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Right now, I can walk out of my Brooklyn front door and buy bubble tea in one of 17 refreshingly strange flavors. I can get a pedicure that’ll transform my gnarly trotters into feet that look like they’ve been airbrushed. Afterwards, should the fancy take me, I can debut my refurbished toes in a shop that sells the organic chia seed I’ve taken to hiding in pretentious homemade toddler treats.
Purveyors of all these essential goods and services have set up shop on or around my street. It’s basically paradise. Why would I want to swap all of this for a life in, say, New Jersey or the Hudson Valley? Before having a child, I wouldn’t have considered it for a moment. The suburbs are for grown-ups who can drive (I can’t) and own a set of cloth napkins (I don’t). Right?
It’s hard to say at what point the shine started to wear off urban living. Perhaps it was around the time my 16-month-old daughter decided the only thing that could persuade her to not grizzle from dawn till weary dusk was extended sessions romping in far-off meadows and eating bark. “Ugh, if only we had outdoor space,” I moan, hourly.
And I’m not talking about the patches of cracked concrete that pass for a yard in New York City. My new fantasy garden is measured in acres, not in inches. It has trees with more rings than Tiffany and a swing set. There might even be goats. At the moment, I’m schlepping to the park twice a day and trying to stop my toddler from gnawing abandoned condoms. Still, I’m ambivalent about whether I really want to make the move to somewhere “nice.”
Back in London, I could nearly make peace with the idea of swapping grimy east London for a ‘burb —one day in my distant, procreating future. In fact, my parents are serial movers, and I spent my first 18 years hopping between home counties. It was fine. Great, even.
But we Brits often get peculiar notions about the American suburbs from TV and film, and a result, these seemingly pristine neighborhoods give me the out-and-out willies. It’s Beavis and Butthead land, I tell myself. Giant, badly decorated piles enclose deeply disturbed families. Bored teenagers want out, Dad is schtupping his secretary, and Mom is blissed out on botox and fake tan fumes. Kids go to the mall for fun.
Naturally, I try to summon these suburban stereotypes whenever I’m irritated by our lack of living space or in-house greenery. The problem is, I’ve actually visited some of these places now, and they’re not like that at all. Well, not really. For instance, those large houses are fantastic! There’s room for cloth napkins and goats.
Better still, I’ve crunched the numbers and we’d even have some money left at the end of each month. It’s very possible we may not even have to sell a child so the other one can go to university, like people do in NYC. Yep, I think perhaps the time has come to have a conversation about the ‘burbs… But once you jump over that picket fence, there’s no going back.
Have you made the move from the city to the suburbs? Tell us your story below:
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.