A favorite activity of many city dwellers, liberals and intellectuals is bashing the suburbs and those who live in them. I know, because I was once such a city dweller.
Having lived in cities long enough to declare myself an urbanite, I often proclaimed that I couldn’t imagine why someone would want to live in a suburb. I loved that everything was so close by in the city. I loved that I could walk to the grocery store (though I confess to driving to it most times because then I could get more stuff). I loved being close to so many restaurants, theaters, etc. I loved (sort of) that one could take public transportation instead of driving. Of course if you’ve suffered under Chicago’s transit system as I have, you know it’s not exactly a delight, but I digress. I loved the energy of the city, the fast pace, the feeling of life brimming with vigor and confidence.
Like any self-respecting urbanite, I cringed at the prospect of going out to the suburbs for any activity other than visiting my parents. I thought that every woman in the suburbs was a soccer mom. I thought every man in the suburbs was a beer-swilling, tailgating, couch-sitting boor who had never read a book or been to a museum. I thought that suburbanites’ idea of fine dining was an evening at Applebee’s or Red Lobster.
Speaking of dining, I recall once meeting a friend for lunch in the city at a favorite neighborhood restaurant. She was a suburbanite, I was not. “Everyone looks so… urban and hip,” she said. “Including you.” I looked around and looked at myself. I didn’t think anyone looked particularly chic. It was early afternoon and everyone was pretty casually dressed. It was then that I realized that what was the norm for me was not the norm for my suburban friend. I admit to feeling proud then. Even in our casual ensembles, we city dwellers were somehow surpassing the apparent dowdiness of the suburbanites.
But now I am a suburbanite and I realize that this was all terribly misguided.
For instance, did you know that when you move out of the city, you are actually allowed to go back to it whenever the mood strikes you? It’s true! They actually don’t check your identification at the city limits. No, you just breeze right in and go wherever you want.
Did you also know that not every residence in the suburbs is a single-family house? So no, not everyone has a lush, green lawn and an ample back yard. Some of us aren’t even allowed by our management companies to grill in our driveways. Imagine that!
Did you know that not everyone has children in the suburbs? Did you know that there are single people out here? Unimaginable, I know! They even have places to go to dance, drink and carouse.
Did you know that there are great restaurants in the suburbs? Some of them are even run by renowned chefs. The only difference when you go to one of these places versus a similar establishment in the city is that you’ll have a free place to park.
Did you know that people are very involved in their communities in the suburbs? Did you know that many are the very picture of civic participation? Chicago lakefront liberals can only dream about such an engaged citizenry when they write their op-ed screeds about why no one voted in the last aldermanic election.
So if you’ve been a suburban hater in the past like I was, or if you are still one now… give it some thought. It’s not so bad out here. Take it from me.