Photo: Pascal Constantineau/Shutterstock

20 Signs You Grew Up in Orange County

California Student Work
by Paige Smith Sep 30, 2015

1. You call in your Banzai Bowls ahead of time.

You don’t waste 25 minutes waiting for your bowl among throngs of middle school girls wearing crop tops and G-string bikinis. You just call it in — Maui Sunrise with no honey and a scoop of almond butter, please.

2. You have a distinct vocabulary.

You still use typical Orange County surf vernacular, even if you never paddled out at San-O a day in your life. Words like “dank,” “sick,” “gnarly,” “rad,” and “chill” slip out of your mouth on a regular basis. Little kid beach-goers are called “groms,” Taco Tuesday gets you “super stoked,” and anyone who wears jeans to the beach is a total “kook.” And you’d rather be caught dead than use the word “hella” in normal conversation.

3. Your parents made you go to Junior Lifeguards.

You spent long summer days at Strands or Salt Creek running along the sand, swimming to the buoy past the break, learning how to save your friends with those red plastic flotation devices, and getting absolutely fried despite the absurd amount of zinc you slathered on your face.

Bonus was you always got that sweet USOS hat for enrolling and felt like such a stud whenever you wore it casually around town.

4. You experience a wide range of emotions when it rains.

Shock, wonder, awe, confusion, panic, giddiness — anything but calm and nonchalance. You’re either bouncing up and down with child-like glee (movie day!), filming the downpour on your phone to send a snapchat to your friends, or worrying about how you’ll make it home on the 5 with all the traffic and tire spray.

5. You know every Mexican food place within a 20-mile radius.

Las Golondrinas, Baja Fish Tacos, El Ranchito, El Cortez, Javier’s, Pedro’s Tacos, Adolfo’s, and La Sirena Grill. You could list options forever, but these are the time-tested favorites. Just thinking about the medley of breakfast burritos, blackened salmon tacos, steak fajitas, and lime avocado salads you could choose from has you scrolling through your speed dial.

6. You have a strong opinion on The O.C.

You watched the TV show for one of two reasons:


    • You loved it for Seth Cohen’s witty banter, Marissa’s scandalous lesbian relationship, Christmukkuh, and Imogen Heap remixes, or


    You watched it purely to scoff at Summer’s vanity and tally the ways the show perpetuated stereotypes and cast locals in a shallow light. “That is so not how it is here! We don’t all drive BMWs!”


7. You took weekend trips and vacations to Palm Desert, Joshua Tree, LA, Big Bear, and San Diego.

Skiing (with fake snow, of course) for the weekend? Big Bear was your go-to. Poolside vacation in the torturous heat (because you naively thought that it might be more interesting than the beach)? Road trip to Palm Desert!

Camping? Joshua Tree it is! A fun cultural escape to the LACMA? Hop on the 405 to LA! Surf lessons? Cruise down to Cardiff or La Jolla for the day.

8. No matter how much you want to deny it, you know some “OC” stereotypes are true.

Not everyone here has breast implants, blonde highlights, spray tans, and Louis Vuitton bags, but you’d be lying if you said you didn’t see a few of these types on a regular basis. You might even be one of them and that’s perfectly okay. You know that taking pride in your physical appearance doesn’t necessarily equate to being vapid and materialistic.

9. You stayed close with your high school friends because you always came home for summer breaks.

And Thanksgiving breaks, winter breaks, spring breaks—basically whenever you could. The 75-degree beach weather and chips and salsa from Las Golondrinas beckoned you. You’re still in regular contact with at least a few of your high school buddies because it was always so easy to meet up in that middle ground and reconnect.

10. You’re scared of Riverside.

The snob inside all of us immediately cringes at the thought of living anywhere in the Inland Empire. Like, what do they even do there without beaches?

11. You fall into one of two categories: you own an annual Disneyland pass or you haven’t set foot in the park since you were four.

