If you were talking to someone who had decided to move to say, Milwaukee would you say to their face, “I can’t stand Milwaukee! I’d NEVER move to Milwaukee. Milwaukee sucks. I can jog in Chicago”. (Because you can’t jog just anywhere.) Why, then, is everyone being a jerk to me about us moving to the suburbs?
In the past 24 hours, I’ve had no less than three variations of the following conversation:
Rando: I heard you’ve moving/Where do you live?
Me: Yup, we’re moving!/I live in Andersonville, but we’re moving in two weeks.
Them: Where to?
Me: Oh, north. (Vague, yes, but being too specific opens the door to conversations I don’t feel like having in a dentist chair/gym lobby/sidewalk in the rain. North could be Roger’s Park, north could be Canada. Of course people can’t wait to pick apart your choices so they ask . . .)
Them: Where, exactly?
Me: We found a place in the suburbs. We’re pretty excited.
Them: Oh, I’d never live there. It’s terrible. You’re terrible. You’re not doing your kids any favors by moving somewhere so white. I value diversity. The schools aren’t any better there. Everyone I know who went to New Trier is an asshole.
Me: I don’t know a soul, but it’s a pretty good school system and moving to where top notch schools are free makes more sense when you factor private tuition in the city for two kids. And about diversity? I value diversity, too. But I also value public school and true diversity means many types of people, not 98% one race and my child is the only white girl in the class and she can’t understand what is being said half the time because the teacher has to pause for the Spanish translator. That might be cool for preschool, but it’s not so cool in 3rd grade when you’re trying to learn composition.
Them: Oh. Right. Wait. [something racist]
Me: No, it’s really about the language barrier and mediocre test scores at her current school. There are great schools in the city but navigating that process is too much for me. Besides, I get a bigger yard in suburbia.
Them: I’ll bet you bought a super mansion. I hate McMansions. I ride a bike with no gears. I’m down to earth.
Me: I’m in my pajamas right now.
Them: Aren’t there a bunch of old people in the suburbs?
Me: Well you are administering Botox into my forehead at this moment. But truthfully, lots of cool people from the city are coming to the same conclusions about the suburbs. Look, if I were single, I’d buy a condo in Bucktown and call it a day. I’d wear nothing but three inch heels and dangly jewelry. I’d drive a two-seater convertible that blasted music with parental advisory lyrics. I’d probably smoke in my bath tub and swear before 8:00 PM. But I can’t. I have two kids. Stuff like good schools and fresh air trump my ability to order Thai food at 3:00 AM now. It sucks. Tell me about it. But just because you move, doesn’t mean you’re dead. There are plenty of places to walk and eat on the north shore.
Them: I just don’t think we could afford it. We’re underwater in our condo right now.
Me: Dude, loans are changing again. You can do it. Everything was tough for a while, but just call a loan broker. You can get these places for like 5% down again. Just eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner and take the bus for a year and get your ass to the burbs.
Them: Really? But aren’t the homes like a million dollars.
Me: If you think you have to live in a McMansion you’ll be disappointed but there are crazy amounts of decent homes on the North Shore. There’s a place in the Harper district you could buy right now. Or crap, live in Glenview! Don’t give me that “it’s ugly”. Have you looked at the cracks in the sidewalk outside your condo lately? What about that bum sleeping at the playground? How pretty is this guy:
Them: Is there a gym?
Me: Yes, you can jog.
Picture someone saying they were moving to a trailer park. Would you say to that person, “ewwwww, gross! You’re not doing your kids any favors by moving them to the trailer park!” No. Because that person’s choice doesn’t make you feel bad about yours. You might have sympathy for their circumstances or even silently mock them inside your brain, but you’d most likely say “that’s nice” and move on with your day. But someone moves to a bougie suburb and it’s all, “You suck! I have a handlebar mustache!” This is just one of those culture differences that erase people’s manners. If you’re going to think bad thoughts about me and where I’m moving, give me the same courtesy you would extend to someone moving to a trailer park, please.
It’s not about class or even economics because any of the people I talked to (one was a doctor) could make the same choice. It’s about deciding what you want and making that happen. Fine, if living in the city is really important to you then good for you for making your choice. But don’t act like you can’t move to the burbs because you can’t afford it. You can. If a girl like me who went to school on a Pell grant and used a t-shirt as a pillow case until she was 26 (who married a guy with immigrant parents who came here from Turkey with like two dollars) can move her kids out of the city and away from stray bullets, then it’s not about economics. It really is about choices. So make yours and be polite about mine.
Thanks for listening, Internet! Not that anyone should feel sorry for a rich whitey getting shade for moving to the burbs, just saying.
Next up: Tiny homes!
UPDATE- People keep giving me crap about the nice, peaceful man just innocently catching some Z’s in the pic above. It’s illegal to sleep in parks in Chicago. The playground rules state it is for children ages 12 and under and their caregivers. This is just a guy I happened to see yesterday when I thought of writing this post. I was there a few days before and another guy was drinking out of a bag before doing pull-ups on the monkey bars. My kid wanted to play in that area and she looked really scared and hopped away. Also, the place is littered in cigarette butts. My kid even fell and cut her FACE on a broken liquor bottle once at another public park.
I’m also getting flack for not embracing diversity and not investing in my community. Read about my struggle with the aspect of our decision here and here. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but why should I be held to a higher standard of charity than other parents? I’ve invested my time in this community and decided we’re moving on. If that kills you and you’ve decided it’s my fault for destroying America, write a letter to the mayor and ask him why he has ignored the efforts of The Friends of West Edgewater Park (of which I was Treasurer for two years) to get more park space. I can only do so much, people!
Finally, I’m getting insults for not moving to Indiana because I must be too high on myself to consider living amongst “hillbillies”. Guess what? I’m from Indiana and nothing pisses me off more than people busting on my state. Well, okay, I get pretty fired up about child molesters and people who take naps on couches (disgusting!) but don’t act like I’m some north shore Gwyneth Paltrow. I’m just a person who wants her kids to run around in a yard. Shoo.