My daughter has a friend whose father is the most despondent-looking S.O.B. I’ve ever encountered in my life. As a writer, I’m not supposed to use terms like, “words can’t describe” or, “he is literally…” but since no one pays me for this blog, words can’t describe how utterly depressed this guy is: he is literally the embodiment of Charlie Brown. Like, if Charlie Brown’s midlife crisis was so soul-crushing that he spent his time handing out copies of L’ Estranger at the airport like some kind of existentially-destroyed Hare Krishna.
And as a quick side note, I’m not talking about clinical depression. Mental illness is a serious condition, and an insidious one as well, as it typically attempts to hide behind smiles and laughter and Instagram memes about sunrises and soldiering on. This is something else entirely. This guy is straight-up Mr. January through Mr. December in the Nihilist of The Month 2020 Pinup Calendar (the worst-selling calendar of the 2020 holiday season, by the way).
I see him frequently at school functions and Girl Scout meetings and the like. He typically tries to stand away from the crowd and lurk in the shadows, where perhaps his Black Hole of Lifelessness won’t suck all the positive vibes from the room. I’ve thrown out the occasional, “How’s it going?” hoping it’d make him feel comfortable enough to spew out his secrets like strangers somehow feel at ease in doing around me. But no luck. I’ve thought about cutting to the chase and just asking, “So, who’s your wife sleeping with?” hoping maybe the shock effect would get him to spill the beans. But that’d probably backfire…Oh, that isn’t it, but now that you mention it, it probably explains why she’s smiling, and I’m not…
There’s A Name For It: suburban Disappointment Syndrome
Truth is, I recognize this despondency all too well. It’s Suburban Disappointment Syndrome, the utterly ironic condition where you get everything you asked for – but didn’t know it would be like this. Since the end of WWII, nothing has typified the American Dream quite like getting married, moving to the suburbs, having a few kids, enjoying a long career, and retiring comfortably. And though this scenario will remain only a dream for a growing number of Americans, it can be the norm for folks here in the Bay Area. I live it daily, I see it all around me.
Suburban Disappointment Syndrome is the fine print in the 200-page Terms of Service that comes with the American Dream. It’s the part where kids scream and whine and cost you every penny you earn; the part where you only moderately like your job and hate most of the people you work with; the part where sex is reduced to once every few weeks after the honeymoon and once a month or so after kids. The sewer line needs to be fixed. The car needs tires. You can’t breathe in or out without asking your wife if it’s ok first. There will be no Girls Night because your husband still can’t be trusted to be alone with the baby for one freaking night.
It’s all rather…disappointing.
Suburbia and Marriage: Two Different Destinations
You might think that I’m gearing up to say no one deserves a terminal case of Suburban Disappointment Syndrome more than yours truly. After all, I’ve been married a dozen times, spawned at least fifty kids I know of, been through about eighty disappointing winery jobs, and at 103 years old, I have to walk around with an Ensure IV just to keep my Frankenstein-like body from falling apart. But no. And it’s not because I read the Terms of Service. No one gets to read the Terms of Service because it doesn’t exist. No, it’s because I understood one very critical thing when I signed up for my American Dream: Suburbia is a journey, not a destination.
In fact, marriage is also a journey and not a destination. So is your career. The sweet irony is that the only actual destination is death, and we don’t get to choose that, either. And since this suburban life is all a journey – since everything is in constant motion – we have to realize we’ll never be in the exact same place twice. It may feel like it when your child knocks over your wine glass for the eighth time, or when your husband rubs his recently-acquired gut and deadpans, “Is this a sex night?” for the 22nd night in a row. But no two days are exactly the same. Life can certainly be disappointing, but when they say, “Life goes on,” it means the journey continues to move forward, and not you’re stuck in this.
Unless you have kids. Yeah, with kids, you’re definitely stuck.
Suburban Disappointment Syndrome Pairs With: The 2018 Tous Les Jours Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast. $19.00
There were two ways I could have gone with this: I could have chosen a totally disappointing wine or a wine that I feared would disappoint but didn’t. Fortunately, it turned out to be the latter. Typically, with wines under $20, you’re hoping the experience will be slightly better than sipping a bottle of Barefoot Merlot you left in the trunk accidentally for four days. But you don’t count on it.
Wow, was I impressed with this Cabernet. Beautiful, ripe dark fruit, but no jamminess whatsoever. Great balance all through the mid-palate, and surprisingly intense tannins on the finish. North Coast is an appellation that stretches from San Francisco pretty much all the way through Humboldt, so the location of the fruit can be hit or miss. Sometimes you get hot weather areas like Sacramento or the sierra Foothills, which can tilt intensity to the face-sucking side. This Cabernet has none of that.
At $19 online with free shipping, it’s an insane value. Kinda like housing prices (next to the nuclear power plant). Certainly, the Tous Les Jours North Coast Cabernet is one of the few things in my suburban paradise that never disappoints.