February 13, 2007

Sticky Business

Deciding where to settle, married or not, is not easy for anyone, parent or non-parent. Childfree adults will have a different set of criteria, naturally. We do not have to research the best elementary schools in the county, but a place to get that master's degree we've been thinking about may be noteworthy of a desirable location.

Since moving back to the States, my home state of California specifically, I have been hyper-aware of what has changed since I have been gone.

First off, I am a Purple Woman, so naturally I view my world from a different frame of reference than the majority of adults around me in the small country town we have settled in. We are not in total bumpkin-land, but we are in a decidedly remote part of the San Francisco East Bay. It can be problematic, being a childfree adult in suburban heaven where people move to raise kids. You have to find your niche. You have to think about it, create a social structure that works for you. Parents fall into one that is designated by whom their kids attend school or play sports with.

AlphaGirl posted recently about what I will call subliminal messages about what we "should be" in our environment, from doctor's offices to parking lots (think: parking for moms and moms-to-be). What I have noticed is stick figures. More than a few minivans and SUVs are emblazoned with stick figures, one for each member of the family, even the pets get an emblem.

A columnist in our local newspaper featured it at the top of her column last Friday: Spin Cycle - "the fluffing and folding of the news".

This must be related to that other annoying trend of placing a bumper sticker on your car bragging about your child who made the honor roll. What's up with that? Do teenagers actually think that's cool? Local fast food chain, Taco Bell, which makes a living targeting this youth market, makes fun of this tired trend with this slogan on their taco sauce condiments:

My Sauce is an honor student at Taco Middle School.
There has always been something about the suburbs that brings out comparisons, a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses feeling. Each small town, if you can call a city of 78,000 plus small, will have its characters. Norm Crampton, author of Making Your Move to One of America's Best Small Towns, advises that it's okay to be different -- just be consistent. I think he means that it is important to be authentic. Be yourself.

When my fiancé, now my husband of nine years, first moved me to this town and married me here, I was 30-something. How different it feels being here again at 40-something. This time it will be on my terms. This time I will do it differently. After all, I am different. Oh, and if I do want to get a master's degree, the California State University, East Bay is not so far.

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emeraldwednesday said...

I've experienced similar feelings- I live in a suburban family paradise in the South Bay, not too far from you, where people flock to the excellent school district... and where our neighbors look askance at us for not having children. We're sportscar types, not SUV... and very decidedly in the minority here. As you mentioned, it's all about finding a niche and not letting it bother us!

Teri said...

EmeraldWednesday - Can the suburbs also be a paradise for childfree adults? This has been on my mind lately. I am going to find out it seems. We have some very good reasons to be right where we are. My husband's family helped shape this valley, so there is a bit of history drawing us to this place.

I want a garden and my husband wants a dog. We already have two cats (indoor only) and four chickens!

I thought about taking tennis lessons at the very kiddy/mommy oriented club we joined, but I am having second thoughts about trying to "fit in" there. My passions lie more on the fringe. That same money could be spent on an art class, for example.

emeraldwednesday said...

You make a very good point there- I love where we live, and want to make it our little paradise as well (dog, garden...). But- I wish I felt a little less like a sore thumb sometimes, and it's very annoying that most of the fitness classes around my home are during normal working hours (ie, geared to stay-at-home moms). It's going to be a challenge, but worth it I think.