Happy Birthday to Suburbo-types! And me!

We’re all in this together.

Okay it’s not my birthday until mid-November, but this week marks a year since suburbo-types was up and running.   (Suburbo-types is only 1, but as my daughter pointed out, I am going to be 44, not 43 as my brain had originally thought.  Nice.)  It’s a natural time to think about this project, what I’ve learned and where it’s heading.  Originally, suburbo-types was meant as a platform for my understanding of the truth of our relationships in suburbia, how and why we stereotype each other and to gain a fuller understanding of my fellow suburbanites.  Alas, a year later, I have no solid answers, but the questions are evolving.  And the truth as to why I began is starting to make more sense to my often hard-headed skull.

It’s a biologically human and rational inclination to desire contact and connection with others.  In the months before I began the blog, my best friend Tracy moved away and I found myself wanting to get to know people more.  Tracy was my lifeline as we raised our babies together (our kids are the same ages). We talked on the phone sometimes 3 times a day.  My baby projectile barfed! Her baby sprout a tooth!  I’m worried, I’m scared, I feel incompetent, I’m lonely!  I was able to say whatever I wanted and I knew she understood.   It is an intense time for all new moms, but it was made easier by Tracy who juggled making me laugh, listening to my incessant chatter and hearing every word I uttered without judgment.   She is still there for me, but she lives 2 hours away, works and has a life of her own.  So do I.  But when she left, I wondered how I would ever feel as connected again.  Not to mention the pain of living so far away from my family, especially my new niece.

Shameless promotion of adorable new niece.

In the wake of going back to work part-time, raising young children and navigating the suburban landscape, I found myself being incredibly judgmental and critical of my suburb-dwelling peers.  I was constantly sizing people up, and in the end, I was really only judging myself.  I realize I was making other people seem scarier than they were to protect myself from, what, getting attached and having THEM move away too?  Maybe it was easier to keep everyone at arm’s distance.  But as I came out of my shell,  and as I met new friends and let myself (and them) off the hook a little more,  I came to see that all of us hide a little and we certainly protect ourselves.  Maybe we criticize others for how they parent, how they dress or what they say.  I am guilty of doing these things too, but I am willing to let go of it bit by bit to make the suburbs feel less strip-mall and more Main street.  In Dave Goetz’s book Death by Suburb:Keeping the Suburbs from Killing your Soul, he states that cultivating deep friendships (note: not the get your mail for you, wave from your car-kind), those that bring deep joy and satisfaction, is the antidote for social climbing,  people pleasing, ass-kissing and perpetuating your mask.  I know, deep, right?!

In the compelling book Incognito by neuroscientist David Engleman,  he lays out a complex interplay between two parts of your brain.  The first, the prefrontal cortex,  does it’s best work by stretegizing and analyzing.  It plans and thinks.  It tells you that you have exactly 24 waking hours on the weekend in which to do laundry, finish that report by Monday, help with homework, make meals, prepare for the coming week etc.  Then, the more primitive limbic system, or emotional control center, begins to feel the freak coming on at about 4 o’clock on Sunday when all that shit has no chance of getting done.  It works the same way when you are building relationships .  The prefrontal cortex examines what you will say or wear, then the limbic system causes you to worry about that joke you told or the red shirt that you wore that may have been just a little too low-cut.  All of us have these two characters battling it out in our heads.  For me,  genuinely connecting to others and putting myself out there makes my inner soldiers a little less likely to get into full-blown war.

The suburbs have always felt a little lonely to me.  They with their picket fences and closed doors.  Unknown neighbors.  Long driveways.  Pruned bushes.  What’s really going on in there?  (okay, not everything: private is private) This writing, although making me incredibly vulnerable and fearful at times, has freed me to explore uncharted waters.  Who is beneath the facade.  Where the truth lies.  All the topics for suburbo-types come from conversations I have had or overhead somehere in the ‘burbs.   And the interviews are attempts to understand there is a lot to know about each of us.  Really, it’s just so we all know that those we surround ourselves with are more than who we see.  Of course, you don’t want to be too vulnerable.  You don’t want to tell someone that you are living a shame-based existence the first time you meet them.  The fact that you slept with the entire football team your sophomore year of high school?  Probably TMI.  You have to have a strong base to hold up the weight of the relationship.  Thanks to you,  I hope is what the community of suburbo-types is starting to do.

