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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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In which I use the word "cool" entirely too much.

It seems that we purchased a house today. Unfortunately I’ve changed my mind. I would like to stay in Brooklyn, please. Do you think the buyer of our apartment will let us stay? Maybe we can talk her into taking the New Jersey place.

My last-minute panic is based on nothing reasonable, except that where we live is cool, and where we will live, while probably cool in infinite ways, is not as cool. Period. We will never be this cool again. And we weren’t all that cool to begin with. You may think, reading this, that I have long placed my coolness in high esteem, but in fact I have never bothered much with the coolness. I didn’t have to, because I live here. Not that I even got much pleasure out of the cool things here. I can’t afford them, and even if I could, I’m too old. And I spend my time with a preschooler whose idea of fun is playing air accordion while blasting Led Zeppelin. Actually I don’t disagree with him. Even if I had never had a child I would probably be doing that. In my underwear, probably. And not the hot kind of underwear, oh no. I’m talking Jockey For Her Hipsters with sagging elastic because I still own panties that my mother purchased for me in 1985.

Oh my god, what am I talking about? Do you see what this has done to me? I am weak with panic. What the hell was I thinking? I’m going to have to drive places. And my god, I’ve just made my holiday shopping a million times more complicated. In Brooklyn we are steps away from so many damn clever shops that are so crammed with hip whimsy that it can give you a migraine if you take it all in at once. In New Jersey we will be steps away from a KFC, a Dunkin’ Donuts, and a CVS. And I don’t think my mom wants a six pack of Crispy Nuggets for her birthday. I could be wrong about this.

But a person cannot live in a neighborhood just because of the cute shops, right? Right? They can’t, right? Oh god, what have I done?

It’s not just the coolness and the cute shops and the friends who will never move to Jersey and I see them every week and what was I THINKING. Crap, it’s everything. I can’t believe we can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ve lived here for fifteen years. Almost every day, I walk out of our house and I run into someone I know and love. Or someone I know and don’t like very much. Either way. I can’t believe I’m moving to the suburbs. I think I might throw up. I know I need to get over myself. I do. And I’m sure I will. Maybe in a year or two.

Reader Comments (111)

You are going to luuuuurve it. What everyone else has said? About the space? And the green? And the kid happiness? And the free parking? So you can get everything done in one trip and not have to worry about how you will drag it home? And the space? It's kind of great.

I still dress mostly in black. (OK, mostly black with some inappropriately brightly colored shoes.) I still receive compliments on my funky eyeglasses. I still have trouble making eye contact with store clerks. But now I do all that in the suburbs! And here's the big secret...there are more of us "I used to be cool" people out here than you would think. You will find some kindred souls, and Henry? He will have a backyard of his very own.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVelma
dear heart isn't you who's going to hell? brooklyn was just purgatorio.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterla_depressionada
Laurie brings up a great point: New Jersey is wonderful, no matter what anyone says. I grew up on the Jersey border, and it's really beautiful, and not at all Sopranos-like, and it drives me nuts when people have such a crappy impression of giant oil fields and strip malls.

It's going to be great, and you are not moving to the armpit of the universe in a giant cultural void.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjonniker
It will be okay. New York City, all of it's parts included, is just about the coolest place in the world, and there's no way a suburb will be cooler. But, think of it as a new adventure. You get to experience a new way of life, and you may find that you like it because it's different, and neither is better than the other. Moving is hard, and it freaks me out every time I do it. Good luck, and remember to breath.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessie
Or breathe, because I can spell correctly. Gah!
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessie
Oh, Alice! I left the Slope 13 years ago for the burbs, and the tragically hip part of my heart still misses it every single day. But I can afford new underwear now.

Breathe in, breathe out. Again. Again.

We have decided to give up the homesteading dream and move back into a small city asap, because there are no people out here to talk to. Things change, and people change, and we just have to find a way to stay in the flow and not make ourselves crazy with second guessing.

Best wishes.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKelly
Yo, I moved to MAINE from Brooklyn. Talk about culture shock.

Several months ago I was getting a manicure at (gulp) the mall and I started overhearing a conversation next to me. The accent was unmistakable. I turned to see Carmela Soprano incarnate who was apparently in town visiting relatives. I've never been so happy to see a little bit of Jersey.

