‘Burban BeginningsPosted: June 26, 2011
It’s clear that I’m somewhat ambivalent about die Familie’s move to the suburbs. Having grown up in the suburbs, gone to college in the boonies, and lived in cities for the last eleven
years (DC, New York, Boston, New York), I always swore that I’d be the parent to raise my family in the city, or at least in the kind of town I could pretend was a city (see Brookline, Massachusetts). But bedbugs, Das Baby’s complex arrival, and Brookline real estate prices conspired against me. Plus I wanted a yard and family support, and I didn’t want to have to think about private school from the moment Das Baby was conceived.
My attitudes towards the suburbs come from not so much from my experiences growing up in one (which were largely pleasant), but from the realizations I had after leaving home: diversity makes for vibrant communities, not everyone is exactly like me and that’s a good thing, it’s really nice to be able to buy wine near my house. And then there’s the attitude fostered in urban communities about the suburbs: they’re soul-sucking pits of sameness, split levels, and strip malls.
As part of the heated city vs. suburb debate, Gawker had a piece yesterday about how
“Everyone has always known that living in a bustling metropolis like New York City will make you a psycho, fast. That’s why everyone with the means gets the f*** out as soon as they have kids. They’d feel guilty if they didn’t even give the kids a chanceto be normal, for a while.”
It was a cheeky interpretation of a Nature study that showed how people who live in cities are more sensitive to stress caused by other people. I found the anti-suburban comments the article inspired particularly interesting:
“Sorry, but isn’t it the suburbs that breed serial killers? If you act like a nutjob crazy here in Manhattan, you’ve got 80,000 eyes on you at any given moment, so someone’s bound to notice. The suburbs, and the isolation they foster, scares me way more than this place”
“In your split-level ranch home, no one can hear the screams. “
So now the suburbs aren’t just colossally uncool; they’re also deadly.
Every time I tell someone about Herr Husband’s and my move, I feel like I have to explain myself (baby, priority shifting (gag), bedbugs, etc.). I get defensive of my new community and home: no strip malls in sight, walkable village with a cupcake bar and the best ice cream ever and a really good Indian restaurant, borders Boston on one side (West Roxbury, but still). And our house is a 1929 Cape/Colonial with great detail and built-ins and a fireplace.
We were over at our new house yesterday (we haven’t moved in yet), and as dusk settled, the neighbors were all out and about, popping into each other’s houses and coming to meet us. It was friendly and warm and lovely. Everyone wanted to tell us all about the Fourth of July fireworks and parade, which will be extra big this year because it’s the town’s tricentennial. How charming is that? We met a baby just a few months older than Das Baby who lives across the street (best friend? prom date? arch-nemesis? only time will tell). And our next door neighbor, in a turn of Cleaverish delight, is actually named Ward.
I might point out that this is a vast improvement on our next door neighbor in Brooklyn, who was schizophrenic, which was sad, and made racist comments about our president, which was horrible. Also, his family didn’t treat their bedbug problem, so their bedbugs set up a suburb in our apartment.
But really what I want to say, in a turn of cheesy, is that where you live is about what works for you. And making things work is a choice. I can wax nostalgic for all things Brooklyn, even our nutty neighbor, or I can throw myself into our new community and plan a really sweet Fourth of July cookout. And as for our friends who are slightly horrified by our new digs, I’m sure they’ll come around once we ply them with wine served on our leafy and quiet patio and put them up in the guest room with its own bathroom. Even if the wine has to come from the next town over, because we live in a dry town. Now THAT’S scary.