After five years of condo living in the city, my partner and I were ready for a change. We were just starting to think about having kids, and we wanted a yard, good schools, and a community. We preferred to stay in or right outside of the city, but given our price point, we could not afford to stay in our desired location.
I loved the perks of city living—the restaurants, the music, and the waterfront festivities. But what I really loved was the diversity. I felt at home in the beautiful mix of races, sexualities, and identities. As a queer person, it was refreshing to see other queer people at the places I frequented. I felt safe and understood.
When I realized we would have to expand our search to the suburbs, I struggled. How the fuck could I feel understood in the heteronormative wet dream of white picket fences, SUVs, and 2.5 kids? How could I raise kids in this vanilla environment? How could I leave the noise, the sometimes gritty, and the endless opportunities for good food and entertainment? Moving to the ‘burbs felt like something boring, uptight people did.
Then I fell in love with a house on a quaint cul-de-sac in the suburbs. I stretched my expectations and hoped we could open our new neighbors’ minds if necessary. The community was well-established, and most of its residents were close to retirement and had expectations for the way the neighborhood ran. I anticipated feeling awkward in our attempts to fit it, but I never did. We had landed in some sort of Pleasantville. Our neighbors couldn’t have been more lovely and accepting. One neighbor helped me figure out how to mow my lawn. One always plowed our driveway after a snow storm. One showed me how to do small home repairs. Others brought us food, folded laundry, and held our babies after each addition to our family.
I slowly realized that it wasn’t just my street that was so cool. My town is cool.
When you live in the suburbs, you realize just how close-knit a community can become—partly because you see each other all the time. You find your go-to local bar or restaurant and get to know the owners and the regulars. You go to the grocery store and spend as much time chatting with people you know as shopping. You share bleachers at the ballpark. You commiserate over school lists and project deadlines. You bemoan snow days and summer break, then juggle your schedule to help out another parent friend. You take their kid on this day, they take yours on that one. And if you need a recommendation for anything ranging from babysitters to plumbers, your suburb peeps will point you in the right direction and steer you away from trouble.
There is an incredible sense of pride where I live. You can see it in the way we take ownership of our parks and playgrounds, show up at town meetings, and maintain our lawns and houses—where I live now is definitely cleaner than city living. For some people, a home church and congregation is an important part of living in the suburbs. I don’t attend church services, but I do take comfort in the fact that most of our local churches promote love for all, including the LGBTQ community. Many of my neighbors and community members pack these progressive pews each week; they spread the message of acceptance throughout the community.
Then there are the parks and recreation departments, the libraries, and the holiday celebrations in the town center. There are the locally-owned ice cream shops, art studio, and pizza shops. There is little to no traffic, safety in quiet streets and trusted neighbors, and peace of mind in seeing where your taxes go.
When you live in the suburbs, you have a voice and an ability to make a positive impact in your community. You can find like-minded people and rally your neighbors to raise money for personal causes, local needs, and national disasters. You also have your finger on the pulse of all the good gossip. Is there anything better than running into Liz at the coffee shop to leave with a cup full of caffeine and a brain full of details about Jen’s botched Brazilian? Living in the suburbs is better than trashy TV sometimes.
I may not be able to find a store open after 11:00 pm, order greasy food at 2:00 a.m., or be able to observe the amount of diversity I crave while living in the suburbs. But I know the best places to get free kids’ meals on Tuesday. I found a trusted mechanic to maintain my minivan. I have the best neighbors and a wide net of supportive community members and friends who would organize a bake sale in my honor.
Sometimes the burbs are boring, but I have learned they don’t have to be uptight. It’s pretty hard to mock where I once resisted living when I am living my best life in a house with a picket fence, three kids, and an SUV. Sometimes I miss seeing myself reflected in my community, but the folks I do see make me feel pretty safe and accepted. I still have my village, people.