Ah, the bliss of suburban Philadelphia in summer.
On a recent balmy, breezy Wednesday night, Amanda*, a pretty, youthful-looking mom in her early 40s who lives in a roomy stone house in Ardmore, put her daughter to bed and went outside to her patio to enjoy the warm evening with her husband, Mark. There, overlooking their swimming pool and beds of lilies and hydrangeas, she and Mark, who’s a successful money manager, had another glass of their favorite La Crema chardonnay. Then Amanda and Mark did something that was less Main Line and more Phish concert: They fired up a fattie, and got high like teenagers.
A couple of years ago, Amanda, who attends lunches in Chanel and Burberry and spends weekends shopping in New York, would have stuck with just the chardonnay to unwind after the homework, the cooking, the dishes and the dog-walking, but more recently, she and Mark have been toking up several times a month.
Mark gets the pot from his brother (who has a mysterious source somewhere in the wilds of New Jersey), and Amanda and Mark smoke outside mainly because they want to keep the smell from waking up their daughter (though she’s so young, Amanda says, she wouldn’t actually know what the smell was). If their neighbors, with whom Mark and Amanda are friendly, sniff the smoke drifting over into their yard, the couple figures they’ll likely be more jealous than disapproving. Who knows? Given the current Bob Marley-ish climate in our once-conservative suburbs, the couple next door would probably poke their heads through the hedge and ask to join in the fun.
“About half the people I know on the Main Line smoke pot,” Amanda estimates. “It’s so much more prevalent than people think. I’m not talking daily use,” she clarifies, “but recreationally, or at a party. People aren’t open about it, exactly, but at a party, they’ll go off into a room and smoke it.”
Amanda is politically conservative, and one of the most responsible and precise people I’ve met, so her occasional pot-smoking at first seems completely out of left field. But there’s a regular boom of stoners over 35 in Philly and the suburbs these days, and the people toking up might be that attractive couple at the next table at Savona, with the baseball-playing kids and the high-stakes careers.
Pot, it seems, is having a moment. Around Philly, the heady smell of marijuana is floating out from Rittenhouse Square terraces, from suburban townhouse windows, from the living rooms of Chester County farmhouses. Bankers smoke it on Saturdays on the way to a round of golf at the club. Narberth moms smoke after yoga class. Kids driving you crazy? Dad’s going to take the dog for a walk in the woods behind the house, and no, you can’t come with him. Seemingly easier to obtain than a reservation at Amis, pot is the new status hobby in the suburbs.
“It’s not looked at as a big deal,” says Bridget, a mom of two in Bryn Mawr. “At cocktail parties, people smoke pot. It’s therapeutic, a way to relax. And a lot of people think it’s less damaging to their bodies than drinking.”