So, for the coming year, the blog will be focusing on more interviews, more subjects that maybe we all think about a little bit but don’t talk about very much and just being here for a safe 5 minute read during your busy lives.  Please let me know what you’d like to see, any polite criticism (I am human, after all) and insights into your suburban life.  I value your feedback and don’t publish it if requested.

Mt. Hood Mama Photos is responsible for the lovely image at the top of this post.  My sister is responsible for the cute baby photo.  And the cute baby.

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Things I (Rightly or Wrongly) Assume About You

So I have been somewhat plagued by insomnia the past week.  Hormones?  Stress?  I don’t know, but I am aware that those hours in the middle of the night amplify emotions because there is no one to share them with.   A shroud of darkness falls over the house and my mind and my thoughts race.  In the morning, I feel better but I have noticed an fascinating phemomenon.  Going back to earlier posts about judgement and the eagerness of our brains to compartmentalize, I realize I am in a state of hypervigilance related to being fucking exhausted.  In my current state, my brain is profiling others at a more rapid rate and it’s been illuminating to look back on what the blog has taught me about my own analysis of my fellow suburbanites.  Having not had adequate time for a scientific study,  my conclusion is that my brain knows I am flagging and is trying to protect me from external threats.  Thank you brain, for my suburban ass is dragging.

It’s not just the sleepless nights, however.  As this blog has progressed over the past months, I have become more and more conscious of the things I judge and assumptions I make with precious little evidence.  I have been compiling a list which I share now at risk of being rudely awakened or embarassed.  I am not proud of some of these thoughts, but am going to come clean in the interest of truth telling and a desperate attempt to shake it off and move on.   So here they are, first the facts followed by the rather crude assumptions.

You are pretty so obviously you don’t have to worry about much, you are used to getting what you want, your heart has never been broken, you always smile at yourself in the mirror.

You have a lot of money so clearly your life has been easy, you have never bought a shirt at Target, nor shopped in the clearance section, you never fight with your husband, you don’t worry about the future, your kids don’t whine about things they can’t have, you don’t suffer from anxiety, fear or doubt and you are perenially put together and would never go to Safeway in your sweats.

You are a stay at home mom so you are always patient, never yell at your kids, get to wear pajamas until noon, have a brain made of mushy Cheerios, you wonder when or if ever you will go back to work, have a knack for the smell and consistency of bodily fluids, get lonely sometimes, alternately feel elated and terrified,  you are lucky to have the opportunity to stay home and you are lucky you have not yet lost your mind.

You work full time so you are pretty much a powerhouse, you take charge in situations where the rest of us falter, you have a command of life outside the home, you cry when your babysitter sends a video of your kids playing in the park, you get pissed when the other moms talk about playdates and coffee chats of which you cannot partake, you fight with your husband over shared responsibilities, you fall asleep standing up often, you are to be pitied because you don’t have time to do yoga or get to the gym but you are to be admired for your tenacity and work ethic.

You drive a huge car so you must be a Republican or a farmer, if that huge car is a minivan, it’s a crap shoot what party flag you wave, you are rich and don’t care about gas prices, you don’t believe in global warming, you have a lot of kids, you are more likely to have those stickers with progressively smaller people and your pets.

You drive a tiny car so you must be a Democrat and very concerned about the Earth, you are thrifty and buy lots of items in trial sizes, you give us the finger while we are pumping at the gas station, you have to rent a car when your family is in town and you can actually reach your child in the backseat.

You have tattoos so you must not be afraid of pain, are open minded and liberal, or have seen military service, you don’t care what people think, you have a story to tell, you are hip and cool, you once got very drunk.  (*all the aforementioned can change depending on the quality, location and number of tattoos).

You have very short hair so you are incredibly in touch with who you are as a woman, you feel sexy, you are sure of yourself, and possibly you are lazy about things like hair dryers and anti-frizz gel.

