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.
No answers, but I felt very much like that about a year ago. I realized that I was hoping to connect with the nearby neighbors in my suburban area, but they were already tight and seemed resistant to my friendly self. It sucked. We throw NYE parties and none of the nearby neighbors came. I was crushed.
I started focusing on the friends that weren’t quite so close, throwing regular family-friendly dinner parties and putting effort with those who were reciprocating. Every single nearby neighbor came to our party this year, and I realized that they weren’t the ones I was thrilled to see. They weren’t so important anymore. We still wave and are friendly, but I’ve let go of the fantasy that we will all bond and be best buddies. It might still happen, but I’m much happier, looking outside this little bubble and getting my needs met despite the slightly larger distance.
Good luck on your journey, and yes, keep running!
When we moved to a midwestern small town suburb after living in Boston, I made some grand overtures to other people I wanted to be friends with and I was pretty much turned down. This also devastated me a bit–why didn’t they like me? what did I do wrong?
I think it really may simply be that your neighbors are All Set with their friends and don’t need you as much as you need them. I have no advice but to keep trying with people who are more receptive. It sucks that your neighbors aren’t more friendly for sure. It may just take some time and persistence. I drove pretty far for years just to hang out with people who were happy to get to know me–and in the last few years was lucky enough to have new, extroverted, fun, awesome people move next door who have opened up my social world immensely. It has made all the difference to my general satisfaction with life. I’m SURE you’ll get there with some time and luck. I would hang with your family in a heartbeat.
Thanks for that, Lissa. It helps reading similar stories and then learning you’re feeling 100 times better now. Thanks.
On top of the fact that we weren’t invited to the NYE party, the day before the person throwing it asked if her son could come over while the cleaners were there… cleaning for a party we weren’t invited to. (The boys play together often.) It’s kind of funny, now that I retell it. But man. Burn.
He didn’t come over because I was out and Toby was in charge of all three while I worked, but still. Kinda ballsy.
StateofKate: thank you, too! I was writing while you were posting I think. Thanks for that. It helps.
I lived in a suburban Northern Virginia neighborhood for two years before I started feeling really comfortable there. Many of the people were Washington, DC commuters and just not super open and friendly. After quite some time we starting feeling like part of the community. We unexpectedly moved this past summer (to Texas heaven help me). The people here are lovely and friendly, but I definitely feel excluded in my new neighborhood. I think it is just a matter of time and that StateofKate hit it on the head when she said that I need them more than they need me. My guess is it will just take time and persistence. As for your neighbor asking you to watch her kids, though? Nuh-uh. That seems a little much to me.
Toby and I had a chuckle about that, eep. Maybe it was innocent, as our boys do play together. But it’s funny it was because she was having the house cleaned before a NYE party we weren’t inivted to. Haha!
I have nothing to offer but a giant “thank you” for making me feel less alone in my social anxieties and insecurities :) These words could be my own save for small shifts in situation.
We moved out to the ‘country’ about 2.5 years ago and I am feeling very much like you describe. I miss the city. I miss my old friends, who were around but not up our ass all the time.
I too live in a neighborhood filled with families with kids (ours are 2 and 4) and by all accounts I should love it here. I’ve tried to make myself love it here. But this past fall into winter especially has been a psychological landslide for me. I am extremely lonely. Now, I am an introvert by nature but this is different. I don’t mean to be a downer.
There is probably a heck of a lot more I could do to try to make friends. But I miss the city terribly. I told my husband that I want to move to Chicago (totally out of the blue, I’ve never even been to Chicago and we vowed to stay on the east coast forever). It’s just hard to admit to myself and him that I simply don’t like it here.
I feel guilty for complaining about a life that so many would love to have, so I just don’t say anything and it just gets worse.
Anyway, sorry for the long and somewhat negative comment! But thank you for this post on an issue that has been front and center for me for months.
Steph: don’t apologize. I like hearing I’m not alone. I’m sorry you’re having trouble as well. I could probably write a post like this once a month, honestly. Maybe every week because there’s just something different about living here. I won’t even go into the gossip that seems to flourish, my guess is out of boredom. It just didn’t seem to happen as much in the city. At least not among the moms I knew there.
So, yeah. I miss it. And I know it takes time and I’ll have to meet people who are more open and friendly. But I miss the solitude and lifestyle I had in the city. It wasn’t perfect by any means! But neither is this.
Thanks for sharing. That sucks. We will likely have a similar move this year and I am worried about the transition.
It’s not you, it’s them. Be patient and keep trying. Kill them with kindness and you’ll have more friends than you want.
Twenty years ago I was a twenty something single and living in the burbs. I didn’t get invited to block parties, Xmas parties, NYE parties or really anything. I moved around a lot in the intervening years and two years ago when it was time to buy a place I chose to buy in the city rather than in the burbs. I don’t know why but people in the city actually talk to neighbors and invite them to parties. I didn’t want to revisit that nightmare again.
The weird thing is, many talk to one another; some of them are very close. Vacations together, parties, all sorts of things. But we haven’t broken through and I think we have tried. So, again, maybe it’s us. Maybe they don’t need us as badly or at all. That does make the most sense. But I’m not one to beg or fight or keep trying and feeling badly or uneasy in the process. (Unless it were a close friend and we had a falling out out something. I may work hard then). So, yeah. I give up.
But I don’t see us staying in this house forever, on this street. So maybe we will find one nearby but closer to folks we know. Or I’ll beg to move back to the city when we win the lottery. ;]
I’m in the UK so my experience is a bit different. No matter where I’ve lived here though I’ve found everyone keeps to themselves. They are nice but very reserved. It gets lonely but I’m not going to push myself on people. Good thing I don’t need to be around a lot of people to feel fulfilled. Casual talk on the school run seems to be enough for me socially at the moment.
Oh, I know this feeling. I think that a lot of it comes from the inner circle thing – families whose kids have been in daycare together since birth, that kind of thing. And I also think that chipping away the walls into those circles is particularly hard for those of us (myself included) who view that type of socializing as, well, kind of work. I think it really takes time – like several years – and true connections. I keep thinking back to how it took me three years to find another kindred spirit mom/family in Brooklyn that we all clicked with, only for both of our families to promptly move away. It might well be that the spark is just not there with some of your neighbors, to no fault of yours. I could go on with some examples on my end but will save it until we can share some of that Baby Bourbon together. :)
Thank you for writing this, while I hate to read that others are going through this too, it’s comforting to know I am not alone. We have lived in our house for five years and are still the only family on the outside. I used to feel so lonely and just awful about it, especially because of our kids. I didn’t want them to have the same feelings, seeing all the other neighbors hanging out while we were never included. Why is it so hard to make friends as adults? Anyway, thank you for your post.
I’m with you. Same thing happened to me. It is like high school and it is tedious. I eventually found our peer group (of parents and kids) here, it took time (I’ve been back for almost 8 years now) and it is only in the past 2-3 years that I found my people…and they aren’t my immediate neighbors. Proximity isn’t enough for forge most relationships. I don’t have much in common with my neighbors beyond location. No need to have relationships with them. Back in Arlington, all my neighbors were like-minded and all my neighbors were peers, but that was a rare situation, I think. One I miss and am so glad I experienced, but one that I don’t expect to ever experience again.