Wynwood vs South Beach

Or, How A Glasses-And-No-Makeup Girl Like Me Got Respect At The Snazzy Clubs

by Alexis Lamb from The No Pants LIfe

Wynwood VS South Beach - How A Glasses-And-No-Makeup Girl Like Me Got Respect At The Snazzy Clubs

When I go to Miami, I spent most of my time in Wynwood. Wynwood works for me. I feel at home with Wynwood’s mega graffiti murals, edgy art galleries, and sneakily overpriced boutiques that no one from Wynwood really shops at. I don’t wear makeup unless etiquette dictates I must. I prefer slogan tees to high heels. I tend to judge people based on the sharpness of their pop culture references as opposed to, say, how attractive they are, mainly because I’d appreciate if the same courtesy were extended to me. Hence Wynwood. 

Beautiful Murals

Beautiful Murals

But I also have a place in my heart for South Beach. Six miles away across Biscayne Bay, it’s got art deco everything, top-quality dining, and strains of EDM wafting out from behind the velvet ropes. It’s a magic vibe, straight Magic City style, all sea and sex, and sun. If Wynwood stokes your muse, South Beach puts a sway in your step.

But South Beach has a shadow side: the place has a way of stirring up all your inadequacies, much like a stepmom from hell. There’s always someone prettier, younger, richer, or thinner, that the bouncer lets slip through the velvet rope as you idle in line purgatory. 

So how did I, a Wynwood girl through and through (not to mention careening closer and closer to 40), survive the South Beach party scene?

My journey started on a Saturday morning when I did what I do on most Saturday mornings – hit the streets for a cleansing run. I loped from my AirBnB across the Venetian Causeway for six-odd miles until I reached the SLS Hotel on Collins Avenue, home of the Hyde Beach nightspot that hosts a popular and uber-glam pool party every weekend afternoon.

On my run

On my run

Think bachelorette shenanigans, magnums of champagne, cocktails by the fishbowl, and murky pool water by 6PM. Abandon all hope all ye who enter here, for real.

And I’d be heading there that afternoon.

Most of the time I roll to a pool party, I wear flip-flops and jorts and SPF 50 and some seven-year old mismatched bikini that I snagged in the bargain basket at a going-out-of-business sale.

I had a hunch that wouldn’t fly at Hyde Beach, so I asked my trusty Lyft driver – who has ferried many of Miami’s glam set to and from its swish environs – about South Beach’s sartorial expectations for velvet rope pool parties.

He said the word I dread the most: heels.

You got that right, kids. People wear HEELS to this pool party.

And gauzy, flowy, dress-type things, he said. Sexy caftans. Cover-ups that do anything but cover up.

I scrolled through the Hyde Beach Insta account and was assaulted with images of bros clutching bottles of Dom Perignon in both hands, willow-thin lasses with heart-shaped sunglasses, and no thigh-touching.

You just dropped a dress size, I reassured myself. I could waltz into a club like this without the gatekeepers at the door giving my bespectacled, makeup-free, almost-38-year-old face a big fat NIEN.

-          You run a three-hour marathon, I reminded myself. Your thighs are allowed to graze against each other.

-          But that was ten years ago, countered a darker voice inside. The last time you went to a club like this was ten years ago, too. And they didn’t even let you in then!

My Lyft driver (thank you, Marlon, with the Hyundai Sonata) passed along the names of some spots in Wynwood where I could get a Hyde Beach-level bikini (a sign of gentrification if there ever was one). Ten minutes later, I plunked down my trusty Chase Sapphire Reserve and got a triangle-top two-piece as turquoise and shimmery as the Atlantic. And a frilly little white linen cover-up.

All set to hit the clubs

Getting ready

Get there by 1PM or else you might not get in, texted my party friends. It was 12:20. My heart flopped. I wouldn’t have the time to take more street art snaps, or scarf down a pair of cochinita pibil tacos at Coyo Taco (let alone sip a lazy, cold horchata).

I dashed into the bathroom of my AirBnB and applied my makeup with all the care of a kabuki dancer and the gravitas of Brienne of Tarth preparing for battle. For this was battle. It was I, the scrappy ex-corporate-lawyer-turned-travel-blogger, against the glam squad. I was a half-Asian Cinderella in Aquazzura shoes. I was li’l David against a bevy of modelesque Goliaths. You can do this.

But, what was this?

Blending in with the bathing beauties at 38 robust years of age?

