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Mix and match

He's a Gator. She's a Seminole. He's pretty conservative. She's more liberal. But in this case, opposites really did attract.

AMY SCHERZER
Published July 4, 2003

SOUTH TAMPA - It was dislike at first sight for Taylor Baumann and James Clifton.

"Right off the bat, we got off on the wrong foot," said Baumann, 24.

"Standoffish, snobby, almost rude," said Clifton, 29, describing his first impression of his future bride.

"Was not," counters Baumann, ready to argue the point.

Over time, they learned to agree to disagree. They married June 21 at Hyde Park Presbyterian Church.

"What's right about the relationship outweighs anything that might stand in the way," she said.

Certainly they agree on one thing: Their initial meeting in February 2001 was a disaster.

Baumann's high school chum Shannon Flynn persuaded her to come home from Florida State University to go to the Sant'Yago Knight Parade. They got to Ybor City early and headed to Demmi's Market on Seventh Avenue.

Almost immediately, Flynn staked claim to Clifton's buddy, Keith Kanouse.

"Shannon said, "I got the one in the blue shirt,' " recalls Baumann.

That left Clifton and Baumann as the "wing men," the sidekicks stuck with each other while their friends flirted like crazy.

"It reminds me of that beer commercial where the guy who gets stranded with the leftover friend says something like, "You do it because your friend is living the dream,' " Baumann said.

Try as they might, they couldn't find common ground.

Clifton is a diehard University of Florida Gator, class of 1997. Baumann, then a senior at FSU, is a loyal Seminole.

His conservativeness bears right, along the Rush Limbaugh route. "I tend to be judgmental and categorize people," he admits.

Baumann's not particularly political but leans along liberal lines.

"I stay flexible," she says, "I'm basically pretty open-minded."

When they moved on to the Green Iguana that night, the disagreements came along. Then at GameWorks, they slammed their frustrations playing air hockey.

"Still," reflects Baumann, "There must have been something there. I wanted to hear from him."

That's why, when the parade ended, she took his cell phone and programmed in her phone number.

"Are you gonna call me?" she asked.

"No," he said.

But then he did.

"I told myself, if I was still thinking about her in a week, I'd call," he said.

Baumann was ecstatic when his name appeared on her caller ID. She called him back, starting the first of daily, hourslong conversations and many weekend commutes.

"It was a strange beginning, but it seemed completely natural to be together," she said. "Even though we argued, we always kissed and made up."

Clifton, an Army brat whose family moved frequently, prefers rural life over the city hustle. His parents, Roger and Ruth, live on 20 acres along the Suwannee River in Branford, some 35 miles from Lake City. There's not a cell tower for miles.

Baumann grew up on Davis Islands and can't imagine living anywhere without a cell phone. Her father, Phillip Baumann, is a South Tampa probate attorney, and her stepmom, Nancy, owns Sun Title. Her mother, Kathleen, is financial secretary for Hyde Park Presbyterian.

The couple's personalities suit their professions.

A chemical engineer for Firmenich, an international fragrance and flavor supplier, Clifton would rather solve a calculus problem than read a novel any day.

A communications major, Baumann is a sales supervisor for Coca-Cola Enterprises. Back at Plant High, she captained the Danceros and presided over the popular Kiwanettes service club. At FSU, she was active in the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

"We even argue differently," noted Baumann. "I need closure to know he has understood my point of view. He's okay with leaving things open-ended."

The Rev. Ken Shick of Hyde Park Presbyterian Church requires all couples to go through six months of premarital counseling. For this pair, most of it didn't prove particularly eye opening.

"We already knew about all the differences, so that was half the battle," Baumann said.

She said Shick complimented their compromise strategy, which includes ground rules for cheering college football.

Rule No. 1: Never trash the rival team in front of the other. Behind his or her back is another story.

Rule No. 2: If both teams play the same day, they find a bar with several televisions. No one can hog the TV at home.

And when the Gators play the Seminoles, they watch from the FSU side because Baumann has a ticket connection. Clifton doesn't mind. He's happy to have a seat.

Despite their differences, the couple build on their similarities.

Some of them: stubbornness, sarcasm and impatience. "Give me patience, and give it to me NOW," joked Clifton.

Both love dogs and dislike cats. Both love sports. (Each went skiing once and can't wait to try it again.)

Both love to travel and look forward to seeing Europe together. For their honeymoon, they flew to Boston then drove to Vermont and New Hampshire.

"We just get along really well," Baumann said.

As for children, she wants three or four.

Clifton says two, preferably boys.

"I think we'll compromise on three," she said with a wink, "with at least one girl."

Then he drops the bomb. "Eventually, I'd like to live in a remote area."

"You would?" she blurts, then quickly recovers. "How about a suburb where you can use a cell phone?"

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