In contemplation of the cul de sac


As I mentioned, we're looking for a place to live in Virginia, with the intent of moving there at the end of the summer (likely in late August). Before we actually started looking, Mark and I both had a romantic notion of living outside the cities and suburbs, in horse country, maybe on a few acres. I imagined having space for lots of rescue dogs. I imagined quiet and solitude. I imagined a stream, and maybe a barn. I neglected to consider the impact of all that solitude on my work-at-home self. Or ony having one car. Or the million or so things that totally blow about living out in the country, like lousy Internet service and long commutes. But when I actually went and visited the area, these things all sprang back to mind.

And so, it seems quite likely that we're headed for the suburbs. I grew up in the country and have lived in a city since then. I've never lived in a suburb. In fact, I've spent a good part of the last decade or so making merciless fun of suburbs. Places where you can't walk or bus anywhere. Places with houses all built the same, with lots of rules, with no real trees and cardboard neighbors. Edward Scissorhands land. Why would anyone want to live there?

Turns out there are reasons. Long drives every day to work suck. Space is nice to have. My dogs need a yard, and I'd like a bathtub. It's a difficult thing for my trying-to-be-hip self to say, but there are benefits to living somewhere with sidewalks and "safe streets." I'm still not thrilled about the idea of moving into one of a hundred houses that look just the same, or having someone come down on me if I put something they don't like in my lawn, or having to get in the car to get coffee/go to the library/whatever. But I do understand the reasons a bit better now, having compared what is available in the 'burbs to the city and country options.

This is yet another one of those weird growing up things. Just like I never expected to work at a desk from 9-5, or wear makeup every day, or pay someone to paint my house, I never expected to live in a much too-big house in a suburb. Just like I pictured exciting, important jobs and cutting edge clothes and a do-it-myself life, I pictured either rural simplicity or the excitement of a city. I was never going to be halfway anywhere, I was never going to let people tell me what to do. And suburbs are the epitome of halfway.

It never ceases to amaze me just how much things change. It seems like almost every day right now it's something else. What's next? Once we are installed in our multi-bedroom sububan home, a couple of proper DINKS, then what? A baby? A SUV? A subscription to Rachael Ray's magazine? Where will it end?


I have the perfect mix of suburb/country. Maybe there's a better suburban option than tract housing? I've lived in some lovely, character-rich, walkable suburbs.


then i can play with it.

So if you are going to the place I think you are going, it's not too long of a drive to be in the real country--or in the city proper, more or less (except that's hard with dogs). I don't know that part of VA real well, and I don't know where you'll be working, but I'm happy to pass along any DC metro area knowledge that's helpful.

I don't know much about Chantilly, but I do know its not too far from (and not all that different from) the Centreville/Manassas area, which I am familiar with. The houses around Centreville/Manassas do (in my opinion) have a nice mix of suburban and country living- enough space so you can breath without being so isolated that you're cut off from the rest of the world. Yes, you definitely need a car to do ANYTHING around there, but it's not like you will be living on a street where all the houses are practically on top of each other and all look the same (like where I grew up (shudder)).

Does this discussion remind anybody else of the book "A Wrinkle in Time"?

Many suburbs do not have sidewalks and aren't safer than cities. The assumption that cities are unsafe annoys me. (not aimed at you, in general)

Didn't you already have an SUV?

Since you discuss the environmental impact of your clothing choices, how do you feel about the environmental impact of suburban living?

Cul-de-sacs always remind me of a story on NPR a few years ago that high-lighted their safety statistics. I guess more little kids are harmed/killed by cars backing up than by cars moving forward. Cars have to back up a lot in cul-de-sacs. Ergo cul-de-sacs are dangerous for little kids. I'd guess that driving a high SUV in a cul-de-sac would make things even more dangerous. Some cities even ban new cul-de-sacs for this reason.

That was a bit of an aside. Oops. But best of luck finding a good place to live. Moving is hard.

It is so crazy when that moment happens and you've suddenly transformed into "adult".

Funny, life's what happens while you're busy making other plans, no?
I still look at my kids, mortgage and car some days and wonder: where did they came from, how did I get here? Not a bad feeling at all, and it really makes me laugh too. Sometimes the inside needs catching up with the outside of yourself or something. :-)


I would check my before buying any house. We're in the suburbs with a walk score of 75, and I love it. It can be done!

Grace, I if you're moving to the D.C. area . . .

Paul's sister and her husband are thinking about selling their house to move here. It's near the Beltway (my BIL works in D.C. and the commute's not bad).

They used to live in Manassas, but when they bought a house they moved up to the Maryland side. They live in a really neat neighborhood near College Park. Nice neighbors, older house with character, fenced yard, no suburban tract styling, great Farmer's Market nearby.

Here's the town website. Their house looks like the little one in the slideshow. Theirs is surprisingly large inside because of a big kitchen/family room addition in the back:

Let me know if you want to know more . . .

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