Where’s Everyone in Their 20s in Marin?
“My coworker says there’s no such thing as ‘the North Bay’.” I remember when my friend Stephanie told me about this weird argument she’d had and being absolutely galled because, at the time, I was living in San Rafael. (Plus, the North Bay is Craigslist official). But here’s the thing… if you’re in your twenties and you’re living in the Bay Area, the North Bay might as well not exist. This was one of the most jarring things to get used to when I moved to Marin County after college.
I had a job in Mill Valley and there was no way in hell I was going to commute over a bridge every day, so I settled in San Rafael. Generally speaking, I liked living there. It was low key, pretty as heck with lots of hiking trails, and sunny in the summertime. However, it’s weirdly bereft of people younger than 40 and older than 21. Oakland is absolutely teeming with millennials, Berkeley too, and San Francisco has way more than you’d ever expect given the cost… but during the three years I lived in San Rafael I saw way more deer than I saw people in their twenties. Where the hell was everyone?
Walking around town it seemed as if the oldest young people were fresh from high school, and the youngest old people were fifteen years deep into their careers and starting to have kids. Sometimes I’d work up the courage to go to a bar by myself, have a single drink, and leave. Hiking in Marin at least got me outside. I met a couple people in their twenties that way, but not many and some were just avid hikers who’d driven in from around the Bay. It all started to feel kind of futile, and eventually, I started going to meet ups in the city just because there were more options.
I was stupidly grateful when my friend Stephanie moved to Marin for a job. She had an internship that paid her in housing — not a bad deal until you realize you’re working 40 hours a week and still have to buy groceries. The first people I met in Marin who were in their twenties were all connected to this place. There was the outdoorsy biologist, her boyfriend, the girl who fell asleep in my backseat and screamed when she woke up and saw the cop that had pulled me over, and there was… oh wait, that was it. The housing they got gratis with the job was in a middle-of-nowhere part of Marin. If I hadn’t known Stephanie already, I doubt I would have ever come across any of them. No one stayed at this job for longer than a year and as far as I know, no one was especially eager to stay in Marin once they left. Stephanie wound up moving to the East Bay.
At one point I was looking for a car and chatting with the dealer during a test drive. He was in his early-thirties (close enough!) and he not only lived in San Rafael, but had grown up there. More than info about the car, I wanted to know if he knew of any good bars for people who weren’t approaching their cougar years. He told me that he preferred going out in the East Bay. For him, going to local bar meant going to the Nickel Rose (now the Spitfire Lounge) and having an awkward run-in with someone he knew from high school.
Living in San Rafael worked for me, but really only because I worked in Marin. By the time I left my Mill Valley job for one in San Francisco, I was already going into the City or the East Bay one or two times a week to socialize. Unless the plan was to go hiking, it didn’t make sense for my friends to come visit me, because getting to-and-from Marin by public transportation can be an expedition sometimes. There aren’t as many jobs in Marin, so no reason to move there like I did. It’s lack of diversity and young people, it’s inexplicable housing costs, and it’s (not totally unfounded) reputation for being home to some of the Bay Area’s most bougie assholes are also perfectly good reasons to not want to live there.
Still, I sometimes wonder if there was some social hub that I just never stumbled upon while I lived there. In fact, I’m bracing myself for comments telling me I’m full of shit, c’est la vie. Or did everyone in their twenties end up spending their time elsewhere, like me? So where is everyone in their twenties in Marin? Probably somewhere cooler.