Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

a thought experiment


Sugar here.

On our minds lately:

Should we move to a warmer, cheaper, less hectic place? With a crawl space cleaning space. We might want to, but we’re not sure. At any rate, I am applying to jobs that are, gasp, not in New York. The idea of moving, i.e. the packing, the boxes, the baby and toddler amongst the boxes, the needing to find a place to live, buy a car, etc., is not appealing AT ALL, but the idea of having done those things and being in an actual house, A HOUSE!, is. Also, Bionic has not been having her usual set of anxiety dreams about how I insist that we buy a house without a roof that is teetering on the edge of a cliff because really it’s fine. Which means that maybe she’s ready?

Of course we have qualms. At the top of my qualm list is whether it will feel like giving up my ambitions and turning into a cubicle drone. My ambitions are/were mostly to be able to do art and have people see it. Getting to New York was therefore a sort of life goal. Unfortunately for me, once I got here, I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. Also, my job, commute, and general lack of space makes it basically impossible for me to actually make any art. So my rational self says, go somewhere else, set up a studio, get a little more free time (i.e. don’t reestablish two and a half hours of commute per day) and make some stuff. My irrational self says – AAAAAHHHHHHHh – New York is the pinnacle of something and so I should stay here and continue to suck! Because that makes sense.

Here is a short pro/con list based on recent conversations between me and Bionic:


20 thoughts on “a thought experiment

  1. Initial friendlessness sucks a lot, I won’t lie. I will say that here in Nearby Little Southern Town I’ve made at least two good friends in about six months with some concerted effort, and know about fifty more to talk to (I am not normally a social butterfly but I was sooooo bored and lonely). There are places with semi-decent transportation… my spouse rides a bike to work? It can be done with only one car. Sorry, that’s the price for not living in Major Metro Areas. But seriously, having more space than in the Northeast rocks; I’ve done it both ways. Backyards! Gardens! Places to play with the kids! Maybe a dog or chickens or something! (Or fresh farmer’s market eggs from other people’s chickens.)

    “All the trees look weird” – I know exactly what you mean and I moved *back* to the South and it was still super-weird. I feel like when adults move it just takes six months to not be miserable any more.

    As for homophobic laws, I still hold out hope that population growth in NOVA will eventually overcome certain, AHEM, attitudes in my beloved home state. It’s changed so much in just 20 years. And there are lots of people with accents in university towns all over, it’s not as weird as you would think. Also I heard a British dude on the radio who’d lived in Roanoke for 30 years and it took me a good three minutes to figure out he wasn’t from Roanoke.

    P.S. If you move to Cville I will come visit and bring all the jam.

    • Yay! Bring all the jam, definitely. When Bionic and I moved to Chicago it seemed like 3 years was the mark where we felt like we really were there and had a full compliment of friends. So that’s been feeling daunting. I like the 6 month idea better.

      • FWIW I found it much easier to make other-parent-friends than regular friends when I was in my 20s. You’re at the park, there are a bunch of other parents with little kids, their kids aren’t horrible… bam, new acquaintance. (It doesn’t necessarily increase the percentage of People You Don’t Hate/ New Best Friends in the world, but at least one can chat.) And at least here, people are so chatty/ friendly/ nosy/ all of these at once. I once had a ten-minute genealogy conversation with the Kroger pharmacist, whom I had never met before, and my mail carrier gave me unsolicited advice on feeding the local birds.

  2. My wife and I are planning on relocating to the south in several years.We want to be able to have both our kids in the northeast where we currently live due to above mentioned homophobic laws in the south which would prevent her from being on the birth certificate right away, second parent adoption hoops etc.

    That said, we plan on moving to a major city in the south (Atlanta, in case you were wondering), which is chock full of gay people, has an awesome public transit system and I personally know a solid handful of people who live with only one car because it is such a good transit system and a very walkable city.

    For me, the weather can’t be beat – still get all the seasons, just a shortened version of winter (with usually NO SNOW!) and the cost of living is pretty amazing. I would be happy to discuss with you further, if you want some more information. My sister lives there, in the middle of the “gayborhood”.

