Words by Garrett Paul Schlichte
If you grew up in Florida, chances are at some point you had a t-shirt, or a bumper sticker, or poster, or set an AIM away message that read, “I live where you spring break.” As if to say to the rest of the world, suck a fat one loser, my life is a vacation! Which is all well and good until you wake up in a cold sweat one night (or a hot sweat, there’s no such thing as cold sweat in Florida) and realize, Oh my God, I live where they spring break.
I live where other people come once a year, for somewhere between four and seven days, and wreak absolute havoc both on themselves and their surroundings. Nowhere is safe because all these tourists are looking for is a beach. To align with public opinion, all of Florida is in fact a beach. Unless it is a swamp, which is honestly just a muddy beach. Whatever. Either way, I woke up one day and realized my home was in a place the vast majority of the country (the world?) considered to be a place most appropriate to inhabit for less than a week, necessitated by being at least partially, if not entirely, blacked out for a majority of the time.
And if Florida is not a place you grew up knowing as a college student’s week long escape, where they can buy wine coolers with their university ID as appropriate identification, then you probably knew it as somewhere people go to die. God’s Doorstep, perhaps. And if you don’t know it as either of those places, then perhaps you might recognize it as the place that continually f*cks up elections. Or the place where Anna Nicole Smith died. Or where that one dude ate that other dudes face off while he was on bath salts. Or where a woman was videoed shaving her legs in a public pool. Or where a dog once shot its owner in the leg with a .380 pistol.
What I’m trying to say I guess, is that Florida is an absolute, unbridled hellscape. But it’s my hellscape, and unless you grew up in Florida, you need to shut up about it right now.
Floridians share an unspoken and unbreakable bond, a uniting thread that tethers each of us together and offers us an invisible shoulder to lean on. That bond is the bond of survival. It’s knowing that against all odds, we made it. Despite literally everything, we live to see another day. We look our very state in the face and say, to quote legend, icon, and star Tiffany Pollard, “I’m here, bitch!”
Outing yourself as a Floridian might not win you much in social settings, (other than letting people know not to mess with you because chances are you’re indestructible) but it does earn you the right to talk smack about your home state, a right over which we have sole proprietorship.
If you’ve not walked but four feet in a pair of jean shorts only to have your thighs begin to chafe immediately, you need to shut up about the Florida Man. If you haven’t gone outside on a beautiful, cloudless sunny day, only to be caught in a literal monsoon moments later, zip it about Miami traffic. If you haven’t been desensitized to think of category three hurricanes as nothing more than a light drizzle, I don’t need your input on how ridiculous our state school rivalries are.
I know that our state doesn’t make any sense, but that’s for us to deal with, so mind your own business. Because for each bizarre headline you read about Florida, there are a million sticky fingers from melted ice cream cones, rubbing aloe on sunburned bodies wearing crowns of chlorinated pool water hair, weaving a tapestry of unbelievably strange communities in a state that is painfully shaped like a weird little penis. And you can’t appreciate the beauty of that unless you lived it, and unless you appreciate the beauty of Florida, you don’t get to talk sh*t about, because you haven’t earned your stripes.
So, until you’ve ridden reverse cowgirl on an alligator whist shooting roman candles off into the balmy night air drinking a Mikes Hard Lemonade, you keep your sweet ass mouth shut when it comes to the Sunshine State, ok? Because let’s face it, Florida will be the first place to sink into the ocean during the gradual heat death of the universe, and our funny anecdotes about survival will read less like headlines, and more like instruction manuals when we’ve figured out how to survive underwater. The state may sink, but Floridians are forever.