July 31, 2007

The Purple Closet

I find myself in new situations all the time, since moving back to the town where we got married nine years ago. We bought a house, so now you know we're committed. Yep, we're settling in the for the long haul, and we're in the 'burbs -- the outer limit of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. We even adopted four girls. Chickens that is.

We've been here about 10 months now, and I thought I'd report in from a purple perspective on how all this is going. We find ourselves surrounded by families with kids. That much has not changed. It's still a great place to raise children, and that's partly why I felt so alienated when we first moved here as newlyweds. It's the new developments that tipped the balance in my decision about whether or not we should live here for the the foreseeable remainder of our lives. For example, we now have our very own Trader Joe's, and there's an outlet mall under consideration by the city council.

Out of all the places we could have chosen in the Bay Area, this was not first on my list. This is my husband's home town, and we have many friends here that he knows from the kindergarten days. Being welcomed back to a place is a most wonderful feeling. I am also making a concerted effort to meet new people, to expand the possibilities of our social horizons. In particular, I wanted to connect with other childfree people, not just on the Internet.

In the new social circle that is forming around us, the question about kids always comes up right away. More for me, than for my husband. Men simply don't go there. Women do. I usually handle it matter of fact-ly. I don't go around introducing myself as the Purple Woman, but I get it out there now. And, then I move on. Next topic?

I don't define myself by a my vocation or my family choice, and I am only associated with an "old family" by marriage as I kept my last name. Getting to know the real me takes a little time. My husband has four generations of history in this valley. It may also take time for us to overcome preconceived notions that others have about childfree people in general. We are in no hurry.

I like what I see in this community. I like who I am meeting and how the place has grown, all-be-it very slowly. There are lovely vineyard-esque housing developments set to a backdrop of generous rolling hills. The downtown redevelopment has gone very well, and the trees and wisteria will only be more beautiful as time goes on. My favorite stores are still there, as well as a few new ones. There are two or three restaurants we'd feel confident to taking visitors to. How many more do you really need?

I get a little nervous telling my new acquaintances about Purple Women & Friends. It's a growth area for me. Still working on coming out of the deep purple closet. Somehow, I am more intimidated to be openly childfree in a suburban setting, but so far so good.

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LauraS said...

I truly understand your reluctance to "out" yourself as childfree. When I was in my thirties,I occasionally let people think I was just postponing children. I was in a new community surrounded by parents and I had found that when I made a point of defining myself as childless by choice sometimes the conversation would become awkward and some parents became defensive. That was not what I wanted.
I also found it was much easier to wait until I had the chance to spend some more time with this person so that that she could get to know me before the common assumptions about why I had made the choice took hold.

M said...

Sometimes I fear moving to a different area because I'm scared that my husband and I will be the only ones who are childfree (by choice, as opposed to childless), and that we may not fit in or find friends.

I like having friends who have children, in fact I love children in general (though I don't always want to be around then, esp. if they are loud, rowdy, etc., but anyway), but I think numerous factors can contribute to the childfree feeling left out or alienated in communities with many parents and children.

Some of the reasons it may be hard for the childfree in an area with many kids and parents are:

*often parents (especially new parents or parents of infants/toddlers) have a pretty limited amount of time to spend with friends

*many parents prefer or have to bring kids along during social occasions (meet for lunch, go for a walk, etc.) and not all childfree enjoy having kids around all or much of the time

*kids often become the main focus of an event or of the discussion and childfree people may prefer to talk about a larger variety of topics and to not have adult conversation repeatedly interrupted

*some parents are simply more interested in hanging out with other parents pretty much exclusively so the childfree are left out

*parents form many groups that revolve around parenthood so the childfree are just naturally left out by definition

*in some cases, the interests and concerns of parents just don't mesh with those of the childfree

I have numerous friendships that are not the least bit affected by the differences in choices around parenthood. But I also have been witness to many of the above, even in the online world, or maybe I should say especially in the online world.

At times, it feels that many parents have disdain for or simply have no interest in the childfree. This is something I've found clearly stated by many parents online and not an assumption on my part. But, I'm hoping that these are simply a vocal few, and that the majority of parents, as well as the majority of the childfree, choose their friends and judge others based on the kind of person they are and not on their choices about procreating.

So glad you are not finding my fears coming true for you in your suburban community. How wonderful!

Teri said...

LauraS - Yes, I think it is important not to rush a new relationship. As a PW, I want to be sure it's worth the emotional investment in revealing myself. People need to get a sense of me first, before we discuss my family planning!

M - Do you currently live in a community that has lots of childfree people? Did you choose to live there because of this aspect?

I am very aware of the potential hazard of quick judgments of parents when they learn you are not "one of them". That's why I am so wary. That's also why I try to make childfree friends. It's a bit of social insulation against a child-centric world.

Thank you both for your comments.

M said...


I've lived in Berk. and Oakland and though I don't know if there are more childfree here, there def. is not that sense of this is where people come to raise their families type suburban feeling you've described about where you live. And yes that is one of many reasons why I'm here, not that I consciously thought about that when choosing where to live, but the environment and community here is such that I feel more at home and comfortable here than I do most a anywhere else (so indirectly yes it's on of the reasons, and also one of the reasons, among many, why I am reluctant to move to certain areas).