November 01, 2006

My Silent Purple World

I was noticing how silent my childfree world is today. We have cats not dogs, and no children. Cats don’t bark and carry on, or have to watch TV constantly for their entertainment. Thankfully, neither does my husband. We rise early enough to eat breakfast together, sipping our coffee silently. Tom heads off to work and I am left to my own devices and a never ending To Do list.

We just moved back to the town where we were married, and we've rejoined the local tennis club with no intentions on using all those beautiful courts, but our shadows do darken the fitness room on a regular basis. Even that is a rather quiet experience, except when someone lifts too much and they clank the
weights down noisily. I thought the club would feel a bit friendlier, but no one knows us, so the only people who greet us are the ones who work there.

About half the adults at the club are wearing headphones, so they can tune-in to the TVs mounted to the walls and thusly tune anyone else out. Hardly anyone speaks to one another. Strangely, no
overhead music plays. I am trying to get up my nerve to go to the ladies luncheon later this month. Even the chatter of women talking about their kids would be welcome.

On Wednesdays, the neighbor's gardener tortures me with the leaf blower, and other than the traffic on the road out front during peak commute times, it’s pretty silent on the outskirts of a town called Livermore. This is life in the middle of great suburban sprawl, just 45 minutes from lively and vibrant San Francisco. I find myself socially isolated, new again in a town that is vaguely familiar, and the silence is deafening.

Something is definitely missing. If I stay here too long, I am afraid I’ll begin to think it’s a child because that’s what we are surrounded by. Can I really connect with Purple WomenTM here? Or, is the deck stacked against me in suburbia? Now that the dust is settling from our move, I find that I need a social life, a job and a distraction or two. Perhaps I'll buy a drum set and take up percussion.

[Photo: Livermore, Calif.]

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Elise said...


Your gym doesn't play any music ambiently? Wow, that *would* be a little spooky. Mine plays a web-based station called Sky FM, and it's actually pretty good (and thankfully completely devoid of commercials). I used to bring my own MP3 player to the gym, but I find that while doing cardio, I actually prefer to catch up on the comics --- makes the time fly!

Sounds like hard-core suburbia is really getting to you after your stint in gorgeous Toronto ( could it do otherwise?). Here in exurban NH, everything is still on a small enough scale that I can get to a small city (Keene or Manchester) in under an hour or Boston in 90 minutes or so. We have no neighbors whose homes are visible from ours, which I actually find nicer than neighbors right nearby who work hard at ignoring each other. The quiet here is simply due to an overabundance of nature, not tuned-out neighbors.

May I recommend Meetup to you? I organize a childfree Meetup in Central New England, and I love it. I've only been at it since July, but we've got 36 members and just had a meetup last weekend (9 members showed) with billiards and a fun lunch. I hate to be evangelizing about off-line pursuits in this on-line venue, but I think there really is no substitute for it.

Checking Livermore and SF on the website, there are nearly 80 people interested in a Childfree Meetup. They're just waiting for someone to take the reins and start one. It's laughably simple! Think about it, Teri --- you'd be perfect for it!

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to discuss it further.


LauraS said...

Sounds exactly like my experience moving from Toronto to suburbia in a small city in Virginia.

The first thing I did was join the fitness club, then the ski club. I began to volunteer at the high school and at an after school program because I like working with youth.

I became a founding member of a black women/white women group because I missed the diversity of a big city. We sought out people with shared interests and created a dinner group that would meet quarterly to prepare gourmet dinners and taste new wines and we helped to start a British Car Club.

I couldn't find may other childfree couples but ended up befriending many parents with teens or empty nesters.

I did a Childfree meetup inquiry as well but I wasn't as lucky; it was abandoned because of a lack of interest.

Robin said...

I think new places always take time to adjust.

alphagirl said...

Wow. You have my condolences; I'm from up north, and Livermore isn't exactly crackin' when it comes to activities.

The other posters have some great ideas. It's helpful to seek out others based on your interests in general and the friendships will develop from there. There are also some very cool parents that don't hinge their entire identity on their role, so you have a wider net to cast, so to speak.

Personally, I find parents of infants and small children to be grating, but I have a lot of friends who are parents of teens, so it's all good. You'll find your rhythmn and niche in due time. The culture shock of moving from Toronto to Livermore is enough for now...

Anonymous said...

Elise - I will consider your suggestion. In fact, I invite you would write a post for the front page as a Guest Contributor and share your knowledge as a Meetup organizer. I don't really understand how they work. The other thing I am considering is starting a new No Kidding chapter.

LauraS - Thanks for sharing how you handled your surburban time. You are giving me good ideas.

AlphaGirl - You know my husband and I made some great friends in Toronto with couples who had older children. They really were fun to be with.

Robin - Girl, you are wise beyond your years!

Thanks to you all for the support and inspiration. As you can tell, I am starving for some in person connecting. As you may have guessed, I am now wall flower and I am befriending people who have to talk to me, the bank teller going through a divorce, the childfree technician in my new vets office, the Purple Woman who cleaned my teeth at the dental office. I have passed out a few Purple Women cards this week!

Looks like The Fixed Kitty and I are going to collaborate on a podcast or two, and we just happen to live in the same county. How lucky is that?

That said, I would love to meet up with all of you some in person some day. Maybe next year's Childfree Festival in Las Vegas, or BlogHer?

Elise said...


You can have a NK chapter and publicize it through Meetup. The Boston chapter does just that, actually.

I'd love to write about Meetup! It's wonderful and easy. Thanks!

Gimme a sec...I'm about to get married (just passed the two week countdown mark...whoa!).


Elise said...

I am definitely aware that many CF Meetups have had trouble. For instance, my Meetup is #217...but there are only 15 active CF meetups throughout the country! (cue ominous music).

The successful CF Meetups seem to focus on getting together, eating, drinking, and having fun (billiards, bowling, hiking) with people whose first topic of conversation isn't kids. There's a group in Rochester, NY which has been around a few years, has over 50 members, and always seems to be having the *best* possible time!

The CF meetups which have failed seem to have done so because they focused on getting together and having CF b$%^hfests --- that seems to work much better online.

After all, if a group of people gets together and focuses on something they're all *not* doing (having kids), its viability in the long term is probably somewhat limited. If they get together as a social group of people who just happen not to have kids, and the focus is on having fun, it seems to work beautifully.