Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Life and Times of an Ex-Secret Operative

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Life and Times of an Ex-Secret Operative

Article excerpt

WHEN my friend told me my new haircut looked "very suburban" other words that begin with the prefix "sub" sprang to thought.

Substandard. Subhuman. Subpoena.

No your Honor, I don't really think one pithy put-down is grounds for a lawsuit. The obvious intent of this verbal clip, however, was that a city haircut is by definition a cut above one snipped in the suburbs. And now that I am officially one of the Bridge and Tunnel people, I've been thinking about the differences between the metro life and the one lived on the outskirts. The only conclusion I've come up with so far is that neither one is better than the other. They're as different as night and day. Some live in the city; others used to.

Mine wasn't so much a case of love it or leave it; it was more like love it and leave it. I loved living in New York right up to the moment that the movers arrived to cart our furniture 28 minutes north. The move was about a growing family, as well as a shrinking ability to cope with the banalities of urban life. It wasn't the noise, the crowds, and the crime. Piece of cake. It was the smaller inconveniences that ballooned out of proportion. You try pushing a stroller through three locked doors, and across eight city blocks to get to the nearest playground - when you're pregnant.

The fact is I was never really a true New Yorker, even though I lived there for five years (which is like 15 years in any other city). I could do a fair imitation of a New Yorker's dress (black pants, black boots, black sweater, black belt), but I never perfected the New York walk, the keep your eyes on the sidewalk in front of you with a sort of glazed look that says I'm not really here. I understood the need for "the look" and the desire for some small shred of privacy when surrounded by 8 million neighbors. But I kept catching myself looking up - at the buildings, the sky, the people passing by who were too busy looking down to notice me. I couldn't help myself. I was interested. I was a born Yahoo, meant to live out of, not in, town.

Do I miss the city? The museums, the theater, the late night dinners? Of course I do. But then I also used to spend a lot of time missing that from our apartment when we were either too tired or too babysitter-less to avail ourselves of such pleasures. …

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