Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sheri in the Suburbs

    My husband and I were having dinner in a casual restaurant when I noticed that I was becoming increasingly irritated by the noises surrounding us, most notably, cackling women and screaming children. I then realized, feeling rather tricked, that somehow my husband had gotten me to co-sign an apartment lease on a lovely little place-in the suburbs. Oh the horror! I looked all around, nothing but families, married, silent couples, older, sober people. Living downtown for the past 14 years I was not accustomed to this sight, I was used to flirtatious students, homeless nuts and women with dogs in their purses and I preferred those folks over the maddening throngs of the procreating. Its not that I'm against the ideal of the nuclear family, I just don't identify with them, I think of them as the Ticky Tacky Families of Malvina Reynolds anti-establishment song, Little Boxes. Perhaps I am insecure and am struggling with losing my individuality to the all consuming Unit, when one becomes so and so's wife, and so and so's mother, and other feminine pronouns, slowly losing the privilege of having an actual name. Or maybe its the fear of succumbing to common suburban afflictions such as the need to leave the house with every human being you are legally bound to, crowding yourself, and strollers as large as your SUV, down grocery store aisles, across parking lots and squeezing into booths and highchairs in every chain restaurant on the South Side. I am exhausted simply looking at a grocery store, one has to have a strategy to get in and out without being accosted by the average suburban zombie and their apocalyptic spawn. Parks are for children, please take them there, leave them with a parent and do your shopping like a civilized person.

     Was life downtown really that different or is it all perspective? I didn't see many children on a daily basis, there were a few in my neighborhood but they weren't screaming down the street on Big Wheels. I ate in restaurants that did not say “Family Friendly” on their Yelp reviews, I watched movies at local theatres, attended yoga at facilities that had separate family classes. I lived in the land of boutique grocery stores, 40's era architecture and the best used bookstore in town. Those days are clearly over. I now live in a gated community, if I leave the house I see multiple children, there are no independently owned anythings over here except a fast food sushi joint that has saved my craving for the gourmet more than once. We have a garage and really, that's when I should have figured out what was going on, when we looked at a place with a garage. A garage is a sign of comfort, of modernity, of the fact that you have a lot of stuff and need a place to put it. I like our garage but I miss my old neighborhood.

     Truth is, I am going to have to adjust without blending in. I don't have to become a recluse or a chatty housewife to survive, I can continue to sneer at the hoards of humans blocking my path in the freezer aisle of Trader Joe's or I can time my shopping for later, earlier, not a weekend. Just like the movie Zombieland, there will have to be rules, one of them being to remember that I'm not the only one not having fun. Approach the chaos with a smile and watch it all go down while maintaining a sense of inner tranquility and share that peace at every opportunity to do so. Pick up items knocked off of shelves by unruly brats, compliment a stranger, avoid honking at people unless they really screwed up. Investigate what the suburbs has to offer-we had an impromptu Sunday afternoon picnic in the park and my husband's friends and dogs and children actually came out, it was nice, it was not something we could have done living downtown.

     Ultimately, feeling tricked or not, I need to remember just how happy my husband is to live here, we are literally in his old neighborhood and he feels the same warm sentimentality toward the suburbs that I feel toward my downtown haunts, its Home. Though it sometimes reminds me of an X-Files episode titled, "Arcadia", where inhabitants in a community are threatened with death if they don't conform,  I'll admit it, I live in the suburbs and am learning to call it home.

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