I’ve lived in the suburbs for three years. When we moved to Florida we found a house large enough for us, in a good school district, in a “good neighborhood,” and moved right in. It didn’t take long for us to realize we didn’t like it. I’ve been telling people “I learned I’m not a suburbanite” for two and a half years now, but I only had a vague idea of what that meant.
I knew that the suburbs were full of people who “kept up with the Joneses” and competed based on their stuff, and worried about things that “weren’t normal,” but it wasn’t until I actually looked up the word that I learned just how much of a stigma was attached to the word. I searched the Urban Dictionary for “suburbanite” and I was shocked and depressed – I know that site is full of user submitted definitions, not official ones, but they point to a common, shared belief that I’m not happy to be associated with. Some excerpts:
“The most prevalent vermin in the USA…”
“Severely lacking in social skills and intelligence…”
“…worthless assholes who are brainwashed by the media…”
“A conceited, self-centered paranoiac…”
“…their infectious ignorance and baseless arrogance are the reasons other countries hate the U.S. so much…“
That’s a whole lot of hatred, or at least loathing, leveled at people who live outside the city center. Here are some commonly echoed characteristics of suburbanites:
- Pretending that they have lots of money, but are actually broke after spending it all trying to impress people with their McMansions, SUVs, etc.
- Love of shitty chain “restaurants” such as Applebee’s, Chili’s, The Olive Garden, IHOP, etc.
- Severely lacking in social skills and intelligence, due to their refusal to interact with anyone other than their elementary/middle school classmates from 15-20 years ago.
- Brainwashed by the media
- Think that they have great fullfilling lives that everyone dreams of even though they dont, even themselves.
- People who day dream all day about what they should have done and what they could have in another life.
- They tend to try to get away from the dull roar of suburban life with things such as vacations, theme parks, etc.
- They have whiny ass annoying kids.
- They never take the time out to enjoy the diversity, excitement and establishments and atmosphere of a great city.
- A conceited, self-centered paranoiac who view themselves as so important that they assume that all city people automatically want to take the time out of their day to rob or shoot them at every city corner.
- A person that lives in an area that is void of any culture.
- A suburbanite frequents strip malls and goes to Home Depot with the mindset that these are the only options they have and wonder why.
- Suburbanites live a life of apathy and allow things to happen around them and do nothing about it.
- They are content without having independent businesses in their communities.
- They support Starbucks or WalMart companies that contribute nothing to the community that suburbanites pay taxes in.
- Suburbanites live in the land of make believe.
- Suburbanites learn everything about the outside world from the television.
- Mindless consumers who live in engineered neighborhoods.
- Have no opinion on anything until popular culture and media tell them how to think.
- Have to define themselves with possessions, because they have no personalities from years of corporate brainwashing.
- Suffer from the delusion that everyone wants their life, when in fact they do not.
- Sometimes even they don’t (want their life), but their programmed minds would never let them admit it.)
- Mistake insults and pity towards them for jealousy and envy.
- Go through life with blinders, failing to see or comprehend anything that is not right in front of their eyes.
- A fat lazy person who sits on the sofa watching American Idol, Survivor or some other shitty plot-less TV show.
- Drive single-occupant SUV’s .
- Drive the quarter of a mile to the nearest drive-thru to have a couple super-sized burgers with fries and 4 milkshakes.
Again…ouch. I can’t really disagree with any of these points, after observing my neighbors for the past few years, either. I hate, though, that this is what people think of me, just based on where I live. A couple of those hit kind of close to home, but most of them don’t define me. I have a pretty dim view of the people who live in my neighborhood, but I’ll have to concede that there must be some others who feel the way I do, and who moved here for the same reasons we did – we moved here so the kids could go to a school free of drugs and violence, and can’t stand the materialism and ignorance.
To address some of these points:
We don’t pretend we have money. We rent our house, we don’t have flashy cars – hell, mine’s 19 years old – and we don’t dress like fashion plates. I don’t care what people think of my stuff, but I see them trying to impress me with things.
I can’t believe anyone would envy my suburban life…I drive over an hour each way for work, and I don’t do much more than go to work, come home, and eat and sleep. But, I’m more realistic than to just say that NOBODY wants my life. I know on the scheme of things we have a pretty good life, and that to some people, the suburbs look like the lap of luxury. I know, too, that it’s not because the ‘burb are so great, but because there are some people who really have nightmarish lives.
I would SO prefer to eat at independent restaurants instead of chains. There just aren’t any around here…all the damn suburbanites drove ‘em out of business! I’ve seen some independent stores and restaurants try to open up, but they don’t last long — meanwhile the drive-thru line for McDonald’s is always full, and Outback is always full, every night.
I do patronize Wal-Mart and strip malls and Home Despot…because everything else is an hour’s drive away, and we can get the best price at these places, even if they are corporate monsters. I could make excuses and say we rent, so we don’t pay property taxes, but really…the best prices are at the corporate big-box stores, and we watch our bottom line.
I do admit to getting my information from the tv. I don’t get my opinions from there, though. In fact, maybe that’s the real key to why I’m not a suburbanite…I like to think. We encourage our kids to think for themselves. I like to question authority, and distrust major political parties, and I like to read books, and learn new things. My kids like to question things and think for themselves. I like to think about, and talk about abstract ideas like particle physics, or time travel, or what movies would be like with different actors. (Charlie Sheen as Iron Man…and…go!)
So can that work? Can I live in a suburb, but not be a suburbanite? I think I can – I could be in church and not be a Christian…I could be in an airplane and not be a pilot…I could be in a Whole Foods store and not be a douche. So I can be in a suburb and not be a suburbanite.
It’s too bad there’s not an outwardly visible way of seeing my incompatibility with my surroundings, so I could stop being judged so much.