Living in the ‘Columbubble’
I don’t know who coined this phrase for our little part of Desperate Housewife suburban America, but Columbia is a bubble and shall henceforth be forever more known as ‘Columbubble’.
I attribute this clever name to my friend Julia, who writes a blog about living in the Columbubble. She writes all about living here and what it’s like from her point of view, in her place in the Bubble.
The Bubble means different things to different people.
As Julia references, some people think the Bubble is ‘the 500 to 800 people across the County that pay attention to hyper-local politics, talk about hyper-local politics, and can name at least three members of the Board of Education’. (Tom Coale) Or they think this: ‘[The Bubble is]…not always a good thing…The Bubble distorts things. It makes you see things that aren’t there. It builds confidence in places of great doubt.’ (Ian Kennedy).
But to me, the Bubble is the safety net that is Columbia; the suburbaness of it all; the big McMansions with the big staircases to sweep down to your Keurig coffee maker in your speciality kitchen; the lack of litter and the shock of seeing some on the streets; the lack of crime and being able to leave your door unlocked for anyone; the shock at finding a dope pipe in a children’s playground and assuming its.nothing.to.do.with.my.child; the school system being ‘perfect’ and that all.children.must.be.the.same; the manicured lawns and the housing associations with their clipboards noting everything down; the parents driving their kids everywhere because its.all.about.the.children; the kids being in all the clubs they can possibly be in because one of those sports will get them a scholarship to college, and anyway, mom/dad was denied that opportunity, so now it’s your turn, Billy; endless kids parties where everyone tries to up the game, this time with real live jungle animals (winners!); bored suburban wives looking like Stepford Wives driving SUVs to Whole Foods and then to the nail salon, complaining about their hard day; honors students who are perfect by day, but who secretly drink in their parents’ basements on a Friday; not seeing anyone with visible multi-colored hair, ripped jeans or tattoos walking along the road because.that.is.not.acceptable.here; how folks will totally give to the foodbank, but don’t expect them to not shop at LuluLemon every week for essential Yoga apparel; and not having public transport to or from anywhere ‘in case the bad people find us’.
That’s my [tongue-in-cheek] interpretation of the Bubble. It’s funny, because some days I can be very critical of Columbubble, and some days I totally dig it, because the Bubble has many plus sides. It’s safe, family friendly, and full of fabulous people fun. And I’m grateful to be part of it, and to live here, walk here, work here and play here. I love the parks, the events, the parties, the lakefront and the loop, the old bits of Ellicott City, the paths, the gyms, the space, the safeness, the friendliness. But, the Bubble sometimes seems clinical and sterile and all in a world of its own and that’s when I need a little helping of the grit and ruggedness of Baltimore or DC. I do hope the Bubble doesn’t burst, but that it continues to grow and mature culturally, maybe picking up a few bits of grit on the way to keep it real 😉 .
When I say I live in Columbia to Americans who are outside of the area, but who are aware of it, they raise their eyebrows and say ‘Ah, a planned community.‘ And I often defend it, but I also get why they raise their eyebrows, because, if you ask the load of Brits who live here in Columbubble (there are a lot of us!), many would agree that it’s not a ‘normal’ place!
This comment on my blog back in the summer from some bloke called William intrigued me: ‘I’m sorry, Claire, but living in Columbia, Maryland doesn’t qualify as living in the U.S. Maybe Baltimore or Philly, but not Columbia – it’s a recent invention.’
Yes, it’s a new build town, but everywhere starts somewhere. (Look, I come from England, William, mate, and my parents’ previous house was built before George Washington became President of the USA – work that one out!).
Oh, William, I disagree with about the rest though! Of course it’s the U.S, mate. It’s got yellow school buses, and people speak with American accents, and there is a McDonalds in every town, and there are mailboxes with flags, and people drive on the right, and you can turn on red, and people spell ‘colour’ with out the ‘u’, and they watch American football games all day on Sunday, and they don’t understand when I say the word ‘knackered’. So, William, I think I am living in America with Americans as my neighbours! BUT……if not, I want my plane ticket money back! Hang on a minute, am I in a version of The Truman Show….?! Am I?!!!
A Brit who has been in Columbia for about 40 years said to me recently that the reason he lives in Columbia is because he chose ‘predictability’. My response to this comment is in the form of a Truman Burbank quote: ‘Somebody help me, I’m being spontaneous!‘ 😉
I was describing Alan Partridge to an American friend the other day. ‘Was he in The Partridge Family?’ he asked.
Nope. He’s a British comic creation, care of comedy god Steve Coogan, and you need to know all about him, American chums, so read this ‘wot I wrote’! 🙂