I hate the suburbs. At least the suburbs of Arizona. It’s difficult to find anywhere blander than a gated community in Gilbert/Mesa/Ahwatukee/Glendale Arizona. The houses are so close to identical it took me a year to find which street was mine without conscious effort. If you’re a stalker trying to find my house let me tell you where I live. I live in a beige house in a beige neighborhood a couple miles from a strip mall. Good luck with that.
I like to walk, and you can walk in the suburbs. There are pathways and wide sidewalks. It’s safe. And like a lot of safe things it’s exceptionally dull. You can walk but where can you go? There’s nothing to see on the next block or the next mile that you aren’t seeing on the first one. That is not a symbolic statement. It’s literal.
I can walk to a Starbucks of course. I mean who can’t? If you live in China I’m pretty sure you can walk to a Starbucks. If you live in Seattle you can crawl to one. There is also a nail place, a Gymboree, a Jack in the Box, another nail place, a Panda Express and a Target.
Picture me rolling my eyes while making the universal “gag me” sign.
The worst thing about the suburbs is how lonely they are. I tell my family I’m starting a front porch revolution. I sit out on the front porch drinking coffee in the morning or drinking wine at night just hoping to see something. Anything. Over coffee I see people drive out of their garages and over wine I see them drive back in and shut the door. It confounds me to some degree. Isn’t anyone else bored or lonely? Doesn’t anyone else want to share stories on a porch and watch kids play in the street?
A couple of the neighbors have felt obligated (by sheer force of my will and smile) to come close to the porch and say hi. Later, as they come and go from their garages, they pointedly avoid eye contact. Last week my husband and I stayed with a friend in Portland Oregon who lived in a real neighborhood. The neighbors talk to each other and have poker parties. She’s a new widow and just before we left one of her neighbors came over to say “hi”. They all check on her. The twin six year olds come tell her all about their day and she tutored their dad in math.
Is it me? Maybe I should brush my hair more often.
I’ve tried to create a neighborhood in our home. I invite people all the time. I encourage them to stay for days and even weeks. I’ve made one side of our home a virtual guest house, stocked with mini shampoos, magazines, and a separate TV for guests. I have stacks of towels sitting out by the pool and a full bar. If I can’t go to the neighborhood maybe it will come to me.
I’ve had a measure of success with my creation. Our home is the place for people to come. It’s full fairly often. A pale shade of what I really want. To live where there is color and vibrancy. To see some dreadlocks and/or purple hair at the independent coffee shop I walked to in my neighborhood. To never see an Applebee’s again.
In middle age I think a lot about the life I’ve created. How close is it to the one I want? Am I making too many compromises or not enough? Have I become lazy or apathetic? I’m not entirely sure what it says about me, that I live in the burbs, hate them, and do it anyway. Although in large part it says I’m married, and I want my husband to be happy to; and he loves the burbs. It’s his world. Everything all lined up in order, the HOA making sure no one builds metal sculptures in their yard or covers their house in seashells. Nothing wrong with that. It’s his thing and we’re not the same person. I like metal sculptures and houses covered in seashells.
My husband isn’t forcing me to live in the burbs. If I made it a big enough deal he would live where I want to live. He’d do his best to ignore the homes where the weeds are prolific or the owners are “creative”. He’d tolerate my love for the murals he thinks are ghetto. He’d even suck up the extra hour to work it would take him. He wants me to be happy to.
In creating the life I want I’m creating a life with another person. That means I don’t’ always get what I want. Which means defining where not getting what I want is okay and where it’s not okay.
I love my husband
I want us both to be happy
I hate the fucking suburbs
I love my marriage