You have poorly behaved kids so you are questionable if I don’t know you, if I know you and this is not consistent I am willing to let one slide, you don’t know how to control them, you are not getting enough help from your spouse, you are in over your head (* note that this all changes if you make an attempt at disciplining them at least), you are having a shitty day, you are a pushover.  I know, judgemental right?!

You get drunk frequently and forcefully so you must be unhappy, you must have problems, you are trying to escape from something, you have a remarkable constitution, you have too much time on your hands, you came from a family who drank alot.

You curse alot so you are my best friend,  you don’t have a good vocabulary, you come from a long line of foul mouthed hooligans, you express yourself using an alternate art form, you are not extremely religious, you say what’s on your mind.

You do creative things like knitting, re-upholstering chairs or scrapbooking so I am jealous of you, you know how to prioritize, you live a life of balance, you are calm, you are caught up in other aspects of your lives (because how can you sit and quilt when the house is destroyed?  I couldn’t), you are always happy with your creations,  your kids and husband appreciate your skill and overall craftiness.

Your house is well appointed and decorated by you so I am jealous of you too, you see things that others don’t see, your visual sense and feng-shui are exquisitely refined, you are creative in where and how to shop, you don’t care what your husband thinks, your surroundings reflect your need for beauty and order, you have money.

You know everyone and have tons of friends so you are spreading yourself very thin, you have a bubbly personality,  I can’t keep up with you, you plop into bed exhausted every night, you enjoy connecting others and making contacts, you grew up here, you will live a long life, you are sometimes lonely.

You don’t drink coffee so I can’t go on because I just don’t get it.  At least a little caffeine?

You wear pajama bottoms to pick up your kids at school so c’mon people unless you are sick this is unacceptable. You look lazy!  (I’m sorry, that was judgemental too).  By the way, drop off is another story.  PJ’s are okay then.

You are type A and very organized so your life must be easier than mine, your closets must look better than mine, you must never forget anything or let anyone down, you are my role model, you must drive yourself crazy sometimes, you have never torn through all your purses and jackets looking for a set of keys, it must be hard for you to relax, your husband and kids worship you (unlike my daughter, who informed me that her friend’s mom was not a “forgetter” like me).

You have more than two children so you must know how to play zone defense, you are youthful and vibrant and able to multi-task, you are tired alot, you have multiple calendars and carpool situations, you have a hard time getting a babysitter, you have the occasional hi-ball after the kids go to bed, you collapse into bed at night, you have an enormous grocery bill, you are a braver woman than I, you are capable of lots of love and patience.

You text frequently when you are out with your friends so you must not realize that this is really annoying, you don’t have any other time during that day when you could have texted, you don’t hear half of what is being said so it has to be repeated to you, you suffer from panic states if you can’t find your phone.

You are real and honest so you are easy to be around and I hope we get to hang out.

Okay, I could go on as this is actually fun, but I need a nap.  Send me any fun and honest assumptions you make about the people around you.  You might surprise yourself.

Drug of Choice: Being Busy?

Okay,yes, we are all busy.  We all have full lives and endless to-do lists and a distinct lack of white space on the calendar.  When did it get to be so crazy?  And why do some of us wear our busyness as badges of honor?  For those of us who define themselves as perfectionists, being busy seems to be an attempt to avoid the tough things.  We don’t want to think about the hard stuff like how that bill is going to get paid, what to do about a sick parent and our own feelings of not feeling like we are enough.  We want to be liked and accepted for the long list of things we do, but we have forgotten who we are.  Not to get all deep.  I mean, damn it’s only the first paragraph!

Overheard in Suburbia:

I can’t go, I am crazy busy this week!

I just want to slow down.  I need a vacation!

Today is insane for me.  Can we do it another time?

How are you?  You know, busy as ever!

Years ago, I read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff With Your Family,”  and I still look at it from time to time.  Apparently the author Richard Carlson died some years back, but this guy was right on.  He has a little chapter called, “When Someone Asks You How you Are, Don’t Answer with How Busy You Are.”  Last week, while sitting with a couple friends, one asked me how I was.  Well, I went into a litany of complaints about being too busy and recounting my schedule for last week.  Really, who the hell cares what I was doing last week?  As my friend, she was just asking how I was.

