Not My Neighborhood.

by Jennifer Sey


I was invited to dinner with a work friend on Friday night. I generally like to stay home and feel sorry for myself on Fridays since I don't have my kids with me. Wallowing in loneliness has become my favorite extra curricular activity. But I figured watching another episode of "What Would You Do?" could wait and if I had an invitation I might as well take advantage of it.


So I went. Dinner was in a trendy restaurant in the Mission district, what used to be a liberal haven overflowing with underemployed artists, massage therapists/yoga teachers and Mexican immigrants living many to a room and sending checks back home to their families. The Mission, the Haight (hippies) and the Castro (gays) form a little enlightened, unconventional triangle in the city known for being unconventional and I generally call these neighborhoods my haunts. When I haunt. Which I don't do much of lately.


But of course, the Mission like everywhere else has become "gentrified". Which I don't complain about. In fact, I get pretty silent when black clad bar denizens start griping about it, not wanting to reveal myself as the actual incarnation of this issue. I've lived in these neighborhoods for two decades long before I ever had a well paying job so it can't be said that I've invaded. I've been loyal to my hood is all. But I am white living in what was once a "black neighborhood", I have a corporate job that pays quite well, I have savings for a rainy day and I am partial to fancy hand bags. In my favor, I rent my apartment like the folks riled up about the issue so at least I don't have to add home ownership to the list of strikes against me. I still tend to identify with disillusioned artists more than the pretty people, perhaps out of habit more than anything else. Which leads me back to dinner.


There were about seven couples. And me. The lone single. All the women were blonde and smooth and thin. If I'd seen them somewhere with their tan legs, gold bangles, big diamonds and handsome husbands, I would have scoffed. They would have seemed too perfect. They must be faking it, I'd have thought. But I spent the evening with these women and their handsome, employed husbands and they were nice. More than nice, they were funny, interesting, self-deprecating and not at all what I expected when my judgment first laid eyes on them. Who are these women with happy lives, good jobs and attentive mates who give them jewelry when they push out babies? And why did they feel right at home in the hipster Mission? And what happened to my Mission, home of the dirty hipster, angry about everything but most of all the "gentrification" and people like these?


I've gotten it all wrong. If I was once the Janine Garafaolo from Reality Bites type, I'm not anymore. But somehow I've stayed tied to that cohort. Those are my people! No they're not. Those people didn't move on. They didn't find calm and achievement and their cynicism wasn't assuaged with life experience, it was intensified. Why do I still romanticize and cling to a cadre that I have nothing in common with?