  3. Yep. Leave. We talk about going to my wife’s hometown (Naples, FL! There are selling points that I would sell you on given the smallest flicker of interest! Then in a couple years we will be there and so will you!) when we’re done having these babies and looking for a different speed. But I say leave because I think you should get out of NYC for the same reasons my sister would–NYC is great if you’re the kind of artist that gets a lot of attention, probably for being particularly young or jerky or esoteric or rich or just lucky. If you’re another kind of artist, there is SO MUCH to be said for being a big fish in a small pond. In any other city the work that is completely ignored in NYC would stand a good chance of being celebrated and appreciated and, well, purchased. I think you’ll find a cube job that is on par with the one you have, and if the first one isn’t, you’ll soon find one that is. Friendlessness does suck, but you can do some things to make it easier. Most of these hinge on forcing yourselves to be joiners for a few months. Join parenting groups, join meetup groups, join a church, if that’s at all your thing. Ask the internets for friend recommendations wherever you go and then pursue them. Homophobic laws are my personal hangup, and one reason that we are holding off for a few more years before making the decision to head to FL for sure. I’m hoping that by next summer the marriage questions will be answered more definitively. That said, even in conservative red states there are gay communities, and plenty of straight allies. I don’t look forward to being the gay mom ambassador all the time, but the further we get into parenthood, the less it matters that our other parent friends are gay. We love that there are some, but it’s not as salient a feature as it used to be.
    On another note, the first spring my wife was in IL around March we were driving somewhere and she was like, ‘oh, what is up with the trees? They all look so sinister and creepy all of the sudden. Like they all have fingers!’ I had to explain that she was looking at the leaf buds, because she’d never seen a tree getting new leaves before. She seems used to them now.

  4. Every spring the trees get leaves and the bushes bloom and I’m like…WHAT?! WHY IS IT SO GREEN?!…and I have lived in ye olde southern green state more than a decade. But it is hard. I have been friendless. It sucks. So much. But, all your friends could move away tomorrow and then, no friends anyway 🙂 Beat them to it – your washing machine is calling you!

  5. don’t stay in NYC because of your artist’s dream. i say this as an NYC artist who has failed at being an NYC artist, and i wouldn’t do it this way again. it’s untenable unless you have a working spouse/wealthy family. that’s the truth, sugar, i’m in the trenches with the rest of the artists and i’m telling you from my heart that it’s not realistic. you can create art anywhere, especially if you’re not stressing about everything you have every right to stress about. i’ll be sad to see you leave, but the four of you cannot be happy the way things are now. that you haven’t all killed and eaten each other in that tiny space astounds me, and shows how well you work together.

  6. Funny – the only way I know “all the trees look weird” is when they’re palm trees – exotic! Exciting!
    Friendlessness and homophobic laws suck, but I hope time can help overcome both. Overall your points for moving sound stronger. Plus, moving now will be less hard on the Bean than later (trust me – I moved twice between grades 3 and 6). Good luck with those jobs!

    • I lived in L.A. for about a year and I felt like they had no trees at all – palm trees, at least the skinny tall kind they have there, didn’t count as trees for me I guess. And yeah, right now the Bean sounds basically excited about the idea of moving, rather than sad/angry/scared as I remember my friends being who had to move when I was nine.

  7. I’d advocate moving to Madison, WI if it weren’t for the desire to be warmer. It gets cold here, though there are many profitable artists and a welcoming LGTB community.

    • If you move north, I’d recommend Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota? I wasn’t going to mention it, since I’m from there, but in addition to it having a decent art scene and cheaper cost of living, gay marriage is recognized and it’s a bigger city in general. I live on a block with 8 other gay-headed households. Wisconsin’s domestic partnerships are severely limited by a constitutional amendment (it’s not allowed to be substantially similar to marriage). Madison is very tolerant, but what holds true for it doesn’t hold true for the rest of the state.

      Although last winter we had 53 days at or below 0 degrees F, so MN probably isn’t where you want to go if you’re looking for more warmth.

      Because you have kids and you want to protect your rights, I’d go for the further place south that meets your career requirements that you like that recognizes gay marriage.

  8. Correction: one’s own washing machine gets at least twice as much weight as all the other items.

    Sad to say, in the south, people with southern accents still get made fun of/considered dumb, especially in university towns. Which is crap on several different levels, but it means you can cross an item off your con list!

    Just hurry up already!

