Recently, I wrote about my secret dirty love affair with the suburbs. I love the perfect parks with their gorgeously uniform rose bushes. I love the top-rated elementary schools. I love the happy, pretty people. I love my square footage. I know that something is missing: it’s that crazy, joyful buzz and diversity of the city. It’s not just the roses and the zero body fat and improbably bouncy breasts that are uniform in the suburbs. Do I want my children to grow up here, with only the occasional trips to the city to show them that life is not always uniform and shiny?
A recent conversation with a man in a local bar made me consider this question again. I have a tattoo on the inside of my right forearm that elicits lots of questions, so I was not surprised by how the conversation started:
Random man (Approaching as my husband leaves for the bathroom): Excuse me ma’am, but what does your tattoo mean?
Me: Oh, it’s my children’s names in Hebrew. This one says “Yackov” which is Hebrew for…
RM (Interrupting): Can I ask you a question?
Me: Sure, cause, you know, you just did…
RM: Why are you here?
Me: You mean, here in this bar?
RM: No, no, of course you’re welcome anywhere in the United States, as far as I’m concerned…
[Why did I suddenly begin to feel unwelcome at this point?]
RM: …Is it because your children were born here?
[Now I'm confused. My children were born here, but I was born in Canada. Had he somehow figured this out? Did he hate Canadians? But why? We're so pleasant!]
Me (light bulb going off): Are you asking because you think I’m Israeli? I was actually born in Canada.
RM: Oh, it’s just that the letters in your tattoo are so big and dark and black, it’s like you’re saying something.
[The tattoo is two lines of script, about an inch and a half across, and faded from the sun.]
Me: I am saying something. Like I told you, it’s my children’s names.
RM: Oh, well, that’s fine, just fine…. (fades away as my husband returns from the bathroom)
I think RM was probably confusing Hebrew with Arabic, and was concerned about the potential “terror threat” contained in my small and faded tattoo. Honestly, I’m sure RM has a good, albeit geographically confused heart. But the interaction left a bad, sad taste in my mouth, and just a tiny bit less in love with my suburbs. He also left me with his initial question.
Why am I here?