You’re the girl who owns Minnie ears and wears them (along with white Converse and jean shorts) to a casual Friday night firework session with your boyfriend. You have the annual pass because you love the park at Christmastime—it’s not even about the rides! It’s the twinkly lights and the giant ornaments and the perfectly swept cobblestone streets. And the Dole whip. You know the order of rides you need to hit up first in order to avoid the lines: Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones.

Or — you’re the person who gets anxious just thinking about the sweaty, hyperactive Disneyland crowds. You want nothing to do with the princesses, cartoon characters, and corn dogs (okay, maybe the corn dogs) and you’d choose the beach over the happiest place in the world any day.

12. You shake your head when relatives from out of town refer to Orange County as LA.

You’ve heard it so many times before. Your cousin from Placerville calls her friend on the phone and says, “Yeah, I’m visiting my family in LA this week!” Not quite, but whatever.

13. You’d rather drink at home than go out.

You could check out Newport or bar hop in Laguna, but then you’d have to deal with finding a ride all the way out there. Chances are you’ve accepted that the nightlife in Orange County is lacking, anyway. You’re more than happy to forgo the bars in favor of chilling at home with margaritas and a good group of friends.

14. You never realized what a bubble Orange County is until you left.

Your naive 15-year-old self thought the rest of the world was just like Orange County. You felt wounded and defensive when people suggested that your hometown was sheltered and homogeneous. Then you moved away to college, studied abroad, or started a job elsewhere and for the first time in your life, you understood the actual meaning of diversity. You saw beyond the bubble of privilege you grew up in and realized the world is not all clean, shrub-lined roads, colorful yogurt shops, and pristine beaches.

15. You spent your summer days rotating between Tenth, Victoria, and Table Rock.

You went to Tenth for the convenience factor and the rad tide pools to the far left side. On low tide days, you walked through the tunnel and traversed the rocks to get to those Insta-worthy man-made concrete pools that fill with ocean water. You might take a dip and touch a sea hare or two before being yelled at by the people in the houses on the cliff for trespassing.

You went to Vic to watch the volleyball matches (and participate only if you were a Laguna local), skim board the shore-break waves, or swim out to the floating raft—may it rest in peace — with your crew.

And then there was Table Rock. The perfect spot if you didn’t care about good bodysurfing waves and wanted to snag a breakfast burrito from Papa’s Tacos on your way down.

16. You kept to your side of the county.

If you’re from Southern Orange County, you probably consider Laguna Hills a trek and rarely venture farther north than the Irvine Spectrum. If you’re from Northern Orange County, you only head south for one reason—the beaches. Laguna is the trendy place to be, but you’ll settle for Dana Point or San Clemente.

17. You think it’s totally acceptable to wear workout clothes everywhere.

Running errands, shopping, doctor’s appointments, school, fro-yo runs, dinner. It never once occurred to you to change out of your yoga pants or basketball shorts to hit up the Cheesecake Factory. You rock Lululemon apparel, quarter-zip hoodies, and Nike Frees like they’re going out of style.

18. You’ve run into LC or one of the OC housewives at some point.

Reality TV celebrities are not hard to spot. They’re on the stair machine at Renaissance Sports Club, ordering lobster mashed potatoes and steak at Mastro’s, drinking cocktails at Splashes, or perusing an art gallery in downtown Laguna.
Whether you love or hate them, you were always secretly delighted you saw someone famous in the flesh.

19. You ran or volunteered at the Dana Point Turkey Trot.

You either collected shoe chips from sweaty finishers as a volunteer for your high school honor society or you were out there on the 5k course trotting your heart out in the bright November sun.

20. You had and still have picnics on the grass hill at Salt Creek.

You can see it now: high school couples making out on towels, dads tossing frisbees to their toddlers, older couples cozying up with beach chairs and books, families with portable tables and the entire hot dinner spread from Whole Foods.

A classic Salt Creek picnic involves a collection of mismatched blankets and towels and — depending on the season — either some variation of a hot chai tea latte from Pain du Monde or sandwiches from Tutor and Spunky’s. Once you’re settled in with sweatshirts and good food, you’ll kick back with your favorite people and watch the sun go down, all the while feeling so grateful to call this place home.

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