“When are you going to be in the city again?”
I hear this a lot.
I lived in “the city,” for over ten years. I was raised in a suburb about 30 miles outside of city limits and moved to Chicago at 18-years old to go to college. I lived all over Chicago. Rogers Park, Wrigleyville, Humboldt Park, Little Italy and Ukranian Village. I worked as far north as Evanston and as far south as South Chicago. I love Chicago. Of my limited travels and my unabashed bias, I declare it the best city in the world. To me, at least.
Chicago hasn’t been the only place I’ve lived. I lived in small towns, too. As small as a fishing town in Paraguay to a couple of small towns in central Illinois (one college, one non). They each had their pluses and minuses, they each drastically changed my worldview in different ways.
After I had my daughter, I moved back to the suburbs where I myself was born to raise her with the help of my family. Like all new places, I had to start over, make new friends in my new (again) community and a build a new life. I’m very happy here. At times my life in Chicago seems like yesterday and at others, light-years away.
“We’ll get together next time you are in Chicago!”
As if The City were this necessary, delicate ecosystem where our PH-balanced friendship could survive. Outside of it, even a mere 30 miles, it would turn inside out and die, like a virus on a toilet seat.
I’ve always been someone who has kept in touch with friends through every stage of my life. I still have friends from childhood. The first person I met on my first day of college is still my best friend, even though he now lives in Austin, TX. I still keep in touch with Peace Corps friends, scattered across the US and world. I count my grad school friends, now living in San Francisco and Miami, as family. I have a great friend in Hawaii that has been there for me in my darkest times, even from across the ocean. My dear friend Rob, who started with me on my first day of my first Real Job over 13 years ago, is moving to DC this week. I’m sad, but I’m not worried. I know we’ll stay in touch. More than that, we’ll stay friends.
“Let me know when you’ll be in the city again, and we’ll get together!”
I hear this a lot. “Or,” I finally tried, “You could come out to the burbs and we could hang.”
I was greeted, of course, by laughter. Sort of an indignant snort. A look that said, “Yeah right! Good one! But seriously, Jill. Let me know when you’re in the city again.”
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Wondering why it bothers me as much as I have now realized that it does.
I mean, I get it. The suburbs aren’t cool. That’s how I felt myself. But mostly when I was 17 and living in them. Back when I thought I knew what cool was or wasn’t, back when I cared. Probably in my 20s. Not so much in my 30s. There are a billion different places in the world, each with pluses and minuses.
I know this exists in other cities as well. Some New Yorkers loathe leaving their boroughs, not to mention the city. I understand the laziness. And being a homebody is ok, too. But it’s the attitude that certain people exude that I find to be among the most irritating thing in the world. It’s a very smug, very self-righteous “But why wouldn’t you want to come into the city? You must be absolutely dying out there. And here I am, offering you the opportunity to meet me out here, where there is life, where there is culture, where there are $12 craft drinks prepared by ‘mixologists’ and we can get dressed up for each other in our trendy dresses bought from the internet and check in on Facebook and tag each other on Instagram for everyone to see how full of life and culture we are! Oh and hey, if you’re driving in, would you mind picking me up?”
Those who loathe the suburbs, maybe it’s immaturity. Maybe they are all still self-loathing 17-year olds trapped inside of 30-year old bodies, caught in the cycle of gossip and backstabbing and dropping each other the second a male sniffs their ass. Or maybe it’s lack of exposure to places other than all they’ve known (though half of them are from Naperville and small towns themselves). But mainly I think it’s a deep, insecure need to identify yourself with X (the Good City) and hate on Y (the Bad Suburbs).
The thing is, I don’t necessarily care where we hang. I just want to hang. Over the past two years, I’ve happily made the trip into the city to meet friends out. I’ve even packed up my two-year old to lug her into the city to meet up with friends so they could see her, usually in highly child-unfriendly venues (read: anywhere for a two-year old). I’ve made the effort.
And that’s what I’ve realized what it comes down to. Making an effort. Making time for someone you care about. With certain people, I am always the only one making an effort. So maybe it isn’t as much a question of city vs. suburbs. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s them. Maybe we were never truly friends to begin with. Not by my definition, at least. And that’s been really, really painful for me to accept.
I won’t be going to the city anymore to accommodate one-sided friendships. I’d rather hang here, in the lame suburbs. And if you want to come too, holler at me.