Brene Brown, in her amazing book “The Gifts of Imperfection,”  tells us that of course people numb with the traditional things like alcohol, drugs, gambling and food.  But we also numb ourselves with food, sex, work, chaos, perfectionism, the Internet and spending.  Yikes.  In our suburban culture, we are used to getting the things we want when we want them.   We can find coffee, restaurants, a gym or a convenience/department store within a 20 minute drive.  The answer to nearly every question is at our fingertips on our phones or our computers.  If we want to contact a spouse or a friend, a text is pretty much instantaneous.  But you can’t ask the phone how you are feeling.  All it does is distract you.  Which is great at the dentist’s office or while waiting in your (parked!) car at your kid’s school.  Filling your calendar also will not get the job done when you are, for example, contemplating a big change in your life.  Like leaving your job.  Telling that guy in the office you dig him.  Or understanding why you go batshit when someone leaves their coat on the floor.

Alright, no one is telling you that you have to make time to meditate or chant or anything like that.  But go for it, if that is your thing.  Some of us get fidgety at the mere idea of stillness.  Brene Brown suggests experimenting with different forms of stillness such as taking a long walk.  Or limiting how long your to-do list becomes.  Or, how about this suburbo-types?  Saying “No.”  For me, I am trying to cultivate the belief that I don’t have to fulfill some mental checklist of what needs to be done on a daily basis and then beat myself up when I don’t accomplish all the things I had wanted to do.  Putting off your peace of mind until you can take a vacation is adding fuel to the fire.  Using words like “crazy” or “insane” to describe your schedule only makes it so.  So, next time you ask me how I am,  hopefully I will say one of the following:

Practically perfect in every way.  (okay I got that from Mary Poppins.  Love her.)

Getting it done the best I can.

Honestly, I could use a friend.  Can we talk?

All is well.

Fan-fucking-tastic!

All immediately followed by “Thanks for asking, how are you?”

Conversation #3: Extra Special Extrovert

I spent an absolutely delightful afternoon with my friend Michelle at Pine State Biscuits last Monday.  It was sunny outside, a welcome change, so we took advantage by sitting outside in the sun.  Michelle is technically not a suburban mom, she lives in the city limits, but her upbringing was solidly suburban and she fits in well with suburbo-types.  Michelle is a “work friend,” she is an occupational therapist (like me) and we work together at a local clinic.   As a new hire last year, Michelle was the first OT I met and we worked together pretty intensely covering a maternity leave for another OT.  I instantly felt a connection to her, and you would too.  Trust me.  She is one captivating gal.

Michelle has a wide-eyed, curious, outspoken and open-armed view of the world.  She has a huge smile and you feel completely unjudged, listened to and giddy when you are around her.  The best word I can use to describe her is twinkly.  She is just that nice to be around.  Don’t get me wrong though, she has her opinions.  She is resistant to pigeon holing because she is a dichotomy in a few ways.  Michelle worries about underserved kids and families, but is also a cute dresser with a flair for color and finer textiles.  She is patient, calm and easy with the kids we work with, but will raise her voice when it comes to things she finds an outrage.  She is the parent of three Waldorf educated boys, shuns technology and enjoys the creative process.  However, she has high standards for her crafts.  No crap crafts, please.  Michelle believes in healing and the ancient practices of Qigong and yoga.  She is a certified cranio-sacral practitioner (and a few more certifications that are less known to readers) but the glory of a walk outside is also a direct route to curing what ails you.  She sits in the front row at her church so her boys are well behaved while in attendance.  Despite the stereotypes of churchgoers, Michelle is liberal and open minded and she has no tolerance for things which block the path to happiness, yours or her own.

