Celeste Hamilton Dennis currently lives in Portland, Oregon and is an editor at the nonprofit Idealist.org. When she's not sharing stories of inspiring idealists, she's writing fiction, plotting her next move abroad, and dreaming of the perfect black and white cookie. She's currently at work on a short story collection linked by Levittown.
I'll be the first to admit: Our love hasn't always been a Billy Joel song.
In our early years together, I loved to spend my days swimming at your pools and hanging out at block parties and eating as much as I could at pancake fundraisers for high school sports teams. But my favorite thing? It was easy for me to find the bathrooms at all of my friend's houses. I liked how they all looked and felt the same.
Then I got older and your sameness started to make me feel weird. I sabotaged us. I stole bras from your department stores. I toilet papered your manicured lawns. I smoked pot in the sump behind the village green. I made out with boys on baseball fields and ruined pitching mounds.
I got restless. I needed more than a drive-thru dairy mart called The Cow and a patch of grass behind the bowling alley called The Field to hang out at. So I left you.
While I was gone, I couldn't get you out of my mind. I'd wake up in the middle of the night craving a chicken parmigiana hero from Portofino's. I longed for your thick, tough accent. I'd give anything to sing karaoke at Faddy Malone's.
I missed you. But I knew you weren't healthy for me.
It's true you've changed over the years, although people hear your name and still think you're as plain as the potatoes that used to cover your fields. They stereotype you for being the first planned suburb.
I know you're more than that. I know you secretly love that there's now a Colombian restaurant where the oyster bar used to be, and that saris and turbans that can now be found among Jets hats and Islanders jerseys. I know you're getting a kick out of all the new additions on your Capes and Ranches.
I will never return to your arms, but I just can't seem to let you go. It's because of you I cry whenever I hear a Journey song at a wedding. It's because of you I can't eat a bagel without feeling disappointed. It's because of you I understand that the men and women who sweep dust and install phones and pick up garbage may appear gruff, but are as soft and sweet as the inside of a cannoli.
You were my first lesson in tough love. And after all these years fighting it, I can finally say I love you for just the way you are.