We’ve lived in the suburbs for a little over a year. And it’s ok. I’d be lying if I said I loved it. The truth is, I miss living in the city. I miss it for so many reasons, and someday I hope to tackle them all, but today I’ll stick to one: friends and neighbors.
(Please forgive me for this post. I’m going to “belly up” for a bit and expose a side of me that’s difficult for me to expose. And I could very well delete this post in a minute, an hour, tomorrow. But for now I’m throwing caution to the wind and going for it.)
We live on a very kid-friendly street. There are so many kids. And most of the kids are right around the same age, which means the parents are all right around the same age as well. And many of us moved here from Brooklyn. I feel as though we should have a lot in common, but I don’t know that for sure since I don’t know anyone that well. And I’d like to think that Toby and I are pretty ok people to spend time with. We have our issues, and we are far from perfect, but we are ok. And I think we are friend material, not just someone you’re pleasant to because your kids play together.
So then why aren’t we becoming friends with our neighbors? Why has it been so hard for me/us to slip in with this group? I know they’ve likely been close for years and we are relatively new. But it all just feels so not ok. I can’t put it any other way. It just feels not ok. I feel like I’m in high school again, like I moved into a new town and I’m not being included as much as the others and I just want to go back home already.
Here’s the deal: there have been several parties around us that have included most of our immediate neighbors (and bus stop families) that we haven’t been invited to. And it’s starting to make us feel uneasy. We are questioning ourselves: Do we talk too much? Too little? Are we seen as too dorky or awkward? Are our kids awful? Did one of us say something? I feel ridiculous for caring at all. Sometimes, like when I’m feeling really great about myself (usually at the same time every month) it doesn’t bother me at all. I think, “Their loss.” But at other times, when I’m hating on myself (like today), I feel really gross. Like an insect, ugly and intrusive and just gross.
I know. I sound pretty sad, probably a lot pathetic and arrogant suggesting people need to take me into their inner circle. They’ve been friends for years. We have only lived here for a little over one. And for the first 6 months of our time here I was pregnant and stayed to myself quite a bit. But as soon as Walt was born, I started trying. We’ve had people over for dinner. We’ve hosted playdates. I even volunteered to help out with the Halloween block party. The point is: I’ve tried. And this is a huge deal for me. I am often crippled when it comes to being social and putting myself into a group of people I barely know. My anxiety is so high when it comes to such things. But I tried overcoming all that this time. And it hasn’t really paid off. And that sucks. And it sucks that I care.
Toby keeps reminding me that proximity does not automatically mean friends. He’s mentioned how many of the friends we do have (or could have, with a bit more persistence) live elsewhere in the neighborhood. And he’s right; I’m not sure why I’m so fixated on NOT fitting in with those I share a sidewalk with instead of cultivating the friendships we have elsewhere, because we have friends elsewhere.
And I know I need to let this go. And I know I sound pathetic.
I miss city living. City neighbors kept to themselves mostly. People weren’t up in one other’s business, at least not where we lived. And the friendly neighbors we did have always invited us over for a drink whenever they had a party. That just seems like the right thing to do.
I’m sitting here trying to figure out why it’s different. Is it suburban yards and porches that make things different? Is it that city space is limited so you go out with friends instead of having them over? Is it that space is limited so you understand that not everyone gets an invite? Is it the bus stop that makes suburban life more intertwined, yet catty and sometimes uncomfortable? Did we just happen to buy a house near to a group of people who simply don’t want more friends? Or has it been us all along and we didn’t know because we have always lived in the city? (God, what a horrifying thought!)
I think that’s the scariest question I am asking myself: is it me? Why am I being excluded? And why do I give a shit?
I want to not give a shit. I wish I could make that my New Year’s resolution: stop giving a shit about petty crap that ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s just a party. They’re just neighbors. Move on, mihow. Go for a run or something.