“Most people would probably say I’m a good mom,” is what Michelle says when asked what is the most frequent compliment she receives.  That’s an understatement.  I personally feel empowered by Michelle’s parenting style which steadfastly upholds her ideals.  Those ideals would be togetherness, fun, firmness, free thinking and good old fashioned values.  She has an uncanny ability to not get sucked into peer pressure.  Talking about a friend who starts worrying about summer camps in January, Michelle says she shuts it down.  Her first priority is family time, not scheduling, worrying, list making and competing.  She says she can’t be bothered by that stuff, it’s a drain on her and all the things she would like to do with her family.  Michelle travels back to childhood home in New York at least a few times a year.  This is incredible to me, a native East Coaster.  Three kids and mom and dad making the cross country trek so frequently?   But when Michelle describes her family, I see why it’s so important to her.  While her siblings are all very different, their mom was the guiding force- always telling them that they could do anything and giving them powerful messages of self ability every step of the way.  Family is the center, and that is that.

Friendships are also a high priority for Michelle.  She gravitates toward others who feel the same way about family and together time.  Michelle is a self professed extrovert.  When I was younger, I probably could not have been friends with Michelle.  Her ability to completely pay attention to me, eyes never failing to connect, ideas always supported and firmly entrenched in an underlying confidence: this would have been unnerving to me.  It would have scared me and made me uncomfortable and nervous.  But now I welcome her strength because I think it strengthens me.  It motivates me to be a better parent, friend and less wishy-washy.  She understands that community begins with family and extends to friendships and neighbors and her loyalty is a result of that.  She craves relationships with other like minded people, like school moms or neighbors.  She feels drawn to others by something not quite known, but trusts her ability to recognize a friend.  She is practical too, instinctively knowing it’s harder to be friends with people whose kids are different ages.  Michelle and I are drawn together by the similarities in our husbands and how they think alike, in a very pragmatic way.  We also bond over our the fact that we are most definitely not techno-savvy. When it comes to gossip (topic of an upcoming post), Michelle enjoys a bit of it now and then but knows where to draw the line.  She stops if it comes down to saying something that you wouldn’t say directly to the person.  And she would.  Believe me.

In 10 years, when two of the three boys will be out of the house, she sees herself as being the same in many ways.  But she would definitely like to travel more with her husband, something she loves but has largely let go of in order to raise her family.  Michelle will no doubt be the same anchor for her children that her own family in New York continues to be for her.  She will be the same protective, loving and compassionate person she is, but with more time to sew and create.  She will be the same person with the same “can do” attitude.  I love that the next work day after I interviewed her, she came in and said, “I keep thinking of things I should have said when you asked me things!”  She is compelled to get it right.  Just by virtue of knowing her, so are you.  In 10 years, I am sure that Michelle will be sending home made care packages to her sons, continuing to frequently visit family members, traveling, voicing her opinion (loudly), struggling with technology, working a pop of color in her outfits, giggling, and in general making the world a better place.  I only hope I am still her friend to see it all.

Thanks Michelle!  Biscuits and tea are awesome.

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Peer Pressure: Not Just for Teenagers Anymore!

After doing a Google search for “peer pressure,”  I found mostly articles about teenagers, advice from parents to teenagers, tweens and the like.  What about us suburbo-types?  Peer pressure really is about comparison:  comparing ourselves to others, then freqently finding ourselves coming up short.  When we do this, our “monkey brain” (as my occupational therapy colleague calls it) takes over.  Monkey brain is assuming the negative, jumping straight to conclusions without intermediate steps.  Take this morning at yoga…

I took my usual 8am yoga Saturday class, and there were announcements that the 10am class was full after the sign-up had been filled to capacity (so you know, there is not usually a pre-sign up for class, nor is it usually completely filled).  I wondered what was going on, and I read a posting in the locker room that said there was a postural clinic available with this class.  I went straight to monkey brain… Why didn’t I know about this, I’m here at least three times a week?  Who was invited?  Why wasn’t I?  What am I missing?  They must not like me.  Why don’t they like me? Then I saw a huge stream of other yogi’s I know coming in the door.  This only intensified the monkey in my brain.  I heard that chimp screeching and jumping up and down and going into full-on histrionics.  What the hell is going on and why am I not a part of it??!!  All Zen obtained during class:  out the fucking window.

Or you may be familiar with the peer pressure from these little snippets overheard in suburbia:

“Both my kids are taking piano lessons at home.  We just really believe music should be introduced early in their lives.  Do you want the teacher’s number?”

You:  (okay, me):  My kids aren’t taking piano.  Should they be taking piano?  Are they already behind?

