One of the moms I met in Lilah’s swim class is a lesbian. Whereas this fact would not have been particularly notable when we lived in Los Angeles or London or even Philly (maybe especially Philly), here in WhiteStraightChristianland, I was a bit startled to discover someone batting for that particular team. We don’t get a lot of lesbians out here in Rockwelland.
I mentioned this strange hetero homogeneity to a woman with whom I have become friendly. She herself had lived in cities most of her life until a year ago, when she moved out here.
“Well, you’re in the suburbs now,” she sighed.
People keep referring to this town as the suburbs, but it’s hard for me to really define the town that way. Suburbs are less than an hour train ride into the city. Suburbs don’t feature things like bears and mountain lions. Suburbs are bristling with self-importance because they are Part of the Big City, only with bigger yards and two-car garages.
To me, we are way out in the boonies, far from the hustling crowds. The biggest events here are the high school production of Guys and Dolls and the monthly pancake breakfasts at the Masonic Lodge.
And that’s what I like about it.
While the monochromatic population is bizarre, being this far from a city seems to level the population. Folks are pretty down-to-earth. Yeah, there are name brands and social jockeying, and really the North Face obsession is a little out of hand. But, for the most part, people seem to be grounded.
People spend time with their kids. Families are large and siblings play with one another. People skate on the lake or hike or ski. We’re just a little town out among a lot of other little towns, sandwiched between a bunch of highways because, after all, this is New Jersey. We are far enough from the city that we all know we’re not hip or cutting edge or whatnot.
J and I have lived for so long in cities that consider themselves the center of the universe: London! Los Angeles! Washington! Here, we know we’re not the center of anything, except a state highway and a couple of Interstates. We’re just a town with some nice old houses, a few lakes, and some excellent hiking trails. There are other equally inconsequential towns all around us. Here, people seem just to live their lives, without the constant battle to declare themselves important.
I miss the diversity of the city. I miss the convenience of the karate studio down the street. But, I do not miss the noise, the congestion, or the pretension.
The teenagers across the street babysit for us. The eldest is hearing from colleges, many in large cities. She should go to a big city. She should learn that there is a wide, wide world out there and many exciting things to be done in an urban center. Someday, our kids should go to school in a big city and learn those same things.
We, on the other hand, already know that, and we are looking forward to the next pancake breakfast at the Masonic Lodge.