In Search of a Suburban Home
by Jake Kilroy
First off, I got rid of the first several hundred words of this essay because it made too much sense. Let's be clear about that. It was straight up Raiders Of The Lost Ark shit. This....well, this is more like the ending to The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
Secondly, this all started because I learned of a very radical marriage falling apart last night with some all-time suburban fear circumstances, and, honestly, it rattled me. Or maybe it didn't rattle me. It just bummed me out in a real wicked way.
Naturally, this essay was to cover:
- How epic love is and can be.
- How easy it is to be a good spouse.
- How difficult it is to be a great one.
- How simultaneously problematic and promising suburban life can be.
- How sweet Point Break is.
I don't know how I was going to work that last one in, but I thought it was definitely worth mentioning.
Anyway, I put the serious and thoughtful considerations of love and suburban life somewhere else. From here on out, it's pretty much nonsense.
I've been an advocate of great love my whole life. I blame my parents' happy marriage and being raised on old films. Somewhere in my own personal history, I found love to be grand in some goofy, startling mash-up of teenage girl belief and lazy stoner satisfaction. Even as a man in his late twenties, with a penchant for whiskey and swear words, I find myself thrilled about the existence of love (for anyone), just as long as it's not "love" as this smoldering patriotic bumper sticker gimmick. When I say love, I don't mean celebrating a five-year anniversary at the Olive Garden and quietly discussing the breadsticks (which I think we can all agree have severely decreased in quality over the years, by the way, but I guess that's another story). What I'm referring to is the love that means going to concerts together, seeing the world together, and conquering madness together. I'm talking about the love from Still Life With Woodpecker, the love that wrote letters during the war, the love that brought about Helen of Troy as a tyrant of the heart.
Yes, give me the love that made my friend take a bus across Costa Rica to see a girl, the love that sent F. Scott into the heart attack, the love that continually stops the world from stabbing itself to death.
Ok, I admit, that last one was a bit much.
Still, love is extraordinary.
But it's also the most fucked up bastardizing craziest most mutilating horrifying thing on the planet.
Except for E.T.
If that motherfucker comes to my planet again, I'm going to throw him off a cliff, and I'm almost certain nobody would be able to talk me out of it.
Also, it's pretty lazy that his name was E.T. I mean, hell, even the alien from Alien got the nickname "Xenomorph."
Despite my faith in love (as well as an appreciation for people just being generally decent to each other in some Sandlot-like innocent capacity), it hasn't made for a history of flawless interaction with women on my end. No, by several accounts, I've pulled some of the most bogus shit with chicks. As a young man set on destroying the world, I once lied about a funeral to get off the phone with a girl. I've got a dirty laundry list of times I've been a less-than-stellar dude, but I've learned from my mistakes, coming to the great realizations that, hey, talking things out is way cooler than fighting or fleeing, and, hey, being patient, understanding, encouraging and generally at ease makes things way better for everyone. I've evolved in my twenties, or at least I like to think so.
These days, I'd say, it's supremely easy to be a good significant other or spouse, but it's difficult to be a great one.
To be a good spouse, to me, includes listening, talking, cleaning, laughing, and being faithful. To be a great spouse, to me, means flowers on random days and foot massages on random nights. Nobody's perfect, but it's pretty gumshoe to be a decent person in the very least.
That's part of the evolution, right? Isn't admitting the problem the first step to recovery?
There are minute things I can attribute to maturity. Going from a closet of hoodies to a closet of blazers and nice jackets. Moving from stress to optimism. Learning, hey, I guess it's not that hard to just do awesome things for a significant other because they're the best thing out there in a landscape that might just look like a Salvador Dali nightmare.
A person has to try their hardest to not take good things for granted.
From there, the Candyland road of commitment after the Apples to Apples game of "Hey, what the hell are we, and why won't you meet my friends?" ultimately, or supposedly, leads to marriage. Or at least that's what Bridget Jones was trying to tell everyone. I don't quite remember. I recall the diary and the accent, but, beyond that, I'm pretty sure it was just Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in a charming competition with cheeky smiles and saucy head rolls.
Were they in a scene together in Love, Actually?
They weren't, right?
The point is, when you settle into suburbia, you better be ready for it. You better be ready for a life without being fawned over at the clubs or, as my dad calls them, the discotheques. You better be ready for family dinners and movie nights. You better be ready for responsibilities. You better be ready for sack lunches without being hungover. You better be ready for dedication and loyalty. You better be goddamn sure about your decisions, because, I agree, it's a long fucking life for someone whose heart isn't it. I mean, come on, didn't anyone read Revolutionary Road or The Corrections? It's a botched lifestyle from the get-go if you're not looking forward to board games and hand-me-downs.
If you're ready for the suburban life, is there really anything better? It's like winning day after day if you're down for it. Guess what? I fucking love board games and hand-me-downs. Oh, go to bed night after night with someone who tolerates my love for Fleetwood Mac's classic "Gypsy?" Score. Build tree houses in the backyard with trap doors? Score. Take up hobbies such as chess and yoga? Score. Shop at Bed, Bath and Beyond all the time? Are you kidding me? Major score.
