By my own admission, I am a homebody. I would much rather go out to a great dinner, drink some wine, and be in bed by 10:30pm than be sitting VIP at a club popping bottles served by boustier-clad women holding sparklers way too close to their flammable breast implants.. I need a serious nap if I have to rally for something like that.
I prefer my own bed to a hotel and even chickened out going to sleepaway camp once. Deposit was paid, list of items for duffel bag received, and I just couldn’t do it. Know what else I couldn’t do? Tell the owner of the camp. My mom brought me to his office in Hollywood, told me just to tell him I didn’t want to go, and sent me in solo. She should have known better. He told me it was totally normal for a first-timer, just give it a chance, blah blah blah. And I said “okay” because I just didn’t have the heart to tell him he couldn’t win me over once I made up my mind. When my mom and I got in the car, she asked me what he said when I told him I wasn’t going, and once we were far enough away where she wouldn’t pull right back in I told her she had to do the deed.
But my homebodiness stretches further than a saturday night or a summer jaunt. I was raised in South Florida and swore I’d never leave. My core group of girlfriends have been in my life since kindergarten and I have deep roots here. If you have not lived in South Florida, you will NEVER understand. You might think you do, but there’s no way. And if you narrow your focus to North Miami Beach/Aventura, then you really don’t get it. For example, only a true NMBer will know about:
- Bagel Bar
- Sunshine Skateway
- The Unicorn
- “The Beach” refers to South Beach and not the actual beach
- Miami and South Beach are not in fact the same thing
- Chicken and Cheese -Doused in Sun Sauce
- “The Circle” in Aventura
Those are just a few staples. South Florida has its own culture and its own set of rules for sure. It’s perfectly normal to be sitting at a restaurant having dinner in shorts and flip flops, and have someone sitting at the table next to you who looks like they just walked off a page of a neiman marcus catalog. It can rain on one side of the street and not the other. There are more dogs being wheeled in strollers on “The Circle” than babies. My mom tried this with our pug Piglet, much to my dismay. She couldn’t understand why she didn’t like it. I should also tell you Piglet has a bat mitzvah dress.
My high school boyfriend had a black light under his car that made it look like he was a hovering UFO, all of the regular bulbs on the interior were also replaced by black lights, and you could hear his bass from a mile away. No, literally, 5 mins before he pulled in the driveway with his ponytail and shaved hair underneath, my little brother would yell “Chris is here!”. These were all desirable and highly sought after traits in a significant other in NMB. Winning.
I was recently talking to a group of co-workers about a regular field trip we took every year in elementary school. And only now, in my 30s, does it sound weird when I actually say it out loud. We hopped on a bus to Calle Ocho (that’s 8th street for you gringos…I get a pass because going to North Miami Beach Senior High kinda makes me part Chonga). We walked around, bought Cuban bread home to our Jewish mothers, ordered lunch in Spanish at McDonalds and visited a Cigar Rolling Factory where our 8-year-old lungs were treated to the fumes of local Tobacco.
How could I EVER want to leave this cultural enigma?
But I did, first for my 4-yr stint at the University of Florida. Then I came back. I needed a good dose of SoFla after being embedded in Gainesville with the ACRs (Alachua County Residents). My mom was only afraid I would go to UF, meet a New Yorker and move to NY forever. Instead I met a Floridian and moved up North. After moving back and getting divorced, I met a New Yorker and he has no intention of leaving Florida. Go figure.
Then life took me to Tampa for three+ years. My time in Tampa can quickly be summed up by my trip to Bed Bath and Beyond to get some Hanukkah necessities. I walked in, saw nothing but Christmas Decorations and said “Hi, excuse me, where can I find the menorahs?”. By the reaction you would have thought I asked for Meth (which I’m pretty sure I could have gotten there). The clerk says, “What’s a menorah?” and a little piece of my kishkas shriveled up and died right there standing next to the end cap filled with baby jesus in a manger statues. That was quickly followed by, “Ohhhh, you mean one of those Jewish Candelabra thingys. Nah, we don’t have those.”
Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. In Kansas/Aventura, the flower peddlers on I-95 and Ives Dairy Road probably sell menorahs…and meth.
