Moving to Florida was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life; but as with all things, everything is not always roses and daffodils. There are hidden factors that nobody tells you about living at the beach, but why should they? Beach towns want to lure you in for all to be envious and think that having sand and surf is all fun and games. Having living in the North, where we had 4 distinct seasons, I grew accustomed to only getting a few months of sunshine. Imagine my surprise when my first Christmas holiday in Florida was spent in my swimming pool with 90 degree temperatures. All of my friends would love to trade places with me, seeing as I live only a few miles from the beach; but unless you have actually lived in a tropical climate, be careful what you wish for. There is much more than meets the eye.
Here are the things that nobody tells you about living at the beach.
The Guilt of Sitting Indoors in the AC
Ah, it is sunny and gorgeous outside, which I can see through all the dozens of windows in my house, but I just want to piddle inside and watch TV all day. If I choose that option, I am allowing the guilt to set in for not being out in the wonderful climate and taking advantage of it. Guessing that Florida has 300+ days of fabulous weather, it sets yourself up for failure knowing that anything you choose to do that is not sun-worthy, will invoke great guilt because you are lucky enough to be living at a beach and people would kill to trade places with you. Also, you cannot even cool off in your own swimming pool because the temperatures are pushing 100 degrees there, too at times.
No Make-up and a Ponytail
When living at the beach, in a hotter than hades climate, it becomes unreasonable to bother with doing your hair and make-up. Okay, so I am saving a bundle on cosmetics and hair products, but lets face it, I look average and blend in with everyone else around. This would not be a condusive option for a single person that is trying to market themselves for the dating world. It takes a real act of congress to make myself put forth any effort in styling my hair, fixing up my face, and basically just looking decent.
Healthy Food Markets
We have so many healthy food choices where I live and being fit is part of the beach scene. Enter me, who isn’t beach-body material and who would really rather have a corndog from Sonic than a “big healthy salad” choice that all my book club friends would pick when we go out for lunch. Again, guilt brought about again based on geography for not choosing the healthy options we have. Perhaps Germany would be a better address for me since I would choose fattening sausages, spaetzle, and sugary red cabbage over hamster food any day.
Citrus Fruit Overkill
I live in the freaking citrus capital of the world and do not even like citrus fruits. I can buy it dirt cheap, just like all of my neighbors, but yet everyone wants to sell you or offer you citrus fruit. It is not a rarity, please stop. This is not a commodity.
Maximum humidity, torrential downpours, high winds, power surges, and super hot temperatures are to expected when you live at the beach. Our climate is wonderful for tanning and enjoying outdoor life, yet “when it rains, it pours” would be an understatement. We even had to learn hurricane procedures and how to insert plywood over the windows should one be forecasted, and of course I forgot every detail a week later. Google will not let me down though in the case of a real emergency. Fingers crossed.
Old People and Snowbirds Test Your Patience
My town is probably half full-time residents and half snowbirds, retirees who travel South for the winter months. Our season starts around early November and lasts until the end of April. That means that getting a seat in a restaurant on a weekend is pretty much out of the question, visits to the grocery store are going to take twice as long, plus parking is always full no matter where you go. While I am sure the economy is much greater because of them, having to fight for a spot with these honkin’ big cars is not one bit fun. Then there are the old people. I absolutely love old people, but being surrounded by so many of them means I am sick more often, I have to exude lots of patience because they take longer in the post office and grocery store, plus their driving skills are horrid. You may be dodging red light runners one minute then behind a blue hair driving 15 in a 35 mile zone for 10 miles. It definitely exercises your patience skills.
Suddenly, Everyone Wants to Visit You
I have friends crawling out of the woodwork that want to come visit. Funny, when I lived in West Virginia for 44 years nobody ever wanted to just come visit. In fact, I have seen more West Virginia friends since I’ve lived in Florida than the last dozen years in Charleston. Suddenly living in a vacation zone means we are “got to see” friends, which is fine, I love socializing. Luckily my extra bedroom is always ready for receiving guests so come on down!
Sun Damage and Age Spots
Growing old is not always a pleasant thing, though the better choice than the alternative for sure, but having my skin riddled with brown age spots is not exactly what I signed up for. The sun used to just bring out a light dusting of freckles across my cheeks, cute, all the romance novels say so; but connect the dots kind of brown age spots is not one bit attractive, and premature for my age. I am a sunbather, and always careful to apply 30 or higher SPF sunscreen, yet the sun has not been kind to me, and I have only lived in Florida for 3 years. Beware, it isn’t pretty.
A Very Limited Wardrobe- T-Shirts, Shorts, and Flip Flops
Not that having only a limited number of clothing options is bad (because I for one love this daily unform), but the thought of going somewhere nice, which requires something of decent nature from the closet, usually gets kicked out of my mind as fast as it entered. Dress-up is something we no longer require or welcome so it is a rarity for either my husband, Eddie, or I to participate in anything that we have to leave the comfort of our daily wardrobe. In the event we do cave and decide to clean up, our fashions are sure to scream “vintage” since we spend no money at all on any current fashion trends. This winter I traveled to cold destinations and just wearing jeans was enough to make me want to drink myself under the table. If it does not involve t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops, I’m not interested.
Living in Florida has introduced me to all sorts of interesting wildlife. The birds NEVER shut up so regardless of where you are, their singing (or bickering, do we really know?) will trump any conversation you may be trying to have. Forget going to the ocean, it is full of sharks and manatees (I love seeing them but not something I really want to come face to face with in the ocean) plus the water isn’t so clean. My own yard is not even safe. Even though we have a fenced yard, the raccoons love burrowing under it or climbing over to leave us “presents” on our pool cover from time to time. Armadillos are no strangers either and this infuriates my dog when she smells their traces left lingering in her yard. In fact, one day we had a blue softshell crab underneath our grill. Like how the hell did that crab get 4 miles away from the ocean to my yard? Beats me.
Bugs and Other Creepy Crawlies
Okay, so I did not have any sons, nor grow up with any brothers around me, so it is fair for me to say that I do not like them and scream like a madman when they are around. Even worse than bugs are geckos. They sometimes get in the house and I have devised some very original ways for catching them and taking them outside, which only took me nearly 3 years to perfect. I cannot stand to kill anything so between the dog, cat, and I, we can usually trap them up so we can scoop them into a box and cover with a magazine long enough to get them to the door where I can gently toss them outside. I feel accomplished and all grown up because I used to have to call my friends 12 year old daughter or email my neighbor to send her 5 year old son over. They also fall in my pool all the time and I am having to fish them out because possibly Priscilla (my dog) scratched at them and they are now missing their tail. The stories are hilarious of my rescuing bugs and creepy crawlies but I won’t bore you with the details. Just know that it is non-stop, dealing with these pests.
I wish that someone would have told me these things or given me a heads up to make the transition a little easier. But since I am the nice woman that I am, I will share my secrets with you so that you can be more prepared than I was for living at the beach. Do you have any interesting stories about living at the beach? Do you have any other secrets? Know that as bad as I make it sound, there is nowhere I would rather be.
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