It happened to me again last night. I got the "apartment complex" stare!
I was taking a brisk walk around the beautiful lake in my new serene back yard when I came upon a woman walking her dog. I immediately recognized her as a fellow soccer mom. She was surprised to see me in her neck of the woods.
"Hi. What are you doing over here?"
"Hi! Well, we just moved in to the apartments over there."
There it was--that blank, confused, uncomfortable stare. Once again, I found myself jumping into the upbeat explanation of my life decisions.
I first noticed this "apartment complex" stare several months ago in the lunch room at work. A fellow co-worker overheard my discussion about our upcoming move. "Uh-oh," he said. "You're moving to an apartment? Is there something going on?"
At least he was upfront and showed some concern. I quickly laughed off his concern, however, and explained that this was a choice. In fact, it was a good, healthy choice for our family. After this initial experience with the "apartment complex" stare, I recognized it more and more. Soon, I had come up with a brilliant explanation that rolled off the tongue, sometimes even before the stare manifested itself.
"You know I have 2 out of the house now and the 2 who are left spend part of the time with their dad and we just didn't need the 5 bedroom, 3 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a dining room and breakfast nook, office and big back yard and actually I don't really like yard work anyway, in fact, I hate it and the kids don't really like it either and although that was a great house for us at a different time in our lives, it's not the place for us now and the kids and I looked at a lot of smaller places and the apartment is the one they chose, it will be like and adventure and we really only have to live there for a year and if we don't like it we can move so it will kind of be like a yearlong vacation...oh, and we don't have to shovel snow either." Whew!
It was ridiculous, but something good did eventually come of it. As I verbal vomited all over a single mom friend of mine one day, she breathed a heavy sigh and confessed that even though she got the house in the divorce, it had become a bit of a burden. It needed new windows and flooring. She'd been eying some new condos, but...A few weeks later another mom friend called to tell me they were moving out of their 5 star hotel house and into an apartment. "We've become slaves to it," she said. Both of these friends seemed relieved to tell someone who understood and didn't judge and didn't give them the stare.
I guess it's no different than the look I give empty-nesters who choose mortgage over retirement or young couples who buy the biggest, baddest, fanciest, shmanciest house while still paying off crippling student loans. Perhaps instead of giving the stare, we should all just smile and ask, "are you happy there" and if the answer is yes, then we should be happy for them. After all, home really is where the heart is and should require no explanation.