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Daniel Ruth: Tampa, the vainest city? No way, not us

With apologies to Carly Simon, you probably think this column is about you.

And it is, you big, fat Narcissus, you. Put that mirror down! Now!

What is it about our fair hamlet that we consistently rank in the top 10 of this and that (none of it very good) across the nation? A variety of polls, surveys and studies have designated Tampa and/or the greater Tampa Bay area as the most depressed, the saddest, the most dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, the smuttiest, the most stressed, the worst dressed, the most boring, the most financially underwater and now this.

You would think from all the polling that the residents of our fair village were more dysfunctional than the last time a Kardashian dined alone. But wait. It only gets more weird.

According to Men's Health magazine, Tampa is viewed as the vainest community in the nation. And before all those smug oafs over in St. Petersburg start smirking, you came in at No. 11.

Of course this ranking comes from a publication that features buffed, preening chaps who spend 150 hours a week in a gym cultivating eight-pack abs while fretting about male pattern baldness.

And let's not overlook other thrilling Men's Health topics like "Do you have enough testosterone?," "How to build a gold medal body" and "The 6 muscles you can't ignore." And yes there is an inordinate preoccupation with that particular one. No vanity there!

Apparently, Tampa loomed to No. 1 on the conceit scale based on the per capita consumption of Botox, teeth whitener, hair dye, plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery and the prevalence of tanning salons.

And that's just the contribution of former Mayor Dick Greco.

Put another way, Tampanians spend lavishly on injecting botulism into their faces, getting fake tans and liposuction, only to run around wearing plaids and stripes and Nehru jackets. Go figure.

On the other hand, if we're so depressed, stressed, broke, sad and fashion challenged, perhaps that might explain why Tampararians feel the need to console themselves with the occasional keister lift to ease the ennui.

I'll be the first to admit, as I make my way around the byways of Tampa, I don't sense the inordinate preoccupation with self that Men's Health seems to have discovered. Then again, I don't pay much attention to other people. Cue the rimshot.

But seriously, folks …

Stroll through most public places and it hardly seems we've decided to become born again beautiful people.

Recently, while waiting for a flight at Tampa International Airport, a middle-aged man in a really bad ponytail strolled by with a T-shirt that prominently displayed a certain all-purpose word starting with a letter found between E and G. I assumed he was not there to greet his sister on leave from a nunnery.

For the Sunflower of Sparta and me, perhaps the epicenter of Tampa vanity can be found at the International Plaza, where when we are feeling sad, depressed, stressed, bored and rather poor, we sometimes just sit and watch the pampered, bejeweled and stylishly turned-out upper crust moving in and out of the Neiman Marcus store.

We're cheaply amused.

Please, enough of these dippy rankings, unless of course you want to make the argument that for all the national judgments about the quality — or lack thereof — of life in Tampa, the one thing you can't deny about us is that we're certainly the most oddly curious place in the land.

Daniel Ruth: Tampa, the vainest city? No way, not us 06/28/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 2:58pm]
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