“Where are your kids going to (preschool, middle school, gymnastics lessons etc.)?”

You:  I haven’t even thought about this yet!  What’s wrong with me!  I have really screwed up now. 

“My last (massage, botox, facial, laser whatever) was amazing!  I feel so good!”

You:  Shit!  I look old.  That’s why they’re telling me this.  I gotta book an appointment.  Wait, I don’t have any money.  Shit!

To avoid monkey brain and the comforting assertion that we actually have some control over what happens in our lives, we attempt to straighten the fuzzy edges and smooth the wrinkly corners.   In other words, we want to be the most perfect we can be, and mistakenly think others are living the perfect life that is as yet just one treatment, class or dollar out of our reach.  Brene Brown PhD, a researcher at the University of Houston, suggests that by trying to straighten the blurry line, we are keeping meaning from our lives.  We are numbing ourselves from the discomfort of unpredictability.  She says we attempt to make the uncertain, certain.  This is obvious in the unbelievably toxic political discourse in our country:  I am right and you are wrong.  Period.  The End.  From this vantage point, how is a relevant conversation supposed to happen?  No wonder I get all sweaty if someone brings up politics in book club or while we are waiting for our kids to get out of school.  The idea of trying to get someone to your side is exhausting and potentially relationship ending.  Ick.

Brown also believes we numb ourselves of our lack of control by perfecting ourselves, or worse, our children.  For ourselves, we go in for a “mommy makeover.”  Okay, don’t even get me started on the mommy makeover terminology because I find it deplorable.  Why do we need plastic surgery simply because we are mommies?  Hey if you want plastic surgery, go right ahead but don’t suggest it’s what I deserve because I stretched my body to accommodate a baby.  That was part of the deal for me, and as far as I’m concerned it was well worth it.   As for our children, we save them far too often from struggle.  I catch myself doing this as well.  It’s not easy to see your child flail and contort against pain and conflict, but it’s how they learn.  It’s our job as parents to lovingly inform our children that life is full of challenges, and that they are worthy of the love and guidance it takes to face them.

Lastly, Brown states that we do a good amount of pretending in order to protect us from uncertainty.  We think that what we do does not affect other people.  That if we put up walls and tuck ourselves away, we are in some way protecting ourselves from the big bad outside world, and from all the pressures that weigh on us.  Actually, what we do has a huge effect on the community at large.  In light of all this, let’s kick this baby into gear and figure out how to live a “whole-hearted” (Brown’s term) life.  This means living without shame, not being afraid to be flawed and releasing pre-conceived notions about what you or your children should be.  She suggests we do the following:

1.  Show up.  Let yourself be seen.  Be vulnerable and open to not being perfect.  You can compare yourself to others if you want, just be aware you may stumble and fall.  Isn’t it comforting to know that even if you screw up, that will lend itself to making you feel like a more authentic you?  That your failures and missteps are in fact badges of honor?  Think about the last insprirational book you read or movie you saw.  Was it about someone who got everything they wanted and was a master of everything?  I know you, you are way more complex than that.  Even Rocky got his ass kicked.

2.  Love with your whole heart.  Open yourself to new experiences and people.  Stop thinking you have to hold back.  Your brain becomes stronger each time you do something new.  More neurons not only fire but are created.  Think of it as your defense against Alzheimers. (Okay, I don’t know if that’s totally true.)  I remember being told in occupational therapy school that you shouldn’t get too attached to your patients, that you shouldn’t cross boundaries and always maintain professionalism.   All very valid points.  But I can’t help telling my little kiddos at work that I love them and give them hugs and kisses.  They’re just so beautiful, I can’t help it!

3.  Practice gratitude and joy.  There are great ideas for these everywhere.  Create a “no technology” day where you just spend time together outside.  For Christmas this year, we did a gratitude chain.  We shared things we were grateful for at the end of every day.  It got long enough to hang all the way around the Christmas tree a couple times.  Do your scrapbook, make a quilt, take the dog for a walk; whatever makes you smile.  Email me ideas, I’d love to hear them.

