The Fate of Men in Suburbia

I live in suburbia, Middleclassville, U.S.A. The price range of homes in the area: approx $100,000-$250,000.  Since the real estate bubble burst in 2008, many homes are closer to the lower end of that.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the fate of the men who live on my block.  What do their lives come to? Who are these men living in the houses around me?  And you know what?  I don’t have any models of masculinity that make me pine for the future of my life as a middle class 9-5er.  Let’s delve into some of the characters of my block who make me think that way. (Names changed, of course).

We have John.  I knew John growing up as the guy who threw the best halloween party on the block.  The guy was obsessed with decking out his residence with halloween decorations and inviting everyone over come october.  John was about six feet tall, balding, in his fifties, and at least 300 lbs.  I was away from my house for a couple of years, I found out that John committed suicide two years ago, at age 58.  With a handgun.  This is tragic, and obviously there was probably a lot going on behind the scenes there.  Nevertheless, the tragedy made me think about how my life will be in the future.  What drove him to do it? He seemed like a normal guy to me.

Then there is Ralph “The Rapper.”  Ralph is about 70 years old, lives alone, and has earned his nickname on the block as Ralph “the Rapper” because he raps, or knocks rapidly, on his front window almost every night between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.  When it is hot out during the summer and our windows are open, Ralph has the ability to wake us up with his vigorous rapping.    We have asked Ralph about this, and he denies doing the rapping.  We have even caught him in the act.  He still denies it.  Ralph definitely has a screw or two loose.  To me, this is an cry for attention, understandable in many ways.

Then there’s Mark, the beta-ized neighbor on the corner with the wife who runs the show.

There’s Jerry.  He works long and hard hours to bring home the bacon for his 2 plump daughters and plump wife.  Who are very nice people, by the way.

There’s Frank, a house down, who was the first man I saw die with my own eyes when he had a heart attack at the age of 59 and got taken away by an ambulance.  Smoked a ton of cigarettes, watched a ton of cable TV is what I remember about him.

And then there is the bastion of hope. Josh, my neighbor across the street, who is married to a pretty cool and decently attractive lady, his high school sweetheart. He seems happy. He has a couple of kids, including a daughter my age, who was known as the town bicycle when I was in high school.

Then there’s my house, where my parent both leave the house at about 6 a.m. to go to work, and get back between 6 and 7 p.m.

I try to formulate a model for my own happiness from the men around me, but I cannot.  Maybe I’m being overly cynical.  I’m sure these men lived great lives at one time.  Just now…they are settled down.  Plus, what do I know about the personal lives of these men?  Not enough to make broad accusastions.  But…this is how I see their lives.  I don’t desire to be like them.

I read a study one time that said the lower class vision of happiness is to enter the middle class.  The middle class version of happiness is to enter the upper middle class.  The upper middle class version of happiness is to enter in to the upper class. The Upper class want to become extremely rich.  And the extremely rich?

…I don’t know, have an affair or two, have some plastic surgery and live like Gatsby?  The Sweet Life, baby. Rock on, Frankie.

10 responses to “The Fate of Men in Suburbia

  1. There is all that, but I see a good quantity of guys my own age between 18-24 who seem to be driving for something, they’re at the gym, in the library and out the front of the froyo place late at night with girls. They will outgrow the burbs as will I and move on, I can’t comment on the older guys in the house sitting on the lazy-boy.

  2. Security (and from there, the possibility of happiness), for both men and women: men you trust, watching your back. The destruction of male-only spaces was a bigger blow than we know, I think.

  3. I’ve got to say, I’m 44 and now live in the suburbs. I didn’t marry until I was 40. Before that I lived it up for 20 years. But everything gets old, even partying. I wanted a son so got married and had one. The suburbs are still the best place to raise a kid so here I am. So don’t assume that everyone in the suburbs had no life, they may just be doing whatever it takes to raise a family in the best environment possible, and that requires putting your family first.

  4. Suburbia as a whole is nothing but a huge dead end. For individual people as well as entire societies. Read Clusterfuck Nation for some real eye-opening analysis of the suburban lifestyle and how it has stolen any scrape of worthwhile-ness from us all:
    http://www.kunstler.com

  5. Good link Mina, I like Jim’s blog.

    I too live in suburbia. Nice sized house, wife is homeschooling the three kids, and stores around me for the basics of what I need, which isn’t much. I like it and have decent neighbors. There are a lot of upsides to suburbia that most people don’t talk about, like close-by friends, safety, things to do. Lots of downsides too. The point is to find your own purpose in life and go after it without worring about following what society tells you you SHOULD be doing. Find meaningful hobbies, volunteer to help others, have kids and ACTUALLY RAISE THEM. Thats probably my biggest satisfaction, being the leader of my family and doing it well.

  6. Oh, and don’t watch TV. Please people, don’t watch that crap. Read a book, build something, exercise, spend time with your loved ones, ANY DAMN THING but TV.

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  8. Kunstler’s take on the suburbs, that they are entirely dependent on cheap oil, is probably right.

    The suburbs’ primary activity outside of the city was … building up the suburbs! Though they were once envisioned as a “simulacrum of country living”, nowadays the country is not there. (Though to this moment still the quiet sounds of the night, and lakes to swim and fish.)

    But the blog author’s original post paints a grim picture with sad stories. There is a sense that the whole suburban life style is a dead end. Who is choosing to live there? a lot of people with no where else to go.

    The question of the original post was, Who are the masculine role models in the suburbs? Once there were fathers of children, and little league coaches and good samaritans and friendly shopkeepers and civic minded businessmen.

    Where are these men now. Those original suburban men were the post war generation, and they built the suburbs, and their children were lost to them, and a sense of common purpose never arose in a ring around the city.

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