Recently, it’s occurred to me that I live in a city that’s not only the right kind of city for me or a place I really enjoy living, but the more people I talk to, the more people I find don’t particularly enjoy it here, either.
It’s no secret that Atlanta isn’t for me in a number of ways. I’m a city girl that doesn’t drive, and has no interest in ever owning a car. I want to know there’s a subway that will take me anywhere I want to go, when I need to go there, and I needn’t depend on anyone else for a ride or to want to go with me. I’m not staying in because of heat, cold, rain, snow, or sleet, and unless there’s a blizzard, don’t think weather is a valuable reason to cancel things. I’m outgoing, talk to strangers, walk through dangerous neighbourhoods by myself, and don’t feel odd eating dinner alone, unless the waiter sees the need to point out, “Oh, it’s just one today?”. I’m quirky, artistic, love the energy I get from crowds and a fast-paced lifestyle. I’ll never be blonde, blue-eyed, anorexic, or have perfect hair and a Southern drawl (real or acquired.) I don’t date based on how much money you make, and I don’t make my life decisions focused on how much money I make. I enjoy authenticity, drama, creating something interesting…even if it’s only yourself.
Here in Atlanta, conformity is the name of the game. While Donald Trump takes the NYC subway, very few people in Atlanta are brave enough to use it as a primary form of transportation (I have friends who are literally AFRAID of Atlanta’s MARTA train.). Not only that, the subway doesn’t serve over half of the Atlanta metro area, making it impossible for non-drivers to leave a very specific bubble. Only 500,000 people actually live in the city of Atlanta; the other 5 million live in the suburbs that aren’t served by public transportation, although many low income people have been forced to move out to the suburbs for lower rent, and walk miles each day, sometimes crossing dangerous highways.
At dinner the other night, the conversation of dating in Atlanta came up, and I mentioned an article I’d read. The article stated that Atlanta is one of the best cities in which to be single, but only if you expect to stay single. Over 80% of singles in Atlanta aren’t looking for long-term relationships. As someone who spent years being single in Atlanta, I can tell you first-hand, the emphasis is on going out, drinking, dancing, social climbing, showing yourself off, and ending up going home with someone you deem worthy, whom you’ll likely never call again, or even think of, until your paths cross socially.
Very few people are looking for friends, which is alien to me, because I wouldn’t date someone with whom I didn’t have a pre-existing friendship. I’m neither stupid nor naive. I don’t believe at love at first sight. Anyone can jump in bed together, and doing so does not create a relationship, 9 times out of 10. Friendships, on the other hand, take time and effort to cultivate, and not everyone is capable of or compatible with each other when it comes to developing those friendships. I have never had a successful long-term relationship with someone who was not a dear friend to me first, and I’ve never had a one-night-stand or friend-with-benefits turn into anything meaningful, even when I put tons of effort into trying to make it happen.
Even girls don’t seem to want to be friends with other girls; there’s this element of competition that seems to make most women view other women as “frenemies”. For me, it wasn’t until I was in a long-term relationship for years that I began to find friendships with women that weren’t based upon gossip, backhanded comments, and tearing down other people behind their backs. The people that have treated me most viciously in this city have always been women, from girls my own age who didn’t appreciate my free-spirited lifestyle and behaviour, to mothers of guys I’m dating who forget Southern class long enough to make death threats and use the C-word.
Once you’re in a relationship, it’s still a challenge. If I were still living a polyamorous lifestyle, I’d probably find Atlanta easier. But now that I’m not, I’ve noticed how little committments are respected. Both men and women will approach you, in front of your significant other, to hit on you. Friends will proposition you, saying they still respect you’re in a relationship. And ex-es will call you out of the blue to get together, pointing out that hanging out for “old times’ sake” doesn’t mean anything. Even married couples are not immune to this, and I’d imagine the rate of infidelity in the Atlanta metro area is far, far above the national average.
If I find myself single again in the future, it won’t be here. I’ve learned enough about Atlanta to know it can’t give me what I want….with the exception of more living space, a more reasonable standard of living, and a great group of friends I’d be sad to leave. But it’s not a fair trade off for low self-esteem, a general disbelief in the honesty and integrity of other human beings, being called horrible names, and driven to develop issues with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
There’s not a lot of value I see going on in ATL. Sure, there’s value on money, good looks, good jobs, the kind of car you drive, the image you present to others, and what you can do for me, should we start hanging out together. But there’s very little value being placed in getting to know others as a person, on friendships, on lasting relationships, and even on developing a positive mindset on how you feel about yourself that isn’t dependent upon what others are saying about you.
I think Atlanta is potentially the second-most shallow place I’ve ever lived; Los Angeles taking the cake for being the first. I’ll find it hard to leave behind the things here that matter to me…but there’s a reason everyone I like is constantly talking about no longer being here, and those that stay, find it hard to build long-term lives and relationships characterised by stability.
Don’t get me wrong. Some do, and they’re very happy. The first thing those happy couples do? They move to the suburbs, and spend 3 hours a day in a car.
Single or not, there’s little about Atlanta that’s for me…and most of those I’m close to seem to have similar feelings. I guess the best I can hope for is a Prince Charming that dreams of a penthouse condo and isn’t afraid of the subway. *laughs*