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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Single in the Suburbs??

Recently, a single friend of mine hinted that she might be looking to relocate to the Washington, DC area. When I asked her where she was thinking of settling, she said she didn't know yet, but, she did know that she'd be living downtown in DC, and not in one of the Maryland or Northern Virginia suburbs. I asked her why, and she said that as a single person, there just wasn't much for her out in the 'burbs. I didn't have the heart to tell her that as a married person, there's not much out here for us, either!

Don't get me wrong, I mean I love all of that open parking, large closet space, and lower taxes, but if I as a married person find suburban living to be a bit confining and isolated, then how must it be to be single in the suburbs? Let's be frank, the suburbs were set up to be places where one slept before having to go back to the city to work the next day. Their mission was clean, affordable housing for families, with a backyard for everyone. Social networks were formed through your children and the activities that brought them into contact with your neighbors' children. Fast forward to 2011 and while there have been noticeable upgrades in the suburban experience, the family still remains the locus for most social networks.

Recently, some of my single suburban friends have described to me the perils of life in the cul-de-sac. From having to "work it" at the supermarket or the lame bar at the Uno's Pizzeria in order to find the man or the woman of their dreams. My single women friends have told me of the frustrations of feeling somewhere between ostracized and pitied in their family-friendly neighborhoods, of getting the stink-eye from the soccer mom when she catches soccer dad showing more interest than he should in the single female neighbor.

And if you think that living single in the suburbs is hard, dating single in the suburbs is even more of a challenge. Long before their more urban brothers and sisters turned to online dating and made it hip to log-on for love, singles in the suburbs were trading in their tired happy hours for a computer and a WI-FI spot. Why? Because the suburbs are the least friendly place on earth for adult singles. The families who inhabit the suburbs have a social radius that tracks their children's activities and interests - that means their social circle includes their children's friends, and the parents of those friends, as well as those they meet at their child's school and church. If you're a single adult with no direct connection to these families, then there's simply no room for you. To make matters worse, suburban singles are usually in the suburbs due to proximity to work, and so they become workaholics, thereby not only sealing their single fate, but seriously curtailing their ability to enjoy life, in general.

So what to do?? Well, you know I'm going to suggest moving to the city. City life is not going to instantly get you a mate - I'd be lying if I said that. So why the affection for the city?? There's simply more to do. City life doesn't revolve around family life. There's no Red Robin or Chuck E. Cheese downtown, and the big cultural highlight on a Friday night isn't the pan flute trio and face-painters at the parking lot of the Panera Bread. There are a greater depth and breadth of things to do in the city, and if you want to be happy and be single, variety is the stuff of life.

Of course, I have to acknowledge that for a lot of my single friends, the city is out of the question - because of cost or commute times. So, here are a few survival strategies that I've heard from some of my more happy suburban single friends:

  1. Vacation, not stay-cation: If you have vacation time, then use it to go somewhere cool. Travel with your BFFs from grad school to the Bahamas or take a solo safari and see the riches and beauty of Africa. In short, don't wait to see the world until you've found Mr. or Mrs. Right - go forth and earn those travel miles and redeem them for an iPad!
  2. Saturday morning. Supermarket. Be There: Want to know the marital bliss that you're missing out on? Just travel to the supermarket on Saturday morning and I guarantee that you'll be glad that you're single!! 
  3. Daytripping: Just because you don't live in the city, it doesn't mean that you can't visit for fun, does it? So get that passport stamped, and bring enough change for the parking meter, and hang out downtown. Find a great outdoor cafe and bring a book, or, better yet, browse for a book at a funky city bookstore - extra points if it sells used books and coffee!
  4. Don't get a dog: It's tempting to get the dog. They're great company, and you can meet people when you walk the dog. But, here's the deal - you're living in the suburbs so you know who you're meeting while you're out walking your dog?? People who are not single!!! You also have a million and one reasons to cut short your wonderful evening in the city so that you can get home before Pete the Dog has a piddle party on your living room rug. Need a pet?? Get a cat if you need one!
  5. Throw a party at your home: Invite your single and mated friends over to your pad and get your host on!! Why should the married folks have all of the fun of people eating their food and drinking their booze? OK, that sounded more bitter than I'd intended, but hear me out. Wanting to show your friends hospitality is only natural, so do it. You've got all of that space and free parking, so why not put it to good use? 
  6. Don't forget the flirt: One of the problems with online dating is that it can quickly become all about getting a result (a date, a ring, a station wagon filled with adorable kiddies), so don't forget the skills that Mother Nature gave you!! The art of flirting is one of the best things in life, so don't forget how it's done and when to do it (e.g. not with the soccer dads).
 So for all of my suburban singles, I wish you a life that is full of good friends and good times. See you at the Applebee's - I'm just saying:)

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