Southern Charm returns to Bravo tonight for its fourth season. I watch this guilty pleasure of a show when I’m feeling homesick. Set in Charleston, S.C., the scenes of the sunny streets lined with colorful historic houses are comforting when it’s cold and dreary in N.Y.C. And while Cameran, Shep, T-Rav, and the gangs’ antics on the series can be amusing at times, and cringe inducing at others, it’s the grande dame and glamorous mother hen, Patricia Altschul, that keeps us coming back for more. Lady Gaga got it right when she tweeted: “Patricia on #SouthernCharm, like lookin in the damn mirror, Cheers Queen!”—we couldn’t agree more. She’s brash, ballsy, and above all there’s no bullshit. She’s also a fan of blue and white, Mario Buatta, and she just launched a caftan collection tailored to pet lovers.
I sat down with her recently at her home in the historic district, the Isaac Jenkins Mikell House, to sip some tea and talk about men, among other things. Altschul revealed that she’s asked about this subject all of the time now, saying women are constantly approaching her with questions about matters of the heart. Lucky for us, she has a hilarious book coming out later this month called The Art of Southern Charm, where she covers everything from how she became “Patricia” to her favorite martini recipe and what went down when it comes to all three of marriages. Here, she shares a few of the lessons she’s learned when it comes to love—be sure to pick up the book for more.
Any tips for how to meet one’s significant other?
You have to be adventurous and go out for drinks and dinners. I don’t believe there is just one person in the world for you. Chances are you will be kissing a lot of frogs (metaphorically) before you find your prince. There will be good nights and bad nights. If an exploratory date is not right, don’t waste time: move on.
What are the things one should think about before making it official?
And when you think you’re ready to turn that date into a mate, make sure you ask all the right questions. What makes smart people turn into dummies when they fall in love? Remember Maya Angelou’s brilliant words: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Even though love is blind, keep your eyes wide open and pay attention to a potential mate’s words and deeds. I think these considerations are so important.
Do you have interests in common? That sounds like a no-brainer, but in the early blush of a relationship, we some times forget that our similarities can be more important than our differences. Not to make this too complicated, but the similarities in question should be important ones, not just funny coincidences. When I met my second husband, Ed Fleming, we were amazed to learn that both our mothers were Colonial Dames and that we both loved to eat Spam. Essentially, a shared passion for canned meat was the basis for our marriage a few weeks later!
I’m also amazed by what couples don’t talk about. They may know each other’s preferences for a Starbucks, or a football team, without ever discussing the important subjects that define a serious relationship. Before you even think about making a commitment, these issues must be on the table.
What are some of these vital questions that need to be asked?
What are your financial goals?
How do you like to spend money? A free spender and a tightwad are going to have serious problems down the road.
What about having children? Yes? No? How many?
How much time do you expect to spend with his friends/your friends? How much time do you expect him to spend with his friends? Are you okay with Boys’ Night Out, if that’s his routine? Same questions for you, if you’re planning regular trips to Chippendales!
What’s your best tip for keeping a happy marriage?
My mother always told me it was important to pick your battles. I hate it when I see couples constantly nagging and sniping at each other over every little thing. Always employ a sense of humor and save disagreements for issues that are truly important. I should know. I’ve been married three times!
The Art of Southern Charm comes out on April 18th and is available for pre-order on Amazon now.
Portrait photographed by: Wermiel/NY Post / Splash New