Saturday, May 10, 2008


I have had almost this exact conversation with several of my friends recently:

Friend: "What are you up to this weekend?"
Me: "I don't know. Nothing, I guess."
Friend: "WHA...?"

I should clarify that the people asking this question are usually married and living in the suburbs. Now, I'm not disparaging these people (for once) for the choice they've made, as long as they are the ones actually making it, and the choice isn't being made for them (but more on that later), but I find humor in their shock that I'm not doing anything on a given weekend. In fact, I do nothing of interest most of the time. However, I have either (a) built up a persona over the years as a guy who is constantly on the move from bar to bar , or (b) these people do even less than I do, and wish I would do something so they can live vicariously through me. In fact, from their tone of voice, I half expect their next sentence to be, "What are you doing? You're wasting your gift!"

My choice has always been to live in the city(or as close as I can afford) and to have a certain degree of autonomy. When I was in high school, I used to go into Harvard Square to buy bootleg cd's and old movie posters when there were still stores there that sold that stuff. As an undergrad, I spent most of my breaks between classes walking down Newbury Street, or Boylston Street, or Park Street, or through the Common, or to Downtown Crossing or Beacon Hill (these places were a lot different, too). I wasn't doing anything in particular, just wandering around. I now realize what I took for granted for all those years: that was my real education. And I learned it so well that living a quiet life in the suburbs would never in a million years appeal to me. So, maybe I am wasting my "gift" when I spend a night in front of the TV, but there will be other nights, and there's always a chance someone will call and want to grab a drink.

That is my choice, however. There are others who choose to go the other way. They want a quiet life in the suburbs, with the nice house, the kids, the dogs, the lawn and the gobs and gobs of money spent on putting gas in their cars because their commute lasts about four hours. As I said, more power to you. It's fine if that's what you want. HOWEVER (and here I go), I feel there are some who don't even make the choice. Somehow, someone, somewhere has made it for them. And I don't mean this in my usual, "That guy's a wuss because his wife wears the pants and makes all the decisions" way. I mean that they don't feel like they could live in the city, when they've never actually done it. Growing up, the American cultural landscape trains people to think that way, but that's not the only way. You can do whatever you want. And it's not a matter of finances, because if I can afford to live in a city, anyone can.

If you want the idyllic life in the suburbs, then do that thing and be happy. But make that choice. Don't do it because that's just the way life is. Personally, I lived a good chunk of my life out there in the suburbs, and I'm not ready to go back just yet. Hey, I'm only 32, it's the weekend, and I'm just getting warmed up.

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