I introduced Juan and Laura to each other when we were in the 9th grade, and Laura was in 8th. They were each my best friends, and one day in the summer they both wanted to hang out the same day. Rather than compartmentalize them, I told them to both meet me at the pool. The rest is history, they've been dating for almost seven years.
I never broke contact with them, and when a group of friends in Gainesville invited me to celebrate Laura's party that weekend, I eagerly made plans to see them. I'd been to Gainesville many times but never to the bars in Midtown, and I was open to seeing how nightlife in Gainesville was different than in Tally.
The term "Tallanasty" is common, even among FSU students. Seems we have collectively agreed this party culture can be gross. However, many of the venues here are not that different from the venues in Gainesville. I'd say that FSU's primary reason for being called "Tallanasty" is due to The Strip, that section of bars behind the McDonald's on Tennessee Street. Characterized by sloppy drunks, minimal clothing, and cheap drinks, it's basically a mating cesspool for young people. Vomit and promiscuity often intersect at the Strip, and it's the home of White Trash Wednesday, FSU's premier party night during the summer. JJ's Tavern in Gainesville struck me as similar to the Strip: the smell of puke and the immediacy of drunkenness was striking. I looked around and all I saw were inebriated twenty-somethings crowded in a bar, dancing and yelling to each other over the music. Was it possible that I was at… the Strip?
But it was clear I was not at the Strip. A few minor differences made the experience subjectively Gainesville. For one, getting in was unique: They asked for both a student ID and a driver's license; you not only have to be 21, but you have to be a student. This is a big difference from the venues here in Tally, where a lot of them are simply 18+, and student ID is not required. Requiring a student ID at the entrance made it feel more exclusive. No randoms, no unemployed weirdos would be allowed in. There was a feeling of privilege to be there, as it was implied that this space was for young beautiful smart students just looking for a good time. Venues in Tally, like the Strip and Bajas, are less picky about who enters, and the resulting experience can be a bit uncomfortable with the variety of people and the (sometimes) significant age difference.
The "bouncers" there were also much nicer. Instead of cold frat bros asking for ID, it was a pair of dudes asking me "how I'm doing this evening," complete with a smile and telling me to have fun. It was welcoming, and I felt like I could belong there.
A few other, subtler differences. One was the intergender dynamics. I felt that the women there were easier to talk to, and it was less of "who do you know?" that seems to background many of the interactions around FSU. They were also more honest, and they'd blatantly express whether they were interested in male advances.
I also noticed that women there seem empowered and confident, and I went home with someone who told me I should come home with her, and that she lived a block away. Rarely have I experienced such blunt and direct self-confidence in college women, and I found it extremely attractive. Around FSU, I often see guys not taking the girl's cues about what's not working; very rarely do I see girls be so direct as I saw in Gainesville.
There's an aura of respect around education and knowledge in Gainesville and there's an empowerment that comes along with it. You can tell people there are smart and proud of it. I'm used to going out and being in the moment, trying to just have a good time and connect with people, but while in Gainesville, I was often asked about my plans for school: where I go, what I study, what I want to do with that, and once I had told them about me, they would proceed to humbly brag about their rather impressive accomplishments; all kinds of research opportunities and getting published and certifications of all types. They were proud of their accomplishments and used them to flex on me. Rather than using low cut shirts and tight shorts, they let their accomplishments and temperament speak for them. As a fan of strong women, I was intrigued, and sometimes even intimidated. I doubted whether I was intellectually impressive enough to keep up with them. I found myself wanting to match their mental speed and confidence, something I thought I already had.
This was my fifth time in Gainesville and it was my best time. I already can't wait for the next excuse I have to visit my excellent friends in that town, and I'm looking forward to my next adventure there.