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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« Note to my neighbors: What you heard through the pipes in your bathroom was not what you thought you heard. | Main | I leave the tough decisions up to the Internet. »

The Verdict

First of all: I had no idea so many people had such strong thoughts about the city vs. the suburbs. You all scare me a little, but it’s a good kind of fear. I love you. Don’t hurt me.

So this weekend we drove to the UNNAMED SUBURB in New Jersey. (I don’t know why I’m not revealing the location. Maybe I’m afraid their town council will read this and come to my home with pitchforks? Maybe I just like to be difficult?) We had time to kill before our realtor appointment, so we got some lunch and wandered around the village square. What can I say about it? It was a village square. There were Cute Shoppes, and Not-So-Cute Shoppes, and some people who looked like people we could be friends with, and then other people who were probably nice too except they looked maybe a little inbred, and I'm sure that's not their fault so I shouldn't judge but I don't want to live near them there I said it. (You’d think, the way I’m talking, that we live some kind of Prospect Heights: The Musical! existence, in which we do-si-do'd with our neighbors every time we went out to catch the train. Like there are no weird people in Brooklyn. Frankly this should be the borough’s motto. “Brooklyn: Where the weird people are at!” Except I think it’s something like “The borough that loves you back” or something equally creepy.)

As we looked about, our emotions were running high. “This town doesn’t make me want to kill myself as much as I thought it would! I think!” I would say. “If that home up there had a broken picket fence I would impale myself upon it immediately,” my husband would reply. And then we’d wander some more, and it would be my turn to despair. “Don’t make me live here,” I’d whisper, and by then Scott would be squeezing my hand and saying, “No! This could be okay! Look, I see a comic-book store!”

It was like that for a while. Then we met with the realtor, a lovely woman who showed us every single home that has ever been built, ever. Did you sense a presence in your home? Yeah, that was us. We wandered through homes for hours. We wanted to stop her but our will had been utterly broken and all we could do was trail along, nodding obediently at the charming details and original woodwork and whatever the hell else she told us to look at.

The first house was so small, it made me angry: not at the realtor, just at the house. It made me want to punch it. No house should be that small. I didn’t think it was possible to cut our apartment in half and put one half on top of the other and call it a house, but they did it. Stupid house.

After that things get a little blurry. Most of the houses were dark and squalid and just plain too small. Some houses were large enough and otherwise fine, except they screamed SOMEONE DIED HERE to me. Maybe I’m morbid. But when the furniture is from the ‘30s and the appliances are from the ‘20s and adorning the walls are gauzy photos of grandkids and 50th wedding anniversary photo collages and the place smells like talcum and cat pee, with something cloying and unwholesome underneath… well. It was all I could do to keep from running away and screaming PLEASE I WANT TO LIVE AGAIN. In one house Scott stood in a windowed nook in a bedroom and announced, “This is where the ghost watches you when you sleep.” So it wasn’t just me.

We saw more of the insides of people’s homes than we ever wanted to see. One place was rife with Christian paraphernalia downstairs, and had a tanning bed upstairs. (Hey, Christians can be tan, too! Why not!) One had many different signs announcing the family’s name: the Danglers. “The Danglers live here!” “Join the Danglers for a Dangler reunion!” “Dangle gently in the breeze, the Dangler way!”

Finally we escaped and drove back, exhausted and hysterical. We could do it! We told each other. We could live here and have a yard and go to the city whenever we wanted and some of those places weren’t so bad and maybe the ghost will be friendly! We don't really want to do it, do we? But we could! Yes! But then we went home, sat down, and looked at the cold, hard facts. Moving is expensive. Homes are expensive. And say all you want that city living is pricey, but friends, you suburbs people have expenses that have never occurred to us city folk: cars and insurance for cars and heating and garbage collection and whatnot. And we can barely afford our thrice-a-week burritos.

Once we realized that we just plain couldn’t afford it, my god, how happy we felt. You mean we get to keep living here? In Brooklyn, the City That Touches You Inappropriately? So this is where we should be. And here we’ll stay, for now. Maybe for a long while. The best part is that I can stop thinking about real estate. And my obsessing ends…now. No, now. Wait, no. Nnnnow.

Reader Comments (55)

I just have to say "First!"

