Dateland: Front Window

By Jennifer Parello November 12, 2015

Categories: Dating & Relationships, Our Lives

Last week, I was hobbled with a terrible injury! I strained my Achilles tendon! As a result, I’ve been limping around, pouting, and nursing a bottle of beer like a big baby.

OK, so it’s not like my foot was chopped off in a tragic kitchen mishap. But, still! It hurts! And it’s kept me from going to the gym, which makes me crabby.

In retaliation, I’ve punished my failing body by grounding it. I’ve spent most of the past week sitting in a chair with my leg propped up, staring out the front window and quietly judging the neighbors.

It’s just like Rear Window, except, unfortunately, I have yet to witness a murder. However, I have seen a lot of irresponsible behavior: people not cleaning up after their dogs; a sloppy, middle-aged woman with an alarming penchant for bedazzled, sleeveless blouses shouting about a failing marriage into a cell phone; a harried dad routinely sneaking out of the house to gulp down a brown liquid from a red Solo cup; vicious children coldly lopping off the heads of flowering plants.

In general, it’s a tableau of life in the provinces.

Yes, my friends, I’ve moved back to the suburbs. After spending my early adulthood living in the city, and then the past decade nested in a small resort town, I have returned to my roots — that primordial gas cloud of fresh grass clippings, chlorine, gin and tonics, Fourth of July parades, sibling strife, WIFFLE® ball, and parental disappointment that gave me life.

Although I vowed never to return to this kingdom of banal, I’m now here, and happily so. Why? For a broad, a dame, a doll. For love. Cherchez la femme, indeed.

The suburbs, of course, are the home to “good schools.” And that’s why we’re here. My girlfriend’s kids are in school, and the schools in our suburb are considered among the best in the state. Yet, you’d never know that from the criticism blasted at them during neighborhood get togethers. Talk of schools, teachers, and administrators dominates every cocktail party and barbecue.

The parents spit out educational acroynms with such venom that it makes the conversations rather thrilling even to an outsider like me, who has absolutely no clue what they’re bleating on about. They save special contempt for one acronym — ODR — which is typically only whispered about darkly so as not to alarm the children. Whenever a child hears this term, they immediately stop whatever type of joyful, frenetic play they’re involved in and become catatonic with fear. I imagine ODR as a type of Soviet-era gulag naughty children are banished to when they chew gum in class or engage in some other crime against the school-state.

Since my injury, I’ve found myself in my own private ODR. Locked into a lounge chair, forced to watch life play out just beyond my reach.

I’ve seen moms so accustomed to putting other’s needs before their own, engaging in small, touching vanities: straightening their hair or applying lipstick in the rearview mirror of their SUV before shuttling a car full of screaming, ungrateful kids to soccer practice. Gaggles of neighborhood children diplomatically settling turf battles through Capture the Flag. And dogs — oh, the number of dogs on the block! — gossiping over the fences with yappy, merry glee.

It’s made me want to shuck my dreary perceptions of suburban stultification and join the party. The suburban parties, organized by frazzled parents and fueled by frozen appetizers purchased at Costco, are very different than ones I’m used to — those sparkly affairs dominated by top-shelf liquor and the witty chatter of gay male aesthetes. But it’s still a party. And I’m thrilled to have been invited.

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