Why Am I Here?

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?

About Peryl Manning

Peryl Manning is somewhat (and pleasantly) surprised to find herself the mother of two almost freakishly dimpled little boys. She isn’t sure she should be the one in charge though; at thirty-something she still manages to somehow end up sitting in her own gum, and last week she found her credit card in the fridge with the leftover pizza. She loves mellow moms and Ayelet Waldman; she hates judgy moms and truffle oil. She juggles kids, contributing to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Momtastic and Mamazina Magazines, and other parenting publications, with whatever grace she can summon.

Comments

  1. Alexandra says:

    I often wonder this, but then it’s a rock and a hard place.

    We left the university neighborhood we were in, which was so wonderfully wonderfully diverse, because of the crime, and I was home alone a lot b/c my husband travels.

    So we moved to this small town. It’s idyllic, the kids are safe BUT will they know about the world?

    I struggle with this question at least two times a week.

    Needless to say, either way: I had to turn to the internet for friends.

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  2. Jody says:

    Ahhhh. The danvilian suburbs. They are the worst of all the suburbs. Get out while you still can. :)

    • Peryl says:

      and yet you’re coming back, missy!

      • Jody says:

        Contraire I’m moving to Livermore with my dad to be a “kid” again lol. I’m not so against suburbs just ones with the extra snobs… No offense and I’m not saying everyone there is that way cause there are some great people too… Aka you and a couple other families! Haha

  3. Go Granny Go says:

    Your article was very thoughtful and gave me cause to reflect. So often we must deal with the culture we live in and a move is not possible. This was the case for my family. We lived in an Appalachian area with a very limited world view and no alternatives in sight. I tried to impart to my children that we were from there but not of there, to be tolerant and understanding of others, and beyond all that, to be their selves.

  4. Peyton Price says:

    Trapped in the suburbs /
    since Newsweek ranked our high school /
    we can never move.

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  5. I often feel that way at the school we have chosen for our children. It will give them an amazing education, which is a priority for us, but there is no doubt that they will sit at the lower end of the economic totem pole there. And the part of the suburbs I live in has a nickname, by the way. The WOW, which stands for Wedge of Wealth. Gross, right? Great post.
    Ashley
    http://www.thedoseofreality.com/2011/12/15/two-truths-and-a-lie/

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  6. Al_Pal says:

    Intriguing. Sometimes the husband and I talk about moving to a small town or suburb-ish place, but for now we’re still enjoying the city…tough call. ;p

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  7. Peryl says:

    It is! There are, honestly, fantastic things about both. Perhaps it makes sense to have time in each of them.

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