It's a relief to reach a decision, any decision. When that decision means you don't have to go to the liquor store to get boxes to pack all your stuff in, well that's always a good decision.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLisa V
Thank God.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Kennedy
Maybe, when the time comes, you will find some larger, dark, dank, appartment where the ghosts will watch you... In Brooklyn. ;)
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBen
I can understand becoming pretty attatched to your neighborhood. You find the right spot, it fits, you're happy. I live in a wee little bungalow in Kansas City, Missouri--possibly the kind of house that would make you want to punch it for being so small, but something about it makes me happy. Being able to afford the darn place is one of many factors. But yeah, I love the neighborhood and therefore I suck up the little non-ideal things and enjoy the nicer parts of it.

Sorry the house-hunt was such a pain in the ass. Maybe something more suitable will come up again some other time.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterFarhvergnugen
we're going the other way, from a smaller town in a house to an apartment in a big city.

really, the key is a decision, any decision. and the relief you felt? that was the huge confirmation that you made the right one. ;)
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermainja
i am so pleased and relieved for suburbs 4 u!
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenternicole
Going out and taking a look at the 'other side of the fence' is never a waste of time.

Even if all it does is reinforce why you're on the side you're on.

Brilliant posts. :)
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Glad to hear you guys are staying put for now. Anyway, your story reminds me of an old friend who I grew up with in Manhattan. Being raised here, he never had much use for a car and therefore spent the first 30 years of his life without a driver's license. The only cars he'd ever really been in were NYC taxis. So, to make a long story short, my friend moves out of the city to NJ, where he is forced to purchase his first automobile. After a long vehicle search, he finally finds and purchases his ideal car...a used NYC taxi.

Welcome back!
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMetroDad
One person's death bed is another person's steal-of-a-deal. We bought our house from a dead lady, um from her daughter. Sounds like something out of Agatha Christie, Death Makes A Sale
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl
I'm so happy for you that you made a decision that left you with such a sense of relief. And I'm happy for the inappropriate touching, too.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Just here to say that I love the way you write. Your description of this whole tortorous process was just perfect.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjo(e)

you are right, there are soooo many suburban home owning expenses that you just never think about. for instance- we have a car payment, gas, auto insurance and monthly metronorth ticket. do you know how much that adds up to? over 800 dollars. insane! then we've got the millions of things that go wrong with the house, the yard upkeep, the high heating costs, etc etc etc. it will be cheaper for us to live in the city. i can't wait!

(also, i'm sure you know about this site and the attendent book series but clara hemphill's has made me feel a million times better about the nyc public school options)
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersantosha
Congrats on feeling relief! Of any kind! It's so rare and revitalizing. And you don't have to move your things--less dusting. And you already know the neighbors, like them or not. Even the pests are familiar. There's the same products on the same grocery store aisles and the post office is right where you left it. I am glad you are staying put for the time being and hope you can stretch out now, knowing you are where you should be!
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
gotta love it when the world makes the decision for you. Like when you are trying to figure out what to eat and then your boss brings you a turkey sandwich. Although, I'm sure you feel much more relief over the realization of expenses than I did upon receipt of the turkey and mayo.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentererinire
I DID feel a presence! I am so glad to know it was you. I hope you also helped yourself to some alcohol!
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Glad you're at peace with it. But it's too bad you'll miss out on Christmas With The Danglers.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
Oh Dios Mio, thank dog you ran away! I was born and raised in a NYC-Commuter NJ town, and it was heeeeeeeeeeeeeeell. Stay in Brooklyn, for the love of all that is bad touchy!
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermissbanshee
I'm happy except that the content would have been lovely.

The Danglers? Seriously?

And the Times was right. You are an angry woman when you're not blogging. Punching a house?

Really, Alice.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMelissaS
Dude. Not fair.

Whether or not there's a soul-sucking quality to the 'burbs, spending more than, oh, twenty minutes with a Real Estate Agent (even a REALTOR(TM)!) is like the Ninth Circle of totally frozen up by Satan's nuts soul-sucking.

So you come away from a perfectly nice place feeling like you've spent seven hours in a small room with a flickering fluorescent bulb.

March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterFrumDad
(The "REALTOR" thing was a joke so inside, only I get it. Sorry.)
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterFrumDad
Did I miss the posts about Brooklyn touching you inappropriately? Shit.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMir
I just read a(nother) Mom's NY-or-not essay an hour ago. See more validation. Not that you need any.Great post, I was LOL.- Jess
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJess
..or you could move to Southern California where you can have TWO car payments, unholy car insurance rates, and even unholier real estate prices. I think I just convinced myself to move to Idaho.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Have you tried Canada? We get free candy for life from our government. Socialized candy! But lousy Cajun restaurants.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterpalinode
Haha, FrumDad, I totally got the REALTOR (TM) joke. Yeah, I'm a dork.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica

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