From there, I moved to Boston and was irrationally excited when it snowed. I got a GREAT job, and then I met them.
I worked at a Public Relations Agency specializing in high-tech and there were these three girls that hated me. Hated. I’m pretty outgoing and friendly and I get along with anyone, unless you’re just a complete douchebag, so I was stumped. They were like the Plastics from Mean Girls. Always sitting at the 4 person table in the kitchen during lunch, all dressed alike, all eating the same smelly Tuna sometimes with Avocado, and even all had curly hair.
They were a cult. And I wanted in.
I don’t even remember exactly how it went down, but I think one day their leader told me I could sit with them for lunch, and I did. And then it became a regular thing. One of them told me their hatred for me started from the second I walked in to interview because, “I was all pretty with my long shiny hair in a suit.” They did NOT want to like me, but I quickly grew on them, like a fungus, and they didn’t stand a chance. If I did not have these girls for my 5 years in Boston I would have lost it. They literally were my life – professionally and socially. It wasn’t easy to break into their curly-headed circle with my flat-ironed hair. They were like their own little mafia, But once I was “made”, I knew they’d be around for life. and they are. They taught me how to properly wear infinity scarves. how to stuff said scarves in your coat sleeve at a coat check so you don’t lose it (genius), and slowly we all showed up wearing the same Gap cableknit sweaters and boot cut 7 for all Mankind jeans. We became one. Our conversations are highly inappropriate, we say wildly offensive, but hilarious, things to each other, and there are literally no boundaries. You never know what you’re going to get when a group text starts and I wouldn’t trade it for all the steak tips at Temple Bar.
I could not have been more of a Floridian when I got to Boston. It was July, a balmy 90 something degrees and I was mid-move into a high-rise right outside of the city. I was sweating like a hooker in church and was cranking up the AC as high as I could. Nada. This must be what camping is like. (sidenote: I’ve never been camping. I don’t want to go camping. A Days Inn is my idea of camping. Unless it’s Glamping, then sign me up).
I went downstairs, dripping, my Jewish frizz starting to show, short of breath – if I typed in my symptoms to WebMD I’m sure it would have come back as a heart attack. The building manager looked concerned and accompanied me back up. She walked over to the AC unit and said, “Sweetie, this is the furnace!”
What the fuck is a furnace??!?!?!??!?!
I hid my crazy, but not my Jew Fro, because once that shit is out let’s be honest, there’s nothing you can do. “Oh how silly of me, of course it’s the furnace. Where is the AC?”
She points to it and it’s one of those tiny window units. Just one. In the whole 2 bed apt. This is how I’m going to die. Of heat exhaustion in Brookline, Massachusetts.
I did what any sane person (from Florida) would do and bought 4 or 5 standing fans and put them everywhere. After year one, the apt got a facelift with an ugly standing AC that looked like a medical device to keep you alive (which it kind of was) and had a GIANT tube which fit out the window. You had to empty the water every several hours or it stopped working. How did people live like this. So THIS is why I was irrationally excited for snow. I mean, I had already proven the furnace worked like a charm!
I think about Boston a lot, but even more so this week with Marathon Monday. The last stretch of the race was literally outside my building. I watched every year. Got swept up in the vibe and camaraderie. It’s hard not to. Bostonians are passionate – about their family, their friends, their sports teams, their beer, everything. They’re not fake, or pretentious, and they may not be so quick to let you into their circles. But it’s not because their mean, it’s because they protect their circles. And if you are ever fortunate enough to make it into one, you will understand their passion.
Leaving Boston was impossibly hard. I missed my friends, my job, my sweatbox of an apt. But the good news I was in Manhattan for a year or so. My entire extended family a quick trip away on the LIRR, sick apt on the UES, childhood friend on the next block who went from my “go-to NYC resource” to my blonde bestie in 5 minutes, and a whole new adventure.
My Boston gals totally prepped me for this. I did not lose a single scarf while I was there.
I thank god all the time that I had the opportunity to leave the comfort and familiarity of South Florida. Each experience shaped me and made me who I am. An inappropriate, snow loving, passionate, Floridian who left a small piece of my heart in Boston. And now, back in the motherland, I have more menorahs than I know what to do with.