I'm a survivalist. It could be because I spent my last year of high school counting crinkled dollar bills to support myself, or maybe it was that week at Burning Man when I had to barter for water. Who knows, but I'd clean up on that Survivor show. When an elevator door closes and I'm alone with a stranger, I keep my eye on the call button and think about my arm-wrestling moves. I plan an exit strategy for every situation from aborting missions to the grocery store to how I would leverage my circumstances in the apocalypse. As you can imagine, I've got mountains of insurance and I have a terrifying amount of physical strength when adrenaline kicks in. (Disclosure: Under normal circumstances I can only lift a potato to my mouth before needing a nap.) But I do have fire when I need it. Right now, if aliens invaded and the landscape became a smoking crater, I'd tie the kids to my back and hike until I negotiated protection with a zombie gang. Which is why the suburbs are sort of scaring me.
The suburbs are supposed to offer security. Low crime rates, fresher air, better schools. Those are all great things for normal people, but for people like me who instinctively swing around to punch the air when startled, living in the suburbs feels, despite my personal case of needing a new location, less secure than the city. Let's take my marriage, for example. This should be fun.
When my husband and I got together, I held 50% of the weight in this house. Well, back then it was a rented condo. I made tons of money* and hung around Niko because he was funny and cute. He had awesome dance moves, was Dos-Equis-man levels of interesting and had the most dapper taste in clothes I had ever seen on a straight man. Then we got married. I was laid off from an advertising job at eight months pregnant and it made sense for me to stay home when the baby came. But it was all good! I was still employable . . . right? I didn't see the big rush on getting back out there. We bunkered down and I focused on my new life as a parent.
Then we had another baby. But I was still employable! I think. I had the security of a degree. Besides, if ever needed to, I could walk a block from my house and surely get a waitressing gig. Waitressing is like riding a bike. I'm fabulous at waiting tables and tables abounded mere steps from my door. If unthinkable things ever happened with my marriage or the economy, I could mom up and feed these mouths on my own if I had to. In my very neighborhood there were apartments with cheap rent, a passable public school and the Jewel. This exit scenario was a gentle hug in the back of my mind like a can of mace you'll never need.
Now we're in the suburbs. I noticed to get to Target I have to drive five miles. CostCo is even further. Even the library is over a mile away and where the hell are the gas stations? It's the type of landscape you'd need to be a 30-foot-tall giantess to navigate without a car. Sure, we can walk to school and one restaurant that serves American food, but in the event of marital or economic catastrophe, where am I supposed to make quick cash? The homes are all stately. Where are the scrappy apartments I could rent in a pinch?
Of course I love my husband. He's been happier and more at peace than I've ever seen him. He's been so relaxed and peaceful lately I had to nudge him to take me out for my birthday. Is this the new normal? A man who pined and pursued me long after I had two of his kids is suddenly complacent in the suburbs? Is this the "gotcha" moment of my personal defeat, wherein I have completely lost my power in this duo? He's got me on lock-down. I'm tucked away with no recent work history, should I need such a thing. I have no exit strategy. It feels like I've suddenly realized there's been a dead bolt on the door I've been willfully living behind for six years. To be clear, I am here of my own volition. Niko is the sexiest dad on the block.
I know many women would love to stay home with their children. I probably seem ungrateful and like the finest example of first world problems. Oh, WHY must my $5 lattes be so high in calories! Etcetera. But the truth is being a stay-at-home partner in unfamiliar territory is not only an undercut to the ego, it's downright scary. I guess like with doomsday scenarios and election speculation, it's just something you can't think about too much in order to enjoy your life.
Off to pump some iron . . .
These are German legs. They can bend steel. Also, barely teeter on those boots before needing a rest and some coffee.
*relative, but go with it
Filed under: The Big Suburban Safari Experiment