You lucky girl, you get a LOT of Jersey and a short ride/drive back to Bklyn. You'll do it. You'll visit, often. And very slowly, you'll realize you are relieved to get back to Jerz. Best of luck. It's tough at first, but the positives win in the end.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermadge
What?? Jockey For Her Hipsters are not the epitome of cool?? Does the same go for Hanes Her Way (with requisite sagging elastic)? So much for my cool quotient.

But then, I didn't move from the city to the suburbs, I moved from the suburbs to Costa Rica. You should SEE the house you could afford down here.

You give things up, you get other things. It's scary when you're looking right at the things you'll be giving up, but you only have a general idea of what you're going to get, so all you can do is imagine how all those things are going to turn out.

(And in case you're wondering, I happen to know they turn out great)
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I'm cool and I live in ... central illinois. Aw crap, who am I kidding? But I think you are probably SO cool you don't even need to live in a cool place. YOU make it the cool place if you are there.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChristy
Maybe the buyer will just let you live there in Brooklyn *with* her.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommentermelissaS
OMG, I am sooo with you. We have signed contracts on a house way in the suburbs of Westchester, NY. I am so used to having things right across the street. Now I'll have to drive everywhere. And the money, OMG, I really want to throw up.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBean

I'm so sorry that both you and your commenters can't find a nice thing to say about NJ. I was born and raised here and I'm moving in June to Madison, WI (where my husband was born and raised). I have to say: NJ is pretty damn cool. I mean, hey, where do all the fucking Bennies (I mean, New Yorkers) go for the summer when they need to go to the beach? They sure as hell don't go to Long Island; they go to Manasquan, Spring Lake, Point Pleasant, etc.

Indeed, there is a lot of lovely culture in NJ and yes, you might have to drive to it, but in the end it's still a wonderful state. Feel free to e-mail for some advice; I lived in the area to which you're moving for three years during graduate school.

And, from one mover to another: may your trip be filled with unbroken items and fair moving estimates.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAriella
Buyers remorse is a bitch, but it will pass. Promise.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl
If you live close enough to a commercial district, there is always hope that the soulless, tacky chain stores will be replaced by . . . well, probably by more upscale chain stores. But still, you'll have access to lattes.And other cool people who couldn't afford Brooklyn will move to where you are, driving up prices until your house is worth more than you could afford to pay for it, if you hadn't bought when you did, and you'll get all sorts of smug about that, and your kids will love your neighborhood, and you will make friends, and you will all realize that, no matter what, you are cooler than la_d.And yet you will still have dowdy underwear.

At least, that's how it worked for me.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSlim
Perhaps you could leave all the old elastic-free knickers IN the Brooklyn apartment -- just lay them out across the radiator or something. Then the buyer will be disturbed enough to back out of the offer, leaving you FREE to move back in!

It's an elaborate plan, yes, but it might work.

I know very little about New Jersey apart from the fact that BON JOVI LIVES THERE! Aren't you just the tiniest bit excited that you might run into him at the grocery store?
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNothing But Bonfires
Ha, I also have old sagging Jockey For Her panties that my mama bought for me (in NEW JERSEY no less, OMG).

Once you move into the new house, I predict you will love it. You are going to move at the exact right time of year, mid-spring when everything is blooming and green and fresh (and not yet oppressively humid - but when it gets like that, you have an easy drive to the shore, or a pool club to join). And there are no push-ins in Jersey, the crazy people are more spread out, and the chances of a car jumping the sidewalk are much, much less. All you need to do is have a guest room and your friends will come visit. And you can buy all of those awesome Brooklyn-y gifts online.

