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Florida’s Redneck Riviera

Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 1.33.59 PMWe spent two days in Florida, on a little patch of the state known both fondly and jestingly as the Redneck Riviera. It’s true, we didn’t go for the more “stereotypical” beach cities of Miami or Orlando, where bikinis and Aloha shirts reign. This was a definite choice on my part – we’d seen Atlantic City and experienced what my NJ date called “vacation culture” and honestly, I had a lot more interest in discovering slightly unknown areas of the country. So Panama Beach in the Redneck Riviera it was.

A depressed nook of vacationland, Panama Beach didn’t have much going for it except that it was hosting an Iron Man Triathlon. On my daily run each morning I gladly watched beef-caked men in wetsuits jogging about, swimming, and watching me. None of them wanted to go on a date though (something about having a race, silly guys), so it was up to me and OkCupid to find someone. Which in a town that thrives on lower-income families seeking a vacation, was a challenge. I started getting hits when I prominently displayed that I’d be paying for the date (a theme we saw throughout the rest of the South, interestingly).

I should admit now that my head felt fuzzy. A friend of mine had called the first morning in Florida to say she’d lost her best friend rather tragically. From three thousand-plus miles away, I was helpless to do anything but talk and listen, neither of which felt particularly helpful when what I wished I could do was give my friend a hug, hold her hand and not let go. My date felt as disjointed as I felt, though I won’t take all the blame for that (which becomes clear in another paragraph or so).

Perhaps the only other vegetarian in Florida sat across from me – woot! He looked like Mr. Delaware, and I pondered if I was seeing a sign. Coupled with my mind drifting behind me in a mortality driven, unfairness laden balloon, I let the conversation lag into discussing the scenery. Twice in the first ten minutes I noted the docks we were on were just “lovely.” Eventually, Jesse, my date, helped me through some small talk and I was able to shake the dust bunnies from my brain.

Which means we started talking about dating. Jesse’s history was blemished. His PhD candidate ex-fiance had cheated on him during their long-distance relationship and then had broken off their engagement. He seemed as though he was still rather into the girl, but either thought he wasn’t or simply wouldn’t admit it to a stranger (fair). Jesse did start a soliloquy as to why it was best he wasn’t with his ex, making excuses the way one does when they’re attempting to accept what is. Talk of the ex-fiance turned to talk of his other serious relationship, a high school sweetheart turned college love who also cheated on him.

In a turn I wasn’t expecting, Jesse talked about being in open relationships now. He’s dating, openly emotionally invested in, a few people. There’s a girl he considers at the top of his list, a queen bee of sorts, but she’s not the only girl he sees. He’s not interested in being tied down. And I have to admit, that is really understandable given his circumstances and as Megs pointed out, it’s almost as if he’s given up trusting anyone, least of all himself. Seems like we all have issues to sort through, no?

What our date reminded me of is that there’s rumor floating around the internet: that people who are on OkCupid and Plenty of Fish, the popular free dating websites, are on the rebound. Not that Jesse quite fit into that category, but he kind of did with his open-relationshipness and admitting to not really wanting a girlfriend per say. I suppose I could say that three years ago I was on the rebound when I rejoined OkC, and that last year my ex was definitely on the rebound despite not thinking he was.

I have to wonder…is there something to that rumor?



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