Millenials: Flee the suburbs

I’ve expressed my annoyance in a few different op-eds this term at the pigeon-holing of Millenials. It’s especially aggravating when the media sends mixed signals. Am I supposed to be a narcissistic selfie-taker or a vegetarian pro-gay rights tweeter? The latest confusion has surrounded our generation’s living arrangement: Are we suburbanites at heart or city slickers?

Ben Adler of Grist reported recently that Millenials are moving to urban centers because we are “averse to driving, and especially concerned about the cost of doing so.” Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Web, Forbes reports that Millenials’ migration to cities has been “vastly over-exaggerated.” What’s a 20-something to do?

Easy: Run from suburbia and don’t look back. For one thing, if you’re as Mother Earth friendly as all the Baby Boomers think you are then you’ll know that living in the suburbs is significantly worse for the environment because of the amount of necessary driving.

I grew up in Gladstone, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City and the only places I could walk or bike without having to travel on a busy road were McDonald’s and CVS. Even when I was going to one of those two places I would drive because I was so used to hopping in the car.

Living on campus is similar to living in an urban area; everything is within walking distance—except Chipotle—so we walk or bike or board everywhere. It’s healthier and greener. As hipsters, those things are important to us.

But really, those factors pale in comparison to the fact that the suburbs are weird. If you’ve ever taken a walk through a suburban neighborhood in the evening and witnessed its strange emptiness, you know what I mean by “weird.”

My favorite time to walk my family’s golden lab mix, Sadie, is around 8 p.m. At that point it’s early enough that people haven’t closed their blinds, but late enough that they’ve probably turned their lights on. Anybody who’s practiced in the con on the weekend when they dim the hallway lights but not those in the practice rooms knows that these are ideal people watching conditions.

Creepy as it sounds, I love looking in people’s windows. I’m curious how they have it decorated, whether or not the residents are hoarders, etc. But mostly I just want proof that people actually inhabit all those seemingly empty houses.

Because for every suburban family out playing in their yard on summer evenings there are 20 ensconced in their McMansion. One of the main factors I hear cited in people’s decisions to buy a house in the suburbs is the extra space it affords. I find it strange they don’t seem to actually want to enjoy the yard once they have it.

Instead of breeding a bond between people by force of proximity, living in the suburbs—much more than the city—breeds proprietorship. Because there’s all the space in the world to build bigger, shinier things, people do, indulging their consumerism. And then they have to protect it from prying eyes, so they build a fence around it, draw the blinds and sit inside counting their money in isolation.

Suburban fences are funny things. They’re hardly ever high enough to prevent someone from peeking over if the goal is privacy. If they’re supposed to keep pets in, long tether lines are sufficient and significantly less expensive. No; I think fences are about someone saying to their neighbors, “This is mine and that’s yours—don’t touch.”

Of course, if privacy or seclusion were the real goal, people could move to the country. But they won’t because, much as they say they don’t, suburbanites want those prying eyes. They want people to gaze long and jealously on their three Lexuses and their beautiful living rooms because this pets their materialistic egos. So they’ll continue to build big houses and put fences around them that are just low enough for people to see over.

These are the effects of living in suburbia: loneliness despite proximity and greed. Much better for us Millenials to recognize this and move to the cities of the world, where Chipotle is just a bike ride away.

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