True, I hated growing up in NJ, but I was in a suburban wasteland with no "there" there (no actual downtown, nowhere to hang out except the K-Mart parking lot) and that's not the case where you'll be. You're going to love Jersey!
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDebl
yes, give yourself a year or two to adjust. Seriously. That's not a bad thing, it's just necessary. Otherwise, you'll just feel anxious that you don't yet feel at home in the suburbs.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMandy
my husband and i just moved out of the west village and into westchester, after 5 years of living in my favorite home ever. but i am absolutely loving living in the suburbs. we don't even have kids! i venture to say that if we aren't the coolest people here in our little town of 7,000, we are at least the youngest people without children, and we look like displaced hipsters. but people are friendly, and the city is so super close. life is cheaper, more spacious, and spring is glorious. walks outside through the trees, quiet nights! the downside is that our friends very very very rarely come to see us. but we still go in to see them regularly! there will be moments of remorse, but if you weren't going to miss it so much, your life wouldn't have been so wonderful for the past 15 years. i'm sure you'll make a new life for yourself that will supercede the previous one, that's how it works...
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkeely
Had to delurk to tell you I have the same underwear - dark blue ones ( also a gift from my mother)use it during my period. My 10 yo dd always remarks on its fugliness...My advice:Do not move with the fugly panties. Burbs with feel better thru rose colored undies.

April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCathy
Ah, cool shops are a wonderful distant memory for me, having moved not just to the suburbs but to the midwest. But there's the yard, which will be of benefit to Henry for the next 15 years or so, after which it becomes just another goddam thing that has to be tended to on the weekend.

But I meant this to be encouraging! There's the clean air, the quiet, the, uh, driving. Speaking of which, I just read an article that scared the bejesus out of me, saying that gas will cost $7 a gallon by 2010.

Sorry - I'm trying here. It'll be good. Some things you'll miss, but I think you made the right decision.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarian
Oh, man, I do feel for you. The fam and I moved from Prague, Czech Republic to a small town in Montana almost two years ago. As one of the PP said, a lot of my identity was tied up in being an American living abroad, and when I lost that, well, I'd like to say I've come up with another, cooler identity, but I'd be lying.

Still, no one steals my stroller here. I've yet to be pickpocketed. And I don't live on the 4th floor in a building with no elevator. And there's grass!

I don't think there's ever a good answer to this dilemma.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
Alice- I spent my whole life in Jersey until I moved to CA 6 years ago. Here's what I discovered after the "I can't believe I'm moving away from NY" (which you, of course, are not).

Cool is in the inside. You don't use all the things you suddenly think you are going to miss. And a huge lesson I learned some years back is that no, I didn't need to wear Doc Martens everyday including in the heat of summer to be cool. So now I wear vans sneakers. And even colors. And I realize that frankly, I am cooler than ever.

Break free of the hipster doofus confines! Have a house with space! Don't pay rent anymore! Cool is within!

P.S. Buying a house requires you to feel like you are going to puke. They don't disclose it, but it's true.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterk
Hey, Alice:

My husband and impending baby and I are going to be making an analogous mini-move within Seattle in the next year. We'll be moving from our super-groovy, centrally-located Pink House (capitalized there because it's a sort of well-known, beloved house among our artsy circle) to a neighborhood that's Seattle's equivalent to New Jersey*. We're ditching the busy street and tiny house so we can have some grass and room. And, apparently, be nearer to all the car dealerships and strip clubs and Thai restaurants with names like Thai-One-On. Mmm-hmm.

*with apologies to Jersey-ites. Just using it as shorthand. I'm sure your state is thoroughly bad-ass.

I think you and I are about the same age, and that, thankfully, I think is the age where whatever cool you've gathered has deposited itself permanently inside, and can't be further augmented by Neighborhood Coolness. I would further argue that as time goes on, it becomes less cool to worry about coolness, which for me is a relief. It's like that Zen and the Art of Archery, aiming-not aiming thing, if that makes any sense.

My point is, you're plenty cool and all will be well and grass is beautiful and others were totally on target about the internet for whimsical shopping.

I hope that when you get there, it quickly feels great. And I personally would take doughnuts as a gift any day.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTina
My husband was a lifelong NYCer (grew up in Sunyside Queens then moved to Carroll Gardens Brooklyn when he got out of college then moved to Kew Gardens Queens when we got married) and then when we bought a house in 2001 we bought in *gasp* New Jersey. My husband claimed his life was over, but he adapted and came to enjoy being a suburban man. He still goes into the city or Brooklyn to meet up with friends for happy hour and we've had success getting them to visit us as well.

Life doesn't end in the suburbs - it just changes. If you're near the Bloomfield, Clifton, Nutley, Montclair, Glen Ridge area give me a shout - we're in that area and I'd love to fill you in on fun places to go/see.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJaynee
I know. Oh, how I know.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

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