We went to Large City last weekend. It was nice. It reminded me of other large cities I've lived in in the US. We dreamed of having brunch at the out door cafes, and ordering food in from a myriad of restaurants with decent takeaway on most blocks. We walked down streets where a quarter of the people looked like me, and less than half the people looked like my partner. I did not hear as many different languages as I did in New York City, but not every place can be NYC. All the same, it made me homesick in a pleasant way.
Everyone tells me that it is too expensive to live in Large City. People have many suggestions for nice neighborhoods that are further out, where I could afford a house with a lawn. I have a hard time believing the economical hardship argument, given the traditional economic class of the neighborhood that I have my heart set on, but I find myself unable to respond truthfully. Instead, I offer excuses about not wanting to add time to either of our 90 minute commutes, or being willing to pay a premium for putting Epsilon in a neighborhood where our minority language is spoken. I do anything to avoid stating that I want to live someplace in the world where people look like me, and speak my language. I am ashamed of appearing to want to ghettoize myself in front of my friends. I have spent too much effort in my life trying to appear white. And I am ashamed of my shame.
Two days later, I visit University G. The Georgian architecture, and old Gothic arches call to me. As I leave for home, I stop by a lettings office to see price ranges of houses in Small City, near the university. I can get more house for my money there. And the location is nicer. Small City has its own set of undeniable charms. Not commuting 90 minutes into work several days a week has its own advantages. Small City is dominated by the university. There are churches, and cafes and book groups and everything I could want if I wanted to pretend I was back in the states, living in a college dominated city, with people whose lives looked enough like mine, that society says I belong there. I could fall in love with the trappings of that city. I could spend days exploring its tourist attractions, and drink the cultural offerings it lays before my feet. I could lose myself in the aura, the myth of the place, wandering the halls of the original ivory tower, entranced by the glitter in a way I have not been since I first came to college.
And I would learn nothing of life. Then I would uproot my family after my position ended.
At the end of the day, to continue the parallel between cities and lovers, I must admit that I have a crush on both Large City and Small City. One is good for me, but a harder relationship to stomach. She offers me a chance at building the life I have always dreamed of, even if it is not the life that some peers or my parents would want me to have. She offers me a chance of making friendships that will not be torn apart next time I change jobs. The other is full glamour. Delicious, enticing, scintillating, but temporary. She would make a good mistress. In my younger days, she would make for a delightful affair. I have a family and a child. At some point, I must admit that my time for flings is over.