in moving if we weren’t going to actually decrease our expenses. Ultimately we decided to investigate Charlotte, NC.

It took four days for me to slow down enough to enjoy Charlotte my first visit. Seriously it did. Everything about Charlotte is antithetical to LA. It’s lush, full of old trees and people go out of their way to be helpful. I saw turtles, vultures and deer hanging out on the side of the road but no migrant workers. There are three churches on every block. The tree-lined freeway had ten cars on it at a time. And the cars weren’t showpieces for their owners. They were just cars, full of families coming and going to dinner, or soccer matches, or the club pool. It was so strange.

When people found out we were interested in moving to Charlotte they took time to talk with us. They wanted us to like their city. They wanted us to meet other people who had relocated to Charlotte. They wanted us to learn about the neighborhoods and gave directions in miles instead of minutes. I learned the grocery store offer a free balloon to each kid every visit. It seemed miraculous.

Five months later we decided to go for it. We put our house on the market and found a home to rent.

Since our move in October 2010 neighbors have invited us to a Halloween party, dinners at their homes, and a turkey fry. We’ve hung out in our cul-de-sac with seven other families eating chili and having a few drinks while fifteen kids ages 12 -1 ran around. I saw kindness and curiosity in their eyes. “So why Charlotte?” they asked-
“Because of this,” I said, motioning toward the kids playing, I wanted Izzy to be able to have this. If she wants to go to LA in her 20s and experience all that the city has to offer then, she can, but for now I want her to be a kid for as long as she can.”

“Makes sense,” they say. Asking if we met the Hendersons who live down the block. They are in real estate too.

All this kindness takes me by surprise, but it is exactly what I was searching for. In Charlotte people come together to create a family-centric city.

So if you’re thinking about moving out of LA and Charlotte may be your destination, get in touch with me. I’d love to show you around.


Holly Hughes has over 18 years of film and television producing experience in Los Angeles. She worked for Showtime, HBO, Spelling Television, Sony, Fuji Film and had the pleasure of working with Academy Award winning director, Alexander Payne, Academy Award winning Director of Photography, John Alonzo, and in demand DP Phedon Papamichael, Showrunners/Producers: David Semel, his credits include: Dawson’s Creek,Roswell, Angel, Boston Public, The Practice… and Dwayne Shattuck who produces Mad Men, as well as the actors Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Biel, Martin Landau, Jeremy Piven, the cast of Election, 7th Heaven, and many many more. Holly is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

Holly is currently seeking an agent for her first young adult novel, LIFE-LIKE. Her short stories have appeared in moonShine review. Her personal essays were published by, What Was I Thinking on-line anthology and she was selected to perform her own work in Expressing Motherhood in Los Angeles, January 2011.

Holly is a member of the Society of Childrens Writers and Illustrators, and is a board member of the Charlotte chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, as well as an active member of SheWrites. She also blogs at Holly’s Narrative Dream

6 Comments on "Culture Shock City"

  1. Emily Harris November 5, 2012 at 11:31 am · Reply

    Great piece Holly!

    Oh man, that line from the OB-GYN about how your child could be uneducated but a millionaire kind of killed me too. Because it really is funny, true, terrible.

  2. Karen November 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm · Reply

    I love how magnificently you’ve written about our city. I always describe Charlotte as a really “manageable” place to live… and then feel the need to qualify that as a good thing. But we’re also growing (and growing up!), and I hope that continues to lead to great things for the QC!

  3. Chloe Jeffreys November 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm · Reply

    “I looked into his pretty blue eyes and I asked, “Do we want a life where we have to work hard to get by or do we want a life we can enjoy?”

    Holly, I’m a guest writer for Tricia this month too and wanted to come by and peruse the competition and read this. While my story is completely different, the statement you wrote above captures everything going on in my life right now. How hard do we keep working in order to just get by or do we go for it and make the life we want to enjoy? Put that way, the answers are easy.

    I don’t know about you, but when I’m about to make a huge life change I start looking for signs all around me that I’m making the right decisions. I consider your post here a definite sign.

    Thanks. Chloe

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