Home > City mama, family, philosophy > A pain you don’t notice until it’s gone

A pain you don’t notice until it’s gone

Occasionally, I get comments from old friends or family members that are either implicit or explicitly this: When are you going to grow up and move out of the city, back to the ‘burbs?

And I’ll admit, until recently, I sorta assumed that some day we would buy a house out in some suburb somewhere. But, in the past four or six years, I’ve come to a gradual dawning realization that if I ever leave the city it will be for the country. If I can help it, I won’t move back to the burbs.

I could give you some folderol about the unsustainability of a lifestyle built on everyone, even the teenagers, having and using personal cars. I could rant and rail about the homogenized blandness of the land of the mall, about the isolation of those McMansions and their lawns. I could talk about the diversity and culture of the city, about the art, the music, the food, the community.

But the simple fact of the matter is this: In the ‘burbs, I’m a freak. But in the city, I’m not even the weirdest thing you see before breakfast.

This was driven home to me over the holidays. I have begun a tradition of celebrating the winter solstice by having a brunch that starts at dawn and ends at The Child’s naptime. My friends come over, we have lots of good food, we talk, there’s snow and hot chocolate, it’s a lot of fun.

I like Solstice. You can’t argue or offend with Solstice. Whether you believe in Christ the Savior, the miracle of the oil, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you can’t deny the astronomical fact of the solstice. It’s the shortest day of the year. Period. Everyone wants the sun to come back. I throw a Solstice party for many reasons, but one of them is because it’s utterly non-denomenational. If you live of Earth, you gotta acknowledge the solstice.

And, living in the city, as a geek, I don’t know that many Christians. Not even the sort of Easter-and-Christmas, belief-is-a-private-matter variety you usually get in New England. So Solstice has the added benefit that it doesn’t offend.

Because I know my family, I’ve always been careful to call my party a “holiday party.” But this year, I slipped. I told my mom that I was busy cleaning and cooking for my solstice party.

There was a long pause as I winced on the other end of the phone, my broom in one hand, waiting for it. Then it came, in a sing-song tone best recalled from school yard chants. “OH! A solllll-stice party!” She drew out the first syllable, her voice rising and dipping in an exaggerated way. “I see. How… very…. New Age-y of you.”

Over the next week, as we talked about preparations for Christmas, every single member of my family mocked me for the Solstice party. My dad just gave his question a biting lilt, “So, I understand you’re having a solstice party?” My sister-in-law laughed and teased openly. My brother, usually the nicest and kindest soul I know, called me “a fucking hippy.”

And it all came back. The years of relentless teasing and merciless mocking. Not just from my family, who loves me, at least, but also from the kids in school, the teachers, the neighbors. And they didn’t love me. A lot of them hated me and were quite vicious.

I’ve been really happy in the city for the past ten year, happy in a way I didn’t really realize until now. I didn’t hurt. Because no matter how thick your skin gets, no matter how jaded you become, no matter how numb you make yourself, it’s still exhausting and hurtful to be rejected, mocked, humiliated, and attacked for being different.

When I’m around family, I sort of squish myself down to a close approximation of their version of “normal.” It’s cramping, and I don’t come very close, but it makes a smaller target for their slings and arrows. But I can’t do that all the time.

And in the city… well, there’s a lady who rides her bike by my condo every morning at about 6:45. She has 5-foot-long dreads, wears a black trench coat all year round, and a top hat. Her bike has three wheels, is about 5 feet tall, bright purple, and sometimes she attaches a full-sized disco ball to the back. My pediatrician is transsexual, one of my friends is a Discordian, another is getting her Doctorate of Divinity and is an openly practicing Pagan, and another is getting her Doctorate in the history of theater of WWI. My little quirks just don’t bear mentioning in that company.

Hell, in the city, I’m pretty much normal.

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Categories: City mama, family, philosophy
  1. January 21, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    i feel that way so often, reflecting on my move from brooklyn to ‘thinks its all that’ orlando…

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