The Suburbs Are Calling. I Really Don’t Want to Answer Them
I am not reacting well. I have the shakes, cold sweats, the "Chip-and-Jos." My doctors say it looks like a bad case of HGTV.
I am on the precipice of domesticity.
The breaking point where Brooklyn parents with media jobs’ sexts are replaced with Zillow links. The inflection point, where my wife now whispers “more space” in her sleep. The Agro Krag of home ownership, the landslide that carries couples from the city to the suburbs. I am not reacting well. I have the shakes, cold sweats, the “Chip-and-Jos.” My doctors say it looks like a bad case of HGTV.
I am looking into the chasm so many upwardly mobile city-dwelling parents fall into. I hear their voice echoing out of the darkness: Your city kids would be better off as country mice. Don’t you want a lawn? Cracker Barrel is actually pretty good.
But, I ask: Do we have to leave? The wise elders of the city offer me counsel. They take the form of other parents at our daycare. “You can live in New York with one… you can make it work.” So it was written.
My wife and I live in and on 700 square feet. The ceilings are lower than my self-esteem. The baby has his own room, big enough for a small person who doesn’t fully realize that he lives in “room” from the movie ROOM. It works. We’re making it work.
But then, my wife and I had a brilliant idea. Why not make a second baby? The first one turned out well. A+ baby. Five stars on Yelp. Ten out of ten, would baby again.
“What about two children?” we ask the Elders. “Ehh… yeahhhh.” Their eyes dart back and forth. They stroke their beards. “Sure, why not!” they proclaim. Except the pitch of their voices swings violently upward, carrying their lies to the heavens.
My wife and I are nearing the breaking point. The apartment walls are starting to close in like a Death Star trash compactor. The second baby is almost here. We stare at each other. We are staring very close because the apartment is too small for long distance staring. My wife sighs and asks the only question that applies to both theology and real estate: “Why are we here?”
Why are we here? In this trash city, stepping over slices of Sicilian pizza in crosswalks and teaching our children to call pigeons “street chickens.” I used to have a better answer.
We are in New York because my wife met a 23-year-old version of me. A version of me that wanted to make it in comedy. And if you want to “make it” you have to move to a coast. At least that’s what the podcasts all say.
We are in New York because of ambition and hubris. Because I wanted to make comedy and art with like-minded people, congratulate more successful friends on Facebook, and to feel like I was part of something. That was my dream and my wife was willing to support it. But her dream was a family. And I wanted to make that dream come true, too. And now we need space. Space for both our dreams.
We are at the breaking point. You know how this story ends. The rich get richer. That bar you liked in the East Village becomes a TD Bank, and another couple with kids moves out of New York.
Some people can do it. Rent forever. Buy the IKEA bunk beds. But for us, it doesn’t make sense. We didn’t buy an apartment in the early aughts. We don’t have wealthy dead Upper East Side relatives who will let us live in their spacious (and haunted) dwellings. We could rent, but it makes more sense to buy. We probably can’t buy, but we’re going to lie to ourselves.
Leaving the city feels like defeat. But that’s an old story too, told by defeated people. Is it really “giving up” to no longer wish to watch the woman I love fight for air on the subway? Is it throwing in the towel to improve the quality of your life and your children’s, all so that I can chase some ill-defined dream that may never make me whole?
Am I even leaving the city? The Internet is the biggest city in the world, and it’s available to me on any cul-de-sac. I have always wanted to make strangers happy. Maybe it’s time I make the people I love happy first?
And so we are looking at Zillow listings and getting pre-approved for a home loan. We will follow some chipper person in a blazer holding a clipboard and look at a few little boxes on the hillside. We will turn from versions of us who order food every night to versions who are experts on crown molding and good lighting. The mysteries of the suburbs will reveal themselves to me. They have rats and pizza in the country too.
The breaking point is here. Soon I will be broken. Then the healing can begin. Preferably at the local Cracker Barrel.