The key to having a successful Spring Fling turned out to be borrowing a cigarette that I never smoked. That and four relentless wingwomen from Kappa Kappa Gamma. The only downside?

The whiplash outlasted the five-day fling.

Until spring break, I thought you could only get “Spring Fling Whiplash” on Old Campus by dancing a little too funky to the beats of Third Eye Blind. Any other kind of Spring Fling was the stuff of teen-movie-myth. But over spring break, I became an initiate to the exclusive cult. I saw the light and heard the choirs of angels; the light came from a Florida sun, and the angels sang with a subtle southern twang.

So, for those nonbelievers, I now present: “The Anatomy of a Spring Fling in Five Days.”

Day One: I think the two boys at the bar are dating; my wingwoman disagrees. She’s right: One boy leaves to get a lap dance from the stripper from Fort Worth, leaving the other at the bar by himself. So he’s single, sitting right next to me and hotter than the subway in August. I am sophisticated; I am smooth; I am suave. Against my merciless powers of flirtation, this man doesn’t stand a chance:

Wingwoman: “Ask him for a cigarette.”

Me: “Why?”

“He’s pulling out a pack of cigarettes.”

“I don’t smoke cigarettes.”

“I’ll smoke the damn cigarette, just ask!”

So I do.

“Um … hey, can I bum a cigarette? [pause] It’s for her.”

I am obvious; I am awkward; I am a mess. Against my powers of inadequacy, this man doesn’t stand a chance. Who says, “Bum a cigarette?” But he smiles anyway and hands me one. A pause. It’s now or never …

“So … hey, where are you guys from?”


And oh, how the twang rolls. He insists that he doesn’t have an accent, but then again, Canada insists that it’s a real country.

Tennessee: “You here with your girlfriend?”

Me: “What?”

“The cigarette.”

“Oh. Oh! No, I’m not straight. I’m gay. Definitely gay.”

He smiles. My turn: “You here with your boyfriend?”


“The boy in the back room with the stripper from Fort Worth.”

“Oh. Oh! No, He’s not my boyfriend. I’m single. Definitely single.”

A long conversation and a midnight stroll by the beach later, I walk him home. At his hotel room, I discover that the entire gay population of Tennessee (seven gay boys from Knoxville) shares a single two-bed hotel room in Key West — ironically just around the corner from Tennessee Williams’ Key West home. Trying to fall asleep, one of the boys says to me, “Okay, get his phone number and go home.” Tennessee says to him, “Be nice.” Then, to me, “I’ll see you tomorrow?” So I get his phone number and go home.

Later I find out that after smoking her bummed cigarette, my wingwoman made out with the stripper in the bathroom.

Day Two: I dress in my favorite “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” T-shirt and my brand-new Seven Jeans to go meet the boys from Knoxville at the same gay bar. Turns out there’s a pool in the back, and before I got there Gay Knoxville decided to strip down to its skivvies and go for a swim. Unfortunately, a slender coked-up man in tiny camo cargo shorts had the same idea, but he wasn’t wearing underwear.

The tall boy who told me to “get his phone number and go home” last night now says to me, “Come swimming!”

Me: “When did you become nice?”

Him: “I was told you were coming back. I have to be nice.”

So Gay Knoxville collectively convinces me to get in the water, and a round of big gay chicken fighting begins. Tennessee sits on my shoulders and we knock over his friends; it’s really romantic in that let’s-destroy-things-and-make-out kind of way.

But when we get out of the pool, all of my clothes are missing.

According to the extra pair of tiny camo cargo shorts lying by the poolside, the coked-up naked man stole my stuff. But Tennessee catches sight of him across the bar, wearing jeans instead of nothing.

You know he’s a true Southern Gentleman when he’s willing to defend your honor after only two days. Especially when he does so by chasing down a pants-thief while still in his chlorine-soaked boxer-briefs.

The burglar escapes, but the doorman knows where he hangs out. So the bar lends me an oversized Jose Cuervo T-shirt, and we stroll into the lair of the pants-thief (the back room of a club across the street).

The doorman marches right up to the culprit and says, “Excuse me sir, mind giving this gentleman his pants back?”

The formerly naked-coked-up-pants-thief tries to deny that they’re mine, but the doorman reaches into the back pocket of the purloined jeans, pulls out my wallet, flashes him my ID and says, “No, no. The pants.”

A long conversation and a midnight stroll by the beach later, I walk Tennessee back home, once again wearing my Seven Jeans … but still in the oversized Jose Cuervo T. What happened to the “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” shirt, I’ll never know; the coked-up-pants-thief was shirtless.

Day Three: I wake up realizing that drunken chicken fights cause wicked whiplash. I meet Tennessee for lunch at the Waffle House. I say goodbye to all of Gay Knoxville, and they drive away to finish their spring break road trip in Miami.

Day Four: There’s a blizzard in the Northeast, which means my connecting flight is cancelled. So I’m stuck.

In Miami.

I call Tennessee: “I’m in Miami.”

Him: “Right now?”

“My flight was cancelled.”

“We’re driving to a bar in an hour. You should come. Can you get to South Beach before we leave?”

“Um … yes?”

An hour and 15 minutes — and several Hail Marys — later, the Super Shuttle delivers me just as they’re about to drive off. Gay Knoxville fits me into the eighth seat of a seven-passenger minivan. Tennessee is driving, so on the ride over I get to know all the boys from Knoxville a little bit better. Two are urban studies majors; one aspires to TV journalism; another takes me aside and says, “That boy is one of my best friends. If you hurt him, I will destroy your life.” Of course they all wear ripped jeans, trucker hats and speak with a subtle southern twang.

After Tennessee dances with me all night, I find myself still stranded in Miami. But the boys from Knoxville fit me into the eighth spot on the floor of their seven-person, two-bed hotel room in South Beach, and we all pass out.

Day Five: The storm is over. Like a true Southern Gentleman, Tennessee drives me to the airport where he feels awkward giving me a kiss goodbye because the parking attendant is watching. I fly back to school with a few extra freckles (I don’t really tan) and a Southern crush.

Like the Spring Fling, apparently the Gay Southern Gentleman isn’t a myth. But he’s nothing like Kevin Spacey in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Instead of walking his dog and being creepy, he plays softball. And he’s mostly good with just a little evil thrown in to keep things interesting. But he’s a southern boy, and I’m from California, so who knows if our fling had the material to outlast five days. That’s the real beauty of a Spring Fling: It didn’t have to.

Because let’s face it: If he’s a real Southern Gentleman, he might try to open doors for me or carry my luggage, and that’s just not okay. You think feminists are anti-chivalry, don’t even try
getting into public gender roles with gay men. I prefer the “let’s-destroy-things-and-make-out” kind of romance. But we didn’t even have to get into it because everything stays in those five days.

Except the whiplash, which lasted seven.

Chad Callaghan is currently posing in his pair of tiny camo cargo shorts.