Joining the Crowd From the 'Burbs

WHEN my friend told me my new haircut looked "very suburban" other words that begin with the prefix "sub" sprang to thought.Substandard. Subhuman. Subpoena. No your Honor, I don't really think one pithy put-down is grounds for a lawsuit. The obvious intent of this verbal clip, however, was that a city haircut is by definition a cut above one snipped in the suburbs. And now that I am officially one of the Bridge and Tunnel people, I've been thinking about the differences between the metro life and the one lived on the outskirts. The only conclusion I've come up with so far is that neither one is better than the other. They're as different as night and day. So me live in the city; others used to. Mine wasn't so much a case of love it or leave it; it was more like love it and leave it. I loved living in New York right up to the moment that the movers arrived to cart our furniture 28 minutes north. The move was about a growing family, as well as a shrinking ability to cope with the banalities of urban life. It wasn't the noise, the crowds, and the crime. Piece of cake. It was the smaller inconveniences that ballooned out of proportion. You try pushing a stroller through three locked doors, and acro ss eight city blocks to get to the nearest playground - when you're pregnant. The fact is I was never really a true New Yorker, even though I lived there for five years (which is like 15 years in any other city). I could do a fair imitation of a New Yorker's dress (black pants, black boots, black sweater, black belt), but I never perfected the New York walk, the keep your eyes on the sidewalk in front of you with a sort of glazed look that says I'm not really here. I understood the need for "the look" and the desire for some small shred of privacy when surrounded by 8 million neig hbors. But I kept catching myself looking up - at the buildings, the sky, the people passing by who were too busy looking down to notice me. I couldn't help myself. I was interested. I was a born Yahoo, meant to live out of, not in, town. Do I miss the city? The museums, the theater, the late night dinners? Of course I do. But then I also used to spend a lot of time missing that from our apartment when we were either too tired or too babysitter-less to avail ourselves of such pleasures. Let's face it, cable TV is about the same no matter where you live. And there are so many things about living in the suburbs that fit me like a soft old sneaker, fit the life I'm living now, not the one I used to have, or the one I'll have again someday. LIKE having a backyard with a swing. Like driving to the supermarket instead of hauling home as many grocery bags as I could fit on the back of a stroller. Like having neighborhood kids and neighborhood mothers for my kids and me to play with. My husband has a 10-minute walk to the train station, occasionally shared with a fellow commuter. They can talk if they feel like it, or just trudge along in comfortable silence. They can even keep their eyes off the pavement until they reach Grand Central Station. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying my life is for everyone. I know there are millions of families who by choice are raising their kids in the urban rather than suburban mode. To them I say more power to you. I chose to follow a yellow brick road that led to a slightly sitcom life. I see myself as a cross between June and Eldridge Cleaver, a sort of "Soul on Ice Cream." I can look up from my computer now and see a squirrel's face in my window; before, it was a pigeon's face. Both have their good points and their shortcomings. Neither will ever be house guests. But if forced to make a choice I'd rather stare down a vermin with a bushy tale than one with feathers. Maybe if Disney had made a film about cute pigeons, I'd feel differently. But he didn't, so I don't. The best part for me about living in the 'burbs is feeling I can relax, that there aren't so many rules to follow. For example, just the other day I took my oldest daughter to lunch and left pennies as part of the tip. The same friend who chided my haircut once chastised me for doing the very same thing in New York City. "New Yorkers don't do that! Do you want everybody to think you're from out of town?" Now I can leave my pennies with impunity. It's just something that we Yahoos do.

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