If you’re a Westporter, something got you here.
Maybe it was a town you once visited, and wanted to live in ever since. Maybe it was recommended by a friend. Maybe you methodically researched every place within an x-mile radius of y. Maybe you’re here because your parents lived here. Maybe even your grandparents.
The longer you’re here, though, the more you realize this town is different from every other.
And the more you realize it’s the same. Because, after all, every town is really just the sum of its shared values.
Yesterday’s New York Times “Your Money” column provided a fascinating look into that subject. In “43 Questions to Ask Before Picking a New Town,” Ron Lieber writes that a “values audit” is a good way of finding the best place to live — better, in fact, than school test scores, short commute or most house for the money.
Lieber’s advice is solid. Of course, he got help from experts — like former Westporter Alison Bernstein. (She runs Suburban Jungle, “guiding people to the places within commuting distance of New York City that suit them best.”)
Among the ways to scout out a new town:
Online forums. Check newspaper websites — and local versions of “06880” — to see what’s important in each town. And what are the comments like?
In-person reconnaissance. Bernstein advises parking in front of the nursery school at drop-off time to see who goes in and out: Nannies? Dads? Working moms? And how are they dressed? “If it’s chicks in yoga pants and you want that, great,” Bernstein says. “Just know what you’re getting into.”
Check out the high school to see whether students leave campus after school for team practice or to smoke cigarettes.
Eavesdrop on the sideline of sports games. “What dominates the conversation?” Bernstein asks. “Politics? Work? SoulCycle? Babysitters?”
Caregivers. If you’re a stay-at-home dad, will you feel at home? Will your babysitter need a car, and if so do most people have 3rd cars?
Mental health. “Are the local children garden-variety pot smokers who have a little sex and a bit of angst at a reasonable age, or is something more troubling going on?” Lieber writes, in one of my favorite Times sentences ever.
How do you find out? “Buy an hour of time” from the town’s leading child psychologist.
Summer. Is this a town-pool or a country club place? Does the town empty every summer because most people have 2nd homes?
There are other suggestions too, like looking at the town library’s shelves, and writing the mayor.
I wonder what potential home-buyers will think about Westport, when they follow Lieber and Bernstein’s advice.
Will they read “06880,” and think this is a place filled with rude drivers, and where every old home is a teardown? Or will they think it’s a place that adores its beach, cherishes its beauty, and whose citizens speak passionately on every issue?
What will they think when they see the enormous variety of people dropping off their pre-schoolers? Can they tell by watching that we have a huge population of stay-at-home moms (and dads), and another huge population that rushes off to high-powered jobs?
Will they realize that many of the folks who are here in summer are not the same people who live here year-round — but many are? Will they know exactly who is grilling on South Beach on Tuesday evenings? What will they make of the many languages they will hear on the boardwalk, in Joey’s, at the playground?
Those are fascinating questions. There are probably as many answers as there are Westporters. Click “Comments” (and please use your real, full name.) The “06880” community would love to hear your thoughts.
So would all those other people in the Suburban Jungle, wondering if — and why — they should buy a home here.