A harsh spotlight has been shone on the city of Milton — and Alpharetta, Roswell and Sandy Springs — in a recently released book called “Next Stop, RELOVILLE — Life Inside America’s New Rootless Professional Class,” by former New York Times reporter Peter T. Kilborn.
Kilborn’s thesis rests on the assumption that, because many of us have moved numerous times with companies such as UPS and Coca-Cola, we have arrived here in Georgia for only a brief stay, despite having invested in large, luxurious homes complete with swim, tennis and golf amenities. According to Kilborn, behind the lovely facade rests rootless, unhappy families, with fathers who travel all week, kids who remain insecure about school and friends, and mothers who work furiously behind the scenes to keep up perfect appearances.
Kilborn bolsters his case by choosing to interview couples who truly are unhappy — they’re tired of moving, tired of having the husband travel so much, and really don’t like living in “McMansions,” where pushy homeowners’ association rules keep them from living their dream.
In one chapter, Kilborn highlights a Milton woman who seems exasperated after living in my supposedly image-conscious neighborhood of White Columns, where, “for wives gathered at the courts and the pool, decked out in bikinis and little tennis dresses, appearance was paramount.” He quotes her as saying: “There are a lot of people in their forties who have had plastic surgery, laser surgery, breast implants. ... The big graduation gift for girls leaving high school is a breast implant.”
Let’s get this out now: There are many shallow people in this world, and they don’t all live in Milton! Kilborn loses some journalistic integrity when he chooses not to find even one Milton woman who plays tennis because she’s really good, is attractive because she’s naturally pretty, or who has managed, despite not knowing where she’ll live next year, to become involved in school, church and community where she can find other fascinating, intelligent women.
I wish Kilborn had focused on what matters more to families who have to move a lot, such as: How do you keep your marriage strong? How do you develop your kids’ self-esteem without overindulging and overprotecting them? What can you do to maintain the functionality and beauty of your community — even though you may move away? The only answer Kilborn gives is to not live in a place like Alpharetta, Milton, Sandy Springs or Roswell, and to stop moving once you find that other place.
Ironically, if this recession continues, our North Fulton RELOVILLE cities may end up as something entirely different — and that’s the more intriguing issue Kilborn doesn’t address.
Veronica Buckman is a writer and resident of Milton for six years.
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