You Can Take The Girl…

Sophie Blondeau was born in Paris.  Growing up and living in Switzerland, London, Sydney and New York City, she felt like “a citizen of the world.”

So when her husband was offered a great job “up in Connecticut” — too far to commute to New York — she felt some trepidation.  The family chose Westport, because it was close to his new job — and close enough to New York, for when Sophie needed her city fix.

The November 2008 move to suburbia was as hard as she’d imagined it would be.  It was late fall; everyone stayed inside.  Driving her kids to Saugatuck Elementary School, she didn’t see “a soul” outside.

Sophie Blondeau

Because she’d moved so much, Sophie knew she had to take the 1st step.  Soon after arriving, she called the PTA president.  She learned there was a newcomers’ cocktail 2 days later.

Submerged in boxes, making chitchat was far from Sophie’s mind.  “That was the last place I wanted to go,” she recalls.

She went.

“It was fabulous,” she says.  “I met lots of women in the same situation.”  Four of them quickly became her support system.

Sophie enjoyed commiserating sharing stories with them.  But she had another outlet too:  blogging.

Her “Take the Girl” blog — as in, “You Can Take the Girl Out of NYC But…” chronicles her sometimes rocky, sometimes satisfying, always instructive transition from city dweller to suburban mom.  It is insightful, funny — and, for longtime suburbanites, not always easy to read.

Sophie has blogged about isolation, homogeneity, the lack of walking, and missing New York.  Her audience is primarily city people, though she gets occasional “I can relate” comments she suspects are from similarly still-adjusting women in the burbs.

One of the biggest reactions came when she wrote about the new experience of shopping at Costco.  “I was so not trained!” she laughs.

Sophie says the blog is “a good way to keep me honest.”  It also ties her to her city friends.  “We always used to joke about moving to the suburbs,” she says.  “I wanted to show them if this was as bad as we said it could be.”

In the beginning, it was.  Over the past few months though, Sophie says her writing has become “more balanced.”

During the recent storm, she wrote admiringly of the CodeRED emergency alerts.  Last week she admitted her feelings about SUVs have evolved.  Describing carting 3 kids and countless bags of lawn refuse, she asked:  “Can you imagine how many trips to the dump I would have to make if I owned a Mini?”

“My feelings have changed,” Sophie says.  “The pain of moving has lessened.  I see the benefits more.”  Still, she says, “I’m probably more detached from Westport than most people.”

Among the benefits:  “I love my neighbors.  I live in a real community, not a McMansion.”

She enjoys the beach — a 6-minute bike ride away.

Sophie has “come to like  having a house, to a certain extent.  It’s nice not dealing with upstairs neighbors or landlords.”

She also appreciates Saugatuck Elementary; the Westport Country Playhouse and “the sense of arts here,” as well as “the larger than expected global community in Westport.”

The move to Westport enabled Sophie to get out of the “advertising rat race” she’d been in for 15 years.  She now works as a life coach — a benefit she credits to moving.

But of course New York still holds allure.  Sophie gets in to the city every 2 weeks or so.

And yet…

“Driving everywhere kills me.  I don’t like that people are rude when they don’t have to be — they’re not grateful for what they have.  Westport is less spontaneous than the city.  I don’t think I realized how homogeneous Westport is — it’s a little sanitized.  And the isolation is still hard.”

Sounds like another blog post just waiting for Sophie to write.

8 responses to “You Can Take The Girl…

  1. Sophie do you want the good news or the bad news…. My family has lived in Westport now for 37 years… We truly love it and what a great place it is…. I would say it was much more “country ” back when and has gotten only more metropolitan over the decades…. That is the good…. The bad it took my mother around 20 years to feel fully comfortable here as a truly “city girl” who moved to suburbia…. So good luck on your transition

  2. A story as old as TV – Lucy and Ricky move to the “country”…

  3. The Dude Abides

    For some reason (?), the saga of a gal who has lived in Paris, London, Syndey, New York City and then is forced to move to Westport, Connecticut and is faced with adapting to the terror of the suburbs does not draw strong empathy or interest. Sorry.

  4. well, for many of us it totally does draw empathy and interest, as well as sympathy; the difference between suburban & city life is total. i hope that she is able to move between the two places more frequently & before she totally taps out of her suburban coping skills.

  5. Ah, I’ve lived here for most of my life (with 23 yrs. in NJ and Japan) but what I loved about this article was that Sophie has such a great sense of humor. I didn’t hear one mean-spirited “I’ll make fun of suburbia” but a genuine “This is different and I’ll tell you my experiences”. Great! Welcome, Sophie and family, and I think your neighborhood sounds great. Roseville Road is too.

  6. Innocent Bystander

    Indeed, Anonymous is correct. We should implement a “suburban coping” seminar and followup sessions with every person moving to Westport. This would include running stop signs or celling/texting while driving or public rudeness awareness or not picking up your dog’s crap. Advanced sessions would include choosing sofa patterns that match the street’s contour and Christmas lights that conform to past tradition . . . lord this is as silly as the huge controversy over flyers.

  7. What have you learned from life? The most important things?

  8. The Dude Abides

    (1) That even kids can be disloyal;
    (2) Love is fleeting;
    (3) War is hell;
    (4) A newborn’s head has a soft spot;
    (5) Law school sucks;
    (6) Money is okay;
    (7) Running makes you feel alive;
    (8) 90% of all people are assholes;
    (9) The other 10% are worth knowing;
    (10) Life is short.