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Confessions of the Un-Diegans

Not every San Diegan loves fish tacos and the beach. Can't believe it? Meet the locals who go against the grain.
Vanessa Mckeown

By Claire Trageser with additional reporting by Christina Orlovsky Page | Photography by Vanessa McKeown

“I hate the sun.”

I hate the sun and hot weather! And I seriously strive to be as pale as possible. Fashion magazines have been trying to sell me for years, but I positively hate the look of tanned skin. When your beauty icon is Morticia Addams, living in a city that gets more than 250 sunny days every year is not ideal. And temperatures over 75 degrees? That immediately sends me running to the nearest (and preferably darkest) air-conditioned bar. As someone at the San Diego Tourism Authority whose job it is to market our famously sunny, warm weather around the world, imagine the looks of confusion I get from my coworkers when I get overly excited about rainy, gloomy weather!

—Candice Eley, 34, City Heights


“My friends always want to hike.”

I’m not a huge outdoors guy. There’s wolves out there, grizzlies, mountain lions, coyotes—lots of ways you can die. You can fall off a cliff, or get skin cancer from the sun.

But if we’re being honest, I’m just lazy.

Nary a week goes by without some Facebook invite or group text invitation to hike or camp or do some other outdoor activity. Most of the time I just don’t reply. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the social aspect. There are lots of ways to be social. I can socialize online, or at Nunu’s.

If mankind was meant to spend significant portions of their days in the wilderness, why have we evolved to settle, domesticate cats and dogs, and build cities? What I’m trying to say is, voluntarily taking yourself out of a safe, comfortable environment and into the hunting grounds of bears, cougars, and gnats seems crazy to me. You’re basically rejecting millennia of human progress, and I find that offensive.

—Joe Yerardi, 28, Ocean Beach

My 15-year-old calls the ocean “a vast wasteland.” —Adam McLane mclanea


“I don’t do yoga.”

I hate yoga. I might be the only white woman on earth who does. I recently moved to San Diego from Brooklyn, and everyone there does yoga. Women, children, babies, men with topknots. There, I felt like a weirdo; here, I feel like a total freak! It’s like a religion here. Every park and beach has a cluster of yogis saluting the sun in fashionable athleisure wear.

I hate yoga for two reasons: The first is that my mind never stops moving. Sitting in a quiet room for an hour is a nightmare for me. By the time the class is done, I’ve thought about that one ex-boyfriend from college who terrorized my cat, the conversation I had with a stranger at Target when I forgot the word “frittata,” how the main character from Felicity might be a sociopath, and about a million other ridiculous things that leave me a sweaty, anxious mess.

The second reason is that the reality never measures up to the fantasy on Instagram. In pictures, yoga is all inversion, insane balance, and circus-level flexibility. The reality is trying not to let your sweaty palms slip out from under you while you downward dog for fifty minutes—and hold in a fart. I’d rather be watching Felicity.

—Nicole Steadman, 40, Rolando Park

” I hate the beach. “

It’s been more than two years since I’ve been to the beach. The last time was for a friend’s daytime birthday party, when I trudged through the hot and dusty sand to the spot they’d picked out. The sun reflected off the ocean into my eyes, the wind whipped my hair into my mouth, and I started thinking about when I could go home.

I’m happier running on the cement boardwalk by the water—please don’t make me walk onto the sand. I’m scared of waves, and don’t even want to wade as they crash around me, let alone trying to body board, or worse, surf.

Going to the beach feels like a whole lot of work with no reward—you have to remember to pack a million things and keep the sand off your phone and anything else you care about. And whenever I do get my towel spread out, I immediately have to pee. Then what am I supposed to do?

My deep dislike of the beach sometimes makes me feel silly for wasting my time in San Diego, especially when I meet people while out of town. “You live in San Diego?” they say, sounding mystified. “You must go to the beach all the time.”

—Claire Trageser, 33, El Cerrito

Confessions of the Un-Diegans

Confessions of the Un-Diegans

“I’m child-free in the suburbs.”