  9. i laughed out loud at the trees on the con list! I remember that being weird when we moved back down here after 3 years in NY…but now, they are my favorite thing about this area (and esp after a long grey winter).

    good luck in the decision. selfishly I hope ya’ll decide to move so we can meet your lovely family one day! 😉

  10. This is one of my most compelling daydreams – the one about where to live next. So many things to consider! And the way Americans talk about it is fascinating to me. You can reinvent yourselves a hundred times over and not even leave your country. *mind boggles*

    Ah yes. Wouldn’t warmth be nice? And a studio, yes, yes. I couldn’t overstate how much I lurve New York but even in the lovely part you live in, it’s awfully hard work, it seems to me. You have to be in good shape just to negotiate those subway steps. So many people! And the climate? It’s harsh. On the other hand, where do the trees look weird? Are you thinking southward?

    Ah! One point I might have an opinion about, as opposed to speculating freely: while yes, I know NYC is what fine artists think of as the centre, in my experience, it also fiercely resists the attendant lifestyle. I mean, all the garrets are inhabited by bankers! An artist would have to be really enormously successful to be able to live there on the proceeds of her art. I don’t know how many people really can do it, even while making massive sacrifices on the home and family front. Or never sleeping. I feel I don’t need to set myself up for this, do you? Depending a bit what work you want to do, (commercial?) much much more of it can be done remotely now – and all that wine-quaffing at openings stuff has been taken over by social media. Which you can do from your log-cabin! I can’t say I have done it myself, but I can see how I could, which passes with me for naked ambition.

    Much luck with it, in any case. It’s good to have the choice and it’s only a crisis if they offer you the job, as the husband says.

  11. Excellent thought experiment. I very much hope you get ALL the jobs so that this choice becomes a real one. I’m so biased because I love my middle of nowhere (okay, sad rust belt city) life and struggle to imagine the urban existence. As wonderful as you make it look–seriously, the only time I envy city dwellers is when I read ya’ll’s posts–it’s not for me. So I won’t talk about those pros, because OF COURSE I think you should take the plunge.

    Instead I’ll talk about ART. I don’t speak from personal experience, but as the child of an artist who never found success, but kept on making art every day until he kicked it. For him moving was a good thing for his art. It meant an all new group of galleries to romance, a new community of artists to find his place in. etc. The place influenced his work in fascinating ways. Plus, I imagine that a smaller scale experience could be just the right thing for you–bigger fish, smaller pond. I also like the sentiment expressed above that a huge change in your existence could make for a better experience as an artist. Life is so much easier when you have a little space and room in which to breathe. I appreciate that my 20 minute lovely walk to and from my job is unusually miraculous, but it means so much more time with my family and for myself. If you could buy two hours of your life back, it could be huge.

    And I’ve lived in places with all kinds of trees, from stunted piñon to giant redwood, and all kinds of trees are beautiful, so there would be inspiration waiting for you as well…

    I also think you can change your mind. Yeah, it would be a nightmare to extract yourselves and be all deracinated and miserable, and the decide it was too miserable and extract again and try to set things back up, BUT it’s logically possible! So perhaps it’s worth the risk.

  12. Yep, do it. Starrhillgirl (hi hi hi!) is right, as is everyone else, and it’s where you’re leaning. Send the kiddos to CJ’s school!

  13. Move. The space is worth it and having lived in a cupboard in the city in the past, it is another world entirely to be on the rural fringe with room for the kidlets to play.

  14. Hi! Have been following for a while, had to chime in as this post is really resonating with me.
    I’m in the exact spot. An artist in Brooklyn, with a partner and now 16-month-old. Brooklyn has so much to offer, and we love it…and yet I keep having daydreams of leaving. The pace is so hectic here, the playgrounds so teeming, I am exhausted at the end of every day. No time for the art! But yet I struggle with the idea of leaving because…I have built my identity around being a New York artist…sad but true…and I feel like I’m “giving up” by leaving. Nevermind mind that I’m in my 10th year waiting tables with no end in sight.
    My partner is from the Pacific Northwest and I think that would be our landing spot if we ever left. It would be great! But I can’t work up the courage to do it. Every year I say, just another year. I’m afraid of who I will be if I’m not here, you know? It’s an existential crisis.

    All this to say… You are certainly not alone. I wish you guys good luck in making your decisions. Ah New York…it’s like an abusive lover.

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