Dispatches From My First Few Weeks in Florida

In July 2020, I finally, officially, fully moved in with my girlfriend. Our plans changed about a million times, but now we’re finally here, making a home together in Florida. We spent the first couple months in Orlando, packing up her former house and preparing to move down south to Miami, a city new to both of us.

The following are a series of completely true updates from my first several weeks in the sunshine state. The bold parts are excerpts of tweets, journal entries, and texts from July to November 2020.

Florida Update: Just experienced my first Florida thunderstorm, and I would just like to say…no ❤️️

My girlfriend tried to prepare me for Florida thunderstorms due to the fact that I established early on in our relationship that I react to thunder the same way a small dog does. Well joke’s on fucking ME because my girlfriend’s little French bulldog doesn’t care AT ALL about thunderstorms here, which are approximately 50% more thunderstormy than thunderstorms anywhere else. The dog simply watched while I cried a lil and the WHOLE HOUSE shook. ;(

Florida Update: I bought white linen pants. And then I bought a second pair of linen pants.

The no white after Labor Day fashion rule doth not apply here!!!!!!!!

Florida Update: Bikini tops are shirts. DON’T change my mind.

I think I’m turning into a Beach Wine Mom. As in, I keep drinking pinot grigio on the beach and wearing bikini tops in my own kitchen while, like, steaming shellfish.

Florida Update: A lizard jumped on my foot :(

This is mostly upsetting because my girlfriend once said to me that lizards “want nothing to do with you” and I was like ok cool so lizards in Florida are like the hot mean girls in middle school. But THEN a lizard absolutely jumped on my foot. And in both the lizard’s and my girlfriend’s defense, it was almost certainly attempting to get away from me and accidentally hopped upon my sandaled foot. But I still did not care for it!!!!!!! I promptly tweeted about my myriad experiences with Florida lizards (see below), and Laneia dared to ask if a palmetto bug had flown down my shirt yet, and while that particular horror has not happened yet, I will never stop thinking about the possibility of it.

Florida Update: I’ve seen so many lizards fucking!

I knew there would be lots of lizards and various cold blooded creatures here, but I did not know how HORNY they would be. The first time I saw lizards fucking I was like ok weird; the second time I was like damn; the third through fiftieth time I was like CAN YA’LL GET A ROOM????

Florida Update: Tonight, three Floridians sat in my backyard and told me all the animals, insects, and plants that could kill me here.

I’m still processing this one.

Florida Update: Every day I learn a new bird.

The anhinga aka snakebird is probably my favorite. Those bitches are spooky AND beautiful.

Florida Update: There are very large birds that fly very close to our condo every day, and every time I think one is going to accidentally fly into my head but this of course never happens but I also keep forgetting to look up what kind of birds they are. If I had to guess, they are the size of a school bus.

Need a Bird Gay to weigh in on this one.

Florida Update: MY HAIR LOOKS AMAZING!!!!!!

Yes, I do have to use a prolific amount of this anti-frizz spray that makes me smell like a piña colada, but in general, the humidity has been great for my hair and face.

Florida Update: Saw some fins scurry-swim past me while I was standing in the ocean and asked my girlfriend what it was and she said in a sing-songy voice “oh, just a sharky.”

Like she really thought she could fool me into thinking it was a cute lil ocean pal by calling it a SHARKY. I have never once in my life seen a shark, and I have swam in many bodies of saltwater. But just one week in Florida, and one basically brushes against my ankle.

Florida Update: My girlfriend beckoned me to the kitchen to show me a “ Florida surprise” which I thought was maybe a little glass of orange juice but was actually a snake slithering in the sun just outside our kitchen window.

I’m just surprised she didn’t call it a “snakey.”

Florida Update: We went on a night walk and saw a bright green light fly across the sky, paused to make sure the other had seen it, and then just kept walking like nothing happened.

I still have no idea what we saw. It looked sort of like a shooting star but also way too close and VERY GREEN. It’s extremely possible that we witnessed some sort of cosmic event or the beginning of an Annihilation-like situation, but neither of us were particularly fazed because sometimes surreal things just happen here.

Florida Update: Every season is tomato season here.

I keep saying I’m going to make tomato jam and have yet to make tomato jam, so please check in in about a month to see if I have made tomato jam yet.

Florida Update: Everything about Disney World sounds made up.