My spouse and I are lucky enough to live in my mother’s old house in Mira Mesa, which means affordable rent, a long commute to downtown, and the occasional feeling of wearing an unconvincing Earthling disguise. Our immediate neighbors are retired marines who’ve been kind enough not to open debate on the protest signs in our windows but gently remind us when our infrequent front-yard maintenance begins to devalue their property. Walking into any given neighborhood restaurant means becoming outnumbered by minors at least five-to-one, and so far we’ve stumbled into two street fairs that we might’ve known about if only we hadn’t missed the PTA newsletter. Choosing to be child-free has definitely brought us some skepticism and disapproval—though not nearly as much as most parents encounter. (Turns out, judging the family planning decisions of relatives and strangers alike is a pretty popular human pastime.) We’ll try our best to make the world better for the next generation in ways besides duplicating ourselves into it, and put more trust in karma than DNA guilt that someone will be there to help us in turn when our body parts start falling off.

—Dan Letchworth, 32, Mira Mesa

“I’m a Navy sailor who can’t swim.”

As a Navy sailor for more than 22 years, I climbed the ranks to senior chief and spent more than 13 years at sea before retiring. Still, ask me to swim a lap and forget it! I passed my test by doing an upside-down froggy stroke there and back, there and back, and that was it. It’s a good thing we spent most of our time on the ship and not actually in the water.

—Fernando R., 43, University Heights

“I don’t care about sports—but my wife does.”

I don’t hide the fact that I hate most sports. During the Chargers stadium fiasco, when anyone (read: everyone) asked if I was upset about them leaving, I would say, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” When my wife dragged me to Padres Opening Day and the guy next to me asked what I thought about their prospects for the season, I replied, “Sorry, bro, I’m just here for the expensive beer.” The worst part about going to a sporting event is when she makes me wear clothing to back a team I know absolutely nothing about—and about which I care even less. Mainly because it opens me up for all kinds of conversations about player stats, teams, etc., that I have no interest in entertaining. I’m a sporty-enough-looking guy, so people assume I have an opinion about football or baseball, and I do: I think they’re a huge waste of my money and time.

—Eddie P., 39, Eastlake

I just really enjoy paying rent. The more the better. —Will Moore  WillMooreSD  


“I hate driving.”

“What’s your dream car?” someone asked me at a party recently. Before I could even respond, my friend answered for me: “A subway pass.”

Yes, I would much rather have a subway pass in a city with reliable public transit than a lifetime supply of snazzy cars. Though great for hauling groceries and taking road trips, owning a car is a pain. The cleaning, the tire rotation, the oil changes, trips to the mechanic, the traffic, the thought of accidents—nope, not worth it even for those top-down, radio-blasting long drives.

I get it. When you grow up in a place with a strong car culture, you readily accept parallel parking. But I’ve hardly ever needed those four wheels—not in Chicago where I went to college, or Manhattan where the subway and my two feet were all I needed. To boot, I grew up in New Jersey, one of two states (the other is Oregon) where drivers don’t pump their own gas. But while deciding to move to San Diego four years ago, somehow I glossed over the fact that I would be that person who talks about freeway traffic, not subway stops. Me, the person who didn’t even know how to fill a gas tank.

I happen to live in pedestrian-friendly Hillcrest, and in times when I must drive myself, I keep it simple. It took me a full year to get the guts to drive to La Jolla. (At this point, I’ve gone as far north as Oceanside.) Pumping gas? I have the hang of it… mostly.

—Archana Ram, 32, Hillcrest

“Seafood makes me gag.”

I’ve never liked seafood, and as a native San Diegan, so many people are perplexed by that. I eat all other meat (and anything else, for that matter!)—just not seafood. I really don’t like the texture. Also, having grown up swimming in the ocean frequently, the concept of eating something that’s been swimming alongside me has always creeped me out.

It comes up all the time, especially at business lunches or dinners. When there are clients in town, it’s typical for them to want to go to a seafood restaurant. I’ve choked down my fair share of ahi and shrimp. I draw the line at octopus—I lie and say I’m allergic.

