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Do You Fear the ‘Burbs?

Do you fear the Suburbs?

by Hayley Doyle

Some, swear by it.

Others loathe the very thought of it.

Moving to the suburbs can really cause a divide. There seems to be no middle ground. No agreement, tending rather to agree to disagree. Those who love their suburban life cannot comprehend the headspace of a city dweller, whereas the fast-paced urbanites shudder at the mention of a tree-lined street with individual driveways and a double garage. Then, there’s the hidden layer of dishonesty. Nobody ever admits that they regret moving to the suburbs. And nobody likes to hold their hands up and say, I’m done with the rat race. So are we all just fighting the same battle?

Movies and TV shows depict life in the suburbs as pretty on the outside and - well, deathly - on the inside. Beginning the boom of the boxset was Desperate Housewives, all living in beautiful homes on Wisteria Lane, immaculate from tip to toe, yet harbouring dark, twisted secrets. A much darker representation is Revolutionary Road, a movie based on American author Richard Yates' debut novel about 1950s suburban life in the East Coast. The couple, played by dream team Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, plan to move to Paris to escape their jaded lives, but domestic duties become a never-ending trap. Even Disenchanted, the latest Disney sequel, is based on the evils of the ‘burbs. Giselle is once again in search for Happily Ever After, after her original Happily Ever After - ie. living in New York City - turns out to be not so happy. She moves her family to a picturesque suburbia, only to find that the small-town gossip and local Queen Bee will not give her the fairytale ending she hoped for.

Still, more and more folk keep getting their heads turned away from the noise and into the quiet. Perhaps because it’s “the right thing to do” or because they need “more space”. Mostly, people moving outwards say, “I just want an easier life.” Fair enough. Swapping your late-night, possibly 24-hour convenience store for a hypermarket might seem to save you some pennies. But you’re going to have to drive there and make the “big shop” worthwhile because if you’re out of ketchup, well, you’re out of ketchup. There’s no nipping over the road to get a dip for your chip. Sure, driving to the supermarket will become second nature because living in the suburbs, you’ll soon get used to driving everywhere. Even if you’re taking the commuter train into the city, it’s likely you’ll be driving from your house to the train station and battling for a decent parking space.

But the schools are better! The roads are less congested! You have a garden big enough for a football goal post! When you walk into (a-hem, drive to) the local BuckStars, your name is already written on the cup, awaiting your order! Everything is so spread out! You can breeeeathe!

Whatever floats your boat.

I have, perhaps, a slight fear/curiosity about suburbia. I grew up in a town that was smack bang between the city and the leafy suburbs. I could get into the hustle and bustle within 15 minutes, by car or by train, or visit my suburban living pals in the same time frame, just in the opposite direction. While the big houses and seemingly close-knit communities of the ‘burbs was attractive to me, and as a teenager I desperately wished I lived there, always feeling a little like the outsider to an exclusive club, my heart and soul were always pulled towards the city. I felt connected to my true self when I was immersed in the hub, surrounded by shops, bars, music, theatre, keeping my ambitions very much alive and kicking. I eventually moved into the city centre, a fitting environment for a broke student taking on any many jobs as I could to fund my studies, dreams and of course, party-party lifestyle. I presumed I’d do this for a few years and then, when I was a “proper grown-up”, I’d get a nice detached house with a front and back lawn. Except, I just kept city-hopping, and the bigger the better. My twenties came and went. My thirties flew by, and now in my forties, I’m still an urban creature through and through. Okay, I’m kinda cheating; the area I live in has plenty of parks and woodland, plus local shops and a tight-knit community, but I can see Canary Wharf from my kitchen window. In terms of hustle and bustle, every day of the week is the same; open and busy. Is this the best of both worlds? Although, there is price to pay for that, quite literally.

In Dubai, the Lakes have always appealed to me as a beautiful happy medium. Pretty streets, a friendly community, wholesome and neat, yet overlooking the glorious skyline of Jumeirah Lake Towers and a stone’s throw away from big city vibes by car. The same goes for Jumeirah Islands, with their Wisteria Lane feel and delightful members’ club, where - as serene as it is - whispers of a city that never sleeps is definitely within good earshot. But in the deeper, desert suburbs such as the Ranches and Mira, as much as I loved getting an invite and being impressed at how immaculate the areas looked, with welcoming family homes, private swimming pools and adorable coffee shops, I found myself imagining my life there - one day - and worried I’d feel isolated.

For city-lovers, it’s great to be so close to a social buzz, but that doesn’t mean we’re out partying every night or hanging out with friends 24/7. What it does mean, however, is that the opportunity is there, in abundance, if you wanted to. In fact, it can be so easy to eat out, go for drinks, get around, rock up to events, that you don’t end up doing it much! It’s on your doorstep, so you think, it’s okay, I’ll give that a miss, there’ll be plenty of other opportunities. For those who live in the suburbs, it’s likely you have to make more solid plans, due to travel time and accessibility. Of course, there’s every chance you make friends within your area and can dart over to one another’s houses, but again, is this an ideal notion I have in my head, thanks to watching lots of cheery American sitcoms where neighbours just barge into each other’s kitchen via the ever-unlocked back door?

There are definitely pros and cons to taking an elevator to your home or owning your own staircase. What’s important to remember is that there is no right or wrong. Judgement is passed unnecessarily on both sides of the coin and one person’s desire is not identical to another’s. I’ve heard often that the city is no place to raise kids, that they need space, but having had two babies in one of the largest cities in the world has been a pretty positive experience. For my family, thoughts of moving out for the sake of say, more rooms, hasn’t sat well within our gut instinct, and that’s purely a personal choice. I know others feel differently and that’s not for me to judge. More space sounds awesome for a million reasons and maybe one day, we will hop aboard the train to the ‘burbs…

…So long as the train has a direct, speedy and reliable connection into the city!

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