I still have not been to any of the parks due to the global pandemic, but every once in a while my girlfriend will say something about Disney, and I just have to believe her even though what she’s saying sounds like a lie. I thought Disney World was just kinda of overpriced cheeseburgers, women in princess costumes, and rollercoasters but it’s apparently essentially its own planet with its own laws of physics. I think I’ve been told there’s a rollercoaster where you go to hell? I mean, sounds neat.

Florida Update: How many mosquito bites is TOO many mosquito bites?

Now that we’re on the 20th floor in a Miami condo, I don’t have to contend with nature’s vampires anymore, but in our first couple months up in Orlando, we sat in our Airbnb’s backyard almost every day which 1. Was incredible, especially coming from Vegas where we couldn’t be outside for too long without feeling like we’d been hardboiled and 2. Meant I received approximately 75 bug bites a day. SOMETIMES ON MY ASS. Spray and citronella helped a little bit but not entirely. Apparently, sticking Bounce dryer sheets in your pockets also helps. I’m learning so much about science.

Florida Update: Floridian meteorologists are paid to lie.

You must have to be very brave and confident to become a weatherperson in Florida, because you basically just have to be wrong all the time. Despite being told by my sister many times that the weather app that comes with iPhones is a piece of shit, I never saw myself as someone who would PAY REAL AMERICAN DOLLARS for an app that merely tells me the weather, but I did indeed spend $3.99 on an app that merely tells me the weather. It is still often wrong.

Florida Update: Every time I get close to the ocean, I stick my tongue out to taste the salty air.

I have always wanted to live close to the beach. Technically, I “have” before. But that was in Los Angeles, where despite being close-ish to the coast, if you live anywhere other than the west side, you’re looking at a 1 hour+ journey and also no one really seems to want to go with you? And then in Chicago, and yes lake beaches are real beaches (everyone in Florida would probably disagree even though there are so many lakes here), but they’re also cold 88% of the time. And then I was in Brooklyn where the long subway ride TO the beach can sometimes be fun and exciting but the ride home is always…a low-stakes nightmare. All of this is to say that now I can !!!WALK!!! ten minutes to a beach.

Florida Update: Do I miss the fall? Yes. Do I miss being cold? No.

We keep buying candles that smell like campfires and spiced cookies and wet leaves, which helps a bit with the autumnal FOMO.

Florida Update: Oh no I get cold at 75 degrees now.

TBT the polar vortexes I lived through in the Midwest. Now I have to wear a light sweater if it’s cloudy and below 80. Sometimes, there’ll be a windy day and I’m like damn where’s the hot cocoa.

Florida Update: Everyone keeps telling me the correct way to outrun an alligator, but I keep forgetting.

I think you’re supposed to run in a zig-zag???? In any case, I haven’t actually seen an alligator anywhere other than in the very far distance along the highway while driving from Miami to St. Petersburg. They were basking in the sun which is also one of my favorite Florida activities. Gators! They’re just like us!

Florida Update: Every sunset here is perfect and one-of-a-kind.

Pretty sure I’ve seen every color imaginable in the Miami sky, and if I think about it for too long I’ll start crying. Nature is terrifying and beautiful, and Florida reminds me of that every goddamn day.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 816 articles for us.


  1. Amateur bird gay here. Well, professional gay, amateur birder.

    The large bird you may be seeing is a sandhill crane. Look ‘em up, compare, and report back.

    Also, I’m a Florida native and can confirm palmetto bugs are the devil, and one ‘will’ fly at your face/hair/shirt when you least expect it. Good luck in FL, it’s a jungle out there.

  2. YO WAIT LISTEN I’m delayed in reading this piece but I finally am AND I TOO SAW A GREEN LIGHT FLASH ACROSS THE NIGBT SKY only I’m in New England. My partner saw it too WHAT WAS IT??? We saw it like September 10, 2021, thereabouts. I WOULD LOVE ANY INSIGHTS THANK YOUUU!

  3. this is very helpful bc i am a michigan gay trying to fall in texas. well actually i fall until about 9:30am each morning, like today i wore my special scarf, and then after that i summer – i even seriously contemplated getting a gelato as my treat, but they didn’t have a flavor i wanted so i just got a cookie. i have only one pair of linen pants, but i think it will be three before next summer is over. the palazzo trend was right on time for my move!

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