Suburban Forces

By Patty Lawrence

Author's note: I wrote this essay not long after moving in. A couple of years later, the lawn is somewhat improved, but the hair is still a mess.

I have never lived in a subdivision. Until now. I’m learning to navigate the forces that work in the ‘burbs. They are like laws of nature. Or Murphy’s law. Or some crazy religion that makes you do weird stuff.

Whatever. It just is and you’d better deal.The first inevitable thing is that if your house is a total wreck, you will get company. The women who come to visit have cleaning women so they can spend their time riding Arabian horses. They have no idea about lint-covered living rooms, but they are charming and say brightly, “but you just moved in!” Spotless abodes turn off the must-visit-the-neighbor radar. So if you enjoy company, leave the dust mop in the closet.

Another way to meet neighbors is to wander outside in bad clothes. Ratty jeans guarantee that you meet all of your immediate neighbors. But if you want to meet the ones that live down the street pull on paint splattered, old leggings and a sweatshirt in a clashing shade of blue. Dash outside. Voila! The entire east end of the street will be outside your home. You might not remember all of them; however, they will remember you.

Children love subdivisions and especially the perfectly groomed children swinging in the next yard. Your bad hair does not matter and where they go, you go. Ideally you’ve had a pedicure and can slip on designer sunglasses as you breezily follow them out the door. But if this is not the case, at least make an attempt to do something about the bad hair. But don’t take too long. You do not want the well-heeled woman playing ball with her son to think you let your children outdoors unsupervised. Gain her friendship. She is the core of the Suburban Force.

Burb forces motivate your husband like the promises of romantic evenings used to and you find yourself married to the Lawn King. There is great authority in his voice as he discusses broad leaves and fescues. This is baffling as you know he’s just watched too many Scott’s commercials but his enthusiasm is contagious. Soon you’ll want a manicured lawn more than you want manicured nails. Deep down you know that the neighbors will forgive bad hair in exchange for a weedless lawn. For seamless green carpet, forgo Mother Nature’s help and instead buy chemicals. Then celebrate coupledom by spending the day applying fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. When you are finished, send the children out to play.

Burb logic is mysterious, but that doesn’t really matter. Once you drive through the stone pillars at the entrance of your street, a skewed sort of perfection takes over and it all seems so, well, normal.

Patty writes about scarcity and abundance

Leave Suburban Forces Return to Home Page