photo by Graeme Mitchell 2010
You may have your theories, but to really understand the differences between urban and suburban living, you have to have tried both. Sloane Crosley, author of essay collections I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number (released in paperback on May 3), has done just that. She grew up in White Plains, living there for 18 years before setting off for college, and has since lived in New York City for 11 years. We asked her to compare.
What was the best thing about living in Westchester?
Well, for me it’s familiar because it’s home. Which can be extremely comforting or extremely suffocating, depending on one’s mood. But it is a truly beautiful place. I love how each town has its own history and its own nuanced personality. Or sometimes not-so-nuanced. Growing up on the border of Scarsdale and White Plains—that’s actually a pretty significant difference even to the untrained, non-Westchester eye.
What’s the one thing about Westchester that you wish you could import into the City?
The White Plains Coach Diner. I’ve seen a fair amount of twenty-four-hour ‘here’s your Bible’ menus in my life, but nothing like that. Also, distinctive housing. It’s pretty rare in New York to be able to point to the last blue house on a cul-de-sac and know your friend lives there or see his or her lights on. Manhattan is not lacking for distinctive public architecture, but I miss the distinctive personal architecture.
Who’s nicer: suburbanites or urbanites?
Actually, I think urbanites, and it has something to do with choice. You can more successfully choose the patterns of your day, who you see and where you go, in Westchester, and it’s like you lose a bit of tolerance for and/or immunity to your fellow man if you live more in your car or just on Metro-North. That said, I think suburbanites—assuming we’re not talking about Stepford types—are much calmer. Maybe that’s what comes of having a little green space to call your own.
Driving or the subway: which do you prefer?
I prefer the subway. It’s efficient, easy, and I don’t know why anyone would drive in the City when they could take the subway. However, I wouldn’t want to take the subway on a cross-country trip.
What’s one suburban habit that you can never quite shake?
I leave at least one small light on when I leave my apartment at night.