Three months later we’d settled into a new home in the bowels of Tanasbourne. A once-booming agricultural community, Tanasbourne, like the rest of Portland, had grown up. It was now a mini-mall-dotted expanse of suburbia boasting top-quality schools and a Target store three miles wide. We’d finally found our “safe haven” in a 250-home development.
I knew the minute I met my well-toned, fashionably coiffed neighbors that I didn’t fit in. They made the Stepford Wives look like an indolent bunch of slackers. They kept their homes showroom-ready and organized their schedules with the military precision of a West Point cadet. Meanwhile, I lurched through my days barely managing to sling mac and cheese onto the table before falling face-first into the mattress (shamefully covered in sheets boasting no higher than a 200 thread count).
Sure, I made futile attempts to conform. I enrolled my three boys in the right preschool, purchased a Dodge minivan and joined the PTA. This, however, was just a mask I wore to keep the neighbors from feeling nervous and twitchy around me.
But the mask was bound to crack.
And it did, one afternoon when, upon being invited to my umpteenth home-shopping party (a suburban ritual I’d avoided for years), I met a neighbor who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
She stood on my porch in her perky Nike tennis skirt, her collagen-injected lips puckered obscenely into a forlorn pout.
She wanted an answer, and I was about to give her a doozy.
Smiling politely, I replied, “Oh, I can’t attend those parties. I tend to get really, really drunk.”
With a snap of her OPI Bitch Red nails, she volleyed back, “That’s OK, we never serve alcohol.” I could see she was a worthy opponent. I needed to up the ante. It was time to let my freak flag fly.
“Oh, I always bring my own flask,” I quickly countered. “You’d never know until it’s too late and I’m belting out Ethel Merman tunes. Of course, if I attend, you might want to cover the furniture, as I tend to be a projectile vomiter.” By the time the words were out of my mouth, my neighbor was making a dash for the sidewalk, her Jimmy Choo sandals clacking as she ran.
It was only at that moment, with sudden crystalline clarity, that I realized suburbia needed me. I had become the Birgit of Tanasbourne, the Birgit whose role in life is to inject a little dash of anarchy into the order, a little Abba into the neighbors’ muzak. The Birgit who would keep suburbia sprawling, the badly behaved neighbor inspiring others to move farther away just to escape me.
But when searching for nirvana just beyond the next development, I’d advise them to check their real motivations. Because no matter how perfectly clipped the hedges or smooth the driveways, one thing the suburbs won’t ever help you avoid is your true nature.
I am Birgit. And unfortunately for the neighbors, I am here to stay.