—Rebecca Buddingh, 25, North Park

Confessions of the Un-Diegans

Confessions of the Un-Diegans

Vanessa Mckeown

” I don’t own a car. “

I’m a substitute teacher, so I work in a different part of the county every day. To get there, I usually ride my bike, or maybe take public transportation for part of the way. If I go to Clairemont, I’ll bike in the beginning, but since Clairemont is a bit of a climb, I’ll load my bicycle on the bus in the morning so I don’t sweat as much. But I always have my bicycle with me, and sometimes carry extra clothes for the ride home.

The longest it’s ever taken me to get to work is about two hours. At least I’m riding around having fun and not stuck in traffic.

I could get a car, but I have a general unwillingness to drive. It’s never something I enjoyed doing. I’ve been behind the wheel and it’s so nerve-wracking. Riding my bike has a calming and meditative effect on me.

It’s also allowed me to meet a community of riders. You never think to wave and say hello to a passing car, but cyclists are always happy to see one another.

—Ramone Sanchez, 29, National City

I keep scarves in the car to shield the sun while driving. Am super sensitive to sun and absolutely LOATHE it & hot weather. —Jackie Bryant  jacqbryant


“I’m gluten-free— and not because it’s trendy.”

I found out I was allergic to gluten about four years ago, and it definitely comes up in my dating life. I don’t want to bring up that I’m gluten free right off the bat, so on a first date I’ll research the restaurant to make sure there’s something I can eat. But that makes it hard to be spontaneous.

There have been a couple instances when, because so many people are gluten-free only because of the fad, my dates didn’t believe me. I had to say, “No, this will really make me sick,” and it still got under their skin. Those guys didn’t last very long.

I used to love going brewery tasting, but now I’m more limited in where I can go. Also: donuts. I can’t go to Donut Bar, because they have nothing for me. I haven’t eaten a donut in years.

—Alex Bell, 27, Little Italy

“I’ve never liked cheese.”

It may contradict everything you think about Mexican eating habits, but in all my 59 years as a Mexican woman, I’ve never liked cheese or spicy food. Much to the disappointment of my mother when I was growing up and to the surprise of my friends, who look at me in shock when I ask servers at Mexican restaurants to hold the cheese on whatever I order. I’ve heard more than once, “What kind of Mexican doesn’t like cheese?” This kind!

—Mary C., 59, Chula Vista

Just Say No to Craft Beer

Confessions of the Un-Diegans

Confessions of the Un-Diegans

“San Diegans are obsessed with beer. People talk about beer all the time—what beers they’ve tasted, what breweries they’ve tried. I’m an artist and the obsession even shows up at art exhibitions. I also live in the East Village, and every block seems to have a craft beer place. I feel like I’m the only person who doesn’t drink beer.”

—Michael Freeby, 26, East Village

“I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life and just can’t get behind the craft beer scene. I’ll drink shots and cocktails, but to me, beer just tastes like piss. And craft beer tastes like piss with a fancy label and expensive price tag.”

—CJ P., 45, Santee

“I drink ciders and sours hoping they’ll be my gateway into the craft beer scene, but I just can’t shake the memories of cheap keg beer from college. I just stick with wine and liquor to play it safe.”

—Heather Pearl, 33, Crown Point

“I have never been a beer fan and I know that’s heresy, but give me a cocktail or a shot any day. I just never acquired the taste for it. If I do drink beer it’s a Corona with lime.”

—William Rodriguez-Kennedy, 29, Talmadge

“I have been a good sport and tried many types of beer—IPAs, ales, stouts, hefeweizens—but they all make me gag with instant regret. My husband adores good beer, so for years he harassed me to try whatever he was drinking, hoping that I would have some kind of beer epiphany. It wasn’t until I ugly-cried at a brewery that he understood the depths of my disgust.”

—Danielle Cervantes Stephens, 41, Spring Valley

Confessions of the Un-Diegans

Vanessa Mckeown

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