Proving to myself that I was still relevant?

That the passage of time had yet to render me invisible?

That my shiny new bikini could transform me into someone worthy of the Hyde Beach pool party?

I was never a "cool girl"

I was never cool in school. I read books about witches and vampires and dragons before Twilight and Harry Potter and Game of Thrones made fantasy geekdom cool. And the stamp of uncool stuck to me even after I left school. I mispronounced the names of French towns that everyone had been to but me. My dad wasn’t rich enough. My hair frizzed when it was supposed to be straight, but fell straight when it was supposed to go voom.  I made too much money (in my lawyer days). Then, I didn’t make enough (in my post-lawyer days). My neighborhood wasn’t convenient enough, or chic enough, or trendy enough. I was too angry, too loud, too openly ambitious, too vulgar, too intense.

None of the cool girls are like that, they told me. Be more like them. They dance like no one’s watching. 

But, what’s the point of dancing if no one wants to watch?

As soon as I got to Hyde Beach, I slunk into the cabana, poured myself a glass of champagne, and wedged myself into the far corner like a distant monarch.

South Beach

I’m not sure how many bottles passed until I got it in me to get off my sulky ass and dance. I had sat invisible in the corner for too long, watching happier people have their fun. But, when you watch, you see.

Up close, when the beautiful people could no longer rely on a carousel of Instagram filters to Valencia away their imperfections, no one was that cool. They were all smeared makeup, unkempt buns, a fake Chanel or two worn non-ironically – but they didn’t seem to care about anything beyond the next drop of the bass.

Maybe I didn’t need to be that cool, either.

So I got up and danced.

After the DJ played a few tracks, I was no longer pouting and wishing I was drinking $6 mojitos at Wood Tavern. I was dancing with myself, dancing on my own, dancing to the beat of the top-shelf champagne that zinged in my veins.

Then, a thing happened.

A girl came up to me. A thin, tanned girl.

 “You have a banging body,” she said. “And sick moves.”

South Beach vs Wynwood

“Running,” I told her, feeling smugly gratified but a little shocked that such a compliment could be leveled against my aging figure several years past its athletic prime.  

“I hate running,” she said.

She pulled me up onto the cabana couch as Cardi B spewed from the speakers. Before I knew it, other girls had joined us on the cabana couch. We were dancing. And everyone was watching. We exchanged names, smiles, life story sound bites, and our various reasons for coming to Hyde Beach that Saturday.

-          Divorce party.

-          Roommate reunion.

-          Corporate event.

“That’s what’s so great about this place,” said Ashley (or, at least, I think her name was Ashley; they all seem to have been named Ashley). “Nobody gives a crap, it’s all about the dancing.”

It's alll about the dancing!

It's alll about the dancing!

Lifting each other up

And maybe that was the secret ingredient to coolness all along – if you smile and dance like you’re enjoying yourself and everyone else, everyone else will want to smile and dance with you. Maybe some of coolness had to do with your bone structure or how your hair shimmers in the wind. But, maybe much, much more of it has to do with pulling your homegirls up onto the cabana couch and getting them to dance. You know, that whole girls-lifting-up-other-girls thing that we hashtag about but could be better at in real life. And I sure could have used a boost that afternoon (thank you, Ashley).

Back at "home"

Back at "home"

Back to the familiar

I Lyfted back to Wynwood, feet bloated and pinching in my club heels. In need of hangover balm, I limped into Coyo Taco. I couldn’t even be bothered to change. A couple behind me was arguing over whether Coachella had gotten too white. An unfamiliar song played over the speakers – no bass, no autotune – just a guitar (imagine that!), power chords, and a raspy male voice singing about whiskey and fire and quarter-life angst.

South Beach (of all places) may have given me a side of life lessons along with free-flowing champagne and a pinging headache. But, like a Stark returning to her personal Winterfell, my little Wynwood taco stand finally made me feel at home.   

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Alexis used to be a corporate lawyer in New York. After the recession, she started to create her life in a way that felt more personal and unique – that’s when she started her Blog! To show everyone that you can make a nice living – and, more importantly, architect a great life – all while working in just your underpants. Follow her along on her  Blog  and  Instagram!

Alexis used to be a corporate lawyer in New York. After the recession, she started to create her life in a way that felt more personal and unique – that’s when she started her Blog! To show everyone that you can make a nice living – and, more importantly, architect a great life – all while working in just your underpants. Follow her along on her Blog and Instagram!