And why would I give up my current hobbies? Why would I marry someone who doesn't support me writing in my free time or maybe making music when I can? I expect my wife to have dope hobbies. What, I'm supposed to love someone whose only hobby is seeing me? That's straight serial killer status.
No, I want my wife to have a whole goddamn smorgasbord of hobbies. It could be pottery and photography. It could be writing and music too. It could be gardening and rock climbing. It could be running a small business out of the home. I don't care, just as long as she has hobbies. Hell, if she wants to hunt for anthropological finds somewhere in the Gobi Desert in her free time, good for her. I'll just make the kids the same shitty sandwich for eight months. No. Big. Deal.
I mean, I know me. In fact, I'm willing to wager that I know me better than anyone. Sometimes, I just want to eat mac 'n cheese and watch My Boys. But, sometimes, I'll want to surprise the hell out of my wife with a fancy dinner somewhere wild, like on top of a helicopter. Maybe I'll tell her to meet me at this restaurant, but it's not a restaurant. It's just some space I've rented out with one table and a live band that only plays Brazilian jazz. Can you imagine? I wouldn't have to come home before midnight for, like, a year. What's up, doing drugs all the time and my wife being cool with it?
I'm just saying, love is rad and suburbia can be rad. I honestly have no idea how I'll do as a husband or a father. And maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just buy a big city loft and date models forever. Who knows?
Actually, how bad would that even be? It'd just be romantic getaways and hot-ass hook-ups.
Ok, I'm realizing that I'm, for the most part, just comparing Nicolas Cage's two different lives in The Family Man. I imagine the real problem here is sustainability. You probably need someone to love you when you're old and delirious, and, trust me, when my mind goes, I'm letting it fly. I'm going to be wilder and crazier than you've ever seen me. I'm going to embrace it. I'm going to get weird.
But where will the hot skanks be then? See, this is why rich dudes need an escape plan, because they always end up in mental wards.
Let's say I give up this current life of carelessness and recklessness (and don't end up outrageously wealthy and addicted to coke/skanks). Let's say I manage to settle down and become a husband and a father when I'm ready, and not somehow tricked into marriage by black magic or into fatherhood by bad decisions. I'll be stoked. In fact, I'll be really stoked. I watch my dad move through his life at home with excitement and glee. He loves being a husband and a father. He can't get enough of it. Sometimes, during dinner, he randomly says, "It's great to have all the young people here." Then he looks at us three doofuses and smiles, and then he smiles at my mom. If I told him he could retire tomorrow and spend the rest of his days barbecuing, writing poetry and just being a husband and father, my dad would lose his fucking mind. He'd throw a party that would make Gatsby look like some dork trying to impress the high school cheerleader.
Which is kind of what that whole book was a metaphor for.
Anyway! Even the idea of wearing my old college sweater and cleaning out the garage sounds pretty cool. I just hope I have a son who's not a piece of shit, because it would really make things go a lot faster if he wasn't some goth asshole who thinks refusing heavy lifting is some sort of act of rebellion. Listen, you idiot, stop talking about Bauhaus like I've never heard of them. Your mother and I went to school with goth kids, so you're not doing anything new. Like I said, you're being an asshole.
That's what I'll tell him.
But then he'll tell me I don't understand him. And then I'll have to do my absolute hardest not to tell him he sucks. Ugh. I just want my kids to grow up to be "strong, healthy, confident adults," which is exactly what my father has said to the three of us our entire lives. That's all he wanted from us. He just wanted us to have the strength to endure, to stay mentally, emotionally and physically healthy enough to grasp happiness, and be confident enough to inspire others to do the same. He didn't even tell me to stay away from creative writing because I would die of starvation, which I thought was just swell of him. Or I don't know. Some days, when I can't afford to buy a sandwich at Which Wich, I wonder why my parents didn't tell me to go to law school like I mentioned off-hand one night five years ago.
I suppose it's reassuring to have parents that haven't let the fire go out. They love the hell out of life and each other. They appreciate the little things and get thrilled about the big things. They savor Christmas shopping as much as they hold onto fancy recipes they've read about in Bon Appetit. On my parents' 25th Anniversary, I asked my dad what the secret was to a happy marriage. He answered, "Communication." When I asked him again on his 30th Anniversary, he answered, "A sense of humor."
Communication and a sense of humor aren't everything, but they're the most important things, at least for my parents. It takes a billion more little pieces to assemble a good life, like hard work, dedication, patience and love for that special person as well as life as a whole collective festival that celebrates all your favorite stuff. My parents have that. My dad still makes jokes, and my mom still laughs at them. They're extraordinary people with extraordinary love, and, after learning about that crumbling marriage last night, I was so thankful that I grew up in a household that toasted the very thought of "love" - loving your significant other, loving your family, loving your friends, loving food, loving drink, loving parties, loving travel, loving art, loving books, loving movies, loving laughter, loving hope, loving pride, loving what the world has to offer in its brilliant spinning nature.
Ok, fuck this. I'm making mac 'n cheese and watching My Boys. I don't give a shit what my future wife thinks. Love! Ain't it grand?