4.  Believe you are enough.  Because you are.

Peer pressure is partly our brain’s way to try and win the race and conform to groupthink.  But it doesn’t have to be.  It’s nice to know that there are ways to overcome monkey brain and the seething judgment it inflicts on both ourselves and other people.  Imagine the lessons it will teach you and your children.

Now if only I knew what was going on at that fucking yoga studio…

What is a “suburbo-type?”

Good question.

First let’s define a stereotype:  “a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion or image.”   Free Dictionary.  A literary stereotype is a “character, whith generalized traits (characteristics that make the character a group representative rather than an individual).  Writers sometimes use stereotypes as minor characters.”  Esther Lombardi, published writer.

Now let’s define a suburb:  “an outlying part of a city or town, a smaller community within a distance of a city.”  One could argue that where I live is a city in and of itself, or the largest small town ever.

Suburbo-types is my attempt to dig deeper into my own mini-environment.  This environment, because I am white, female and over forty constitutes the following groups (not an all inclusive list):  book clubs, PTO, work groups, religious affiliations, sports parents, exercise buddies, yogis, school groups, carpools, neighborhoods, volunteer groups and community organizations.  More loosely defined groups include those who love art and music, seek self-improvement, enjoy a good girls night, occasionally indulge in the brief complaint about their otherwise wonderful husband and who are sometimes in way over their heads with this whole raising of children thing.  I am also extremely interested in those who are not of my ethnicity, gender or who have chosen to not have children or get married.

The main questions I would like to examine (via my conversations):

Why do we form the opinions we do?

How much is neurology and how much is our own experience?

What do my suburbo-types say about me?

Who are you and where can we meet?

I reserve the right to change these questions as this project evolves.  My ultimate dream is that I can find the just right questions and have others use them to dig deeper into their own environs.

About Me and Suburbo-types

Suburbo-types was inspired in many ways by turning 40 and thinking about new ways to connect with my community and also to flex some writing muscle.  I love to write and think deeply so this project seemed like a perfect marriage of the two.  In looking at my friends and neighbors, I recall thinking that I was often prone to one-sided opinions about people and making judgments before all the facts were in.  Suburbo-types is part meta-analysis of such ideas, part personal commentary and part neuroscience interpretation. 

 Obviously, I live in the suburbs.  I live in a place where relatively few people grew up here, and a large percentage are from “somewhere else.”  This lends itself to starting over, which is what my husband and I did when we moved here from Philadelphia.  It was nice to shake free from all my pre-conceived ideas about myself and make new friends who didn’t know anything about me.  It was liberating in fact.  But why?  What was wrong with who I was?  Every person in my community was a first impression, I didn’t know anyone.  What did they think of me?  What informed their opinions?  What informed my opinions of them?  Suburbs are defined as communities which surround a larger urban area.  We are not rural and we are not the city.  How do these attributes contribute to how we form social connections? 

Stereotypes are a common and inescapable aspect of our lifestyles.  I wanted to know how we come up with these and why we can be so quick to make assumptions about others.  Am I being naive to think I can live without stereotyping others?  What can I do to draw our suburban community closer together?  How can I make this social network a living and breathing force to hold each other up in times of need?  What is it called?  How can we level the playing field?  How on earth can I get to know the names of my neighbors in a culture that values privacy and independence?

This is the start of an evolving conversation.  Join me with your comments and ideas.  I promise I won’t judge (hee-hee)!  I plan on blogging once or twice a week so if your inbox isn’t overflowing already, consider hitting the follow button.  Your thoughts will be my inspiration.  I plan on scouring media and neuroscience literature to contribute to the dialogue.  I also will interview my friends and neighbors and get their two-cents.  Most of all, I want to keep it fun and readable.  I am prone to a curse word or two if I get really passionate.

Personally, I am married to my anchor and have two exquisite school age daughters.  My daughters teach me every day that new possibilities are out there to be created and explored.  I have always been told that I was a good writer but my profession is occupational therapy.  My work is with kids which informs my natural curiosity and challenges me daily.  I am a devoted yogi, lover of books, collector of friends, driver of a minivan and carbohydrate addict.  You will get to know me more from posts but I am happy to have met you here today. 

My first impressions of you are pretty good.