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Monday, May 25, 2009

Awkwardly Neighborly

I guess I'm not very neighborly.

Well, that's not entirely true. I want to be neighborly. I like the idea of being neighborly, but it doesn't come naturally for me.

I don't think it's because I'm an asshole. I mean, I don't think I'm an asshole.
I think it's because I'm so nice that I don't want to infringe upon other people's privacy. Okay, truth be told, I don't like people infringing upon mine.

Neighbors, for me, have always been people you sort of look through, with your eyes semi-glazed over. If they are good neighbors, they look at you with the same semi-glazed over look. They don't look at you, directly with accusative curiosity that says, "Holy shit, I totally heard you two going at it last night, you dirty little slut" or "Clean up your kitchen you friggin slobs" (my neighbors can actually see inside my kitchen here. Whatever, shut up, I don't care if you think it's sick that I forgot to put my cheese away, mkay?)

I've never felt compelled to get to know my neighbors or get involved in their lives in any way. The likelihood of the sudden conversion from really nice dude that lives next door into goddamn snoopy asshole has always been too high to warrant the risk involved in interaction.

In my neighborhood growing up, of course, I knew the neighborhood kids (we had a trampoline which made our house a powerful magnet for booger-nosed kids), but I never knew any of the adult's names, not even the next door neighbors or those living directly across the street (after living there for six years). My mom and step dad didn't either. I guess we were sort of quiet folk who kept to ourselves and I learned to be non-neighborly by watching my parents non-neighborliness (okay, total anti-social parents). In fact, on our block, the neighbors would have block parties for the 4th of July and Halloween but the cut-off point was our house and they would fence their little block party off with that plastic tape stuff just before reaching our yard. Fucking assholes. I didn't want to go to your stupid potluck anyway what with all your happy neighborly chatting and mutual babysitting and cup-of-sugar borrowing.

So, you see, it takes great effort on my behalf to be neighborly with my new friendly neighbor due to the trauma of having been rejected for neighborly potlucks.

She's lovely, really she is. She's a good looking and friendly young-ish Norwegian engineer with excellent English and Spanish and she seems like she has a really interesting story to tell. Her only flaw seems to be her proximity to me. And by proximity I mean from my couch, her head is about 8 feet from my head directly in front of me staring at me (or at least it feels like she's staring at me). A car can barely go down the street I live on without scraping itself up and when I open my curtains (which are totally necessary for dancing to Ring of Fire in my underwear and freaking my husband the fuck out as to how the hell he ended up with me), I see her. Right there. Sitting on her terrace. ALL THE DAMN TIME. She is there as I type this. If I need to scratch my butt right now she's gonna see it. Hello. Um. Hi.

It's her right. That terrace is hers. It's not her fault that our houses are positioned in such a way that when she is sitting there sipping her tea she is staring directly into my living room and dammit, are those underwear on my living room floor? How did those get there? Uh, hi.

Up until recently, it was no big deal, just shut the curtains and adios amigos. But Luisito, having the neighborly spirit that he has, often goes out to the balcony to have a smoke and so they have begun chatting and he has begun pestering me to go and be neighborly to the poor new neighbor that doesn't know anyone and doesn't have any friends.

And so I did. And I should be thankful to have such a wonderful neighbor.

But now, my problem is that when I want to prance around in my underwear, or dance to Ring of Fire at will, especially at night, or eat a meal without being scrutinized, I feel I have to first close the shutters, which is always extremely awkward for me because she's always RIGHT THERE. I always feel like I'm accusing her of being nosy just by the act of closing my own fucking shutters. Which means, that I usually leave them open to avoid the awkwardness of it all and cut out the Ring of Fire underwear dancing ritual and in fact, I've started picking crap up and putting the cheese away.

But leaving the shutters open has created further awkwardness. It's like I can feel the weird dilemma between us of the shutting and/or leaving of the curtains and shutters open.

Sometimes I wait until she runs in to go to the bathroom or something and then when she comes back she finds my closed shutters. And I have no idea if she's relieved I shut them or if she thinks I'm a total rude bitch.

Okay, I'm a weird un-neighborly neighbor, and aren't you glad we don't live next door to each other? I guess I might come across as unfriendly. Even though I like you.

It's just that this place makes me claustrophobic.

Maybe I just need to knock it off and be nice to people.

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Denise May 25, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

I've noticed that neighbourliness in the city is a rare commodity - so rare, I haven't found it yet.

And yea! Shutter etiquette. A book could be written on that. In the city, I have to shut my ground floor shutters even if I only leave the room (nice "neighbourhood"), with the end result that I rarely bother to open them as they have about 6 bolts each and it all gets very boring. In the village, I have to get up to open them in the morning, otherwise the neighbours worry about me (and then I go back to bed).

I've aways hated lace curtains, but I'm beginning to see that they have their uses. But somehow, I can't see you with lace curtains.

Mongoliangirl May 25, 2009 at 7:45 PM  

I have no idea why, but I just recently started being OK with people just showing up out here to visit. Previously, I would give the stare down, a little lecture about calling before they show up, and then send them on their way.
Who knows?

The Unbearable Banishment May 26, 2009 at 5:12 AM  

The problem is that you can never tell if you’re an asshole. That’s for other people to decide. I found out, much to my utter shock and awe, that I have been an asshole in my past. I’m not bragging. I hate the thought but they were right. I was being an asshole.

A Free Man May 26, 2009 at 6:14 AM  

Dancing to 'Ring of Fire' in your underwear - hell yeah! I'm going to assume the original, because I'll be terribly disappointed in you if you tell me that it's the Dwight Yoakam or Social Distortion or any other cover versions.

One thing I don't miss about Europe is the proximity of the neighbors.

Gwen May 26, 2009 at 8:21 AM  

I live in one of those condo/townhouse communities. The proximity is frustrating but all of our neighbors are about as private as we are. In fact, and this is a shock to me because I am such an introvert by nature, I find myself saddened by the fact that my neighbors keep to themselves so much. All of the people I know have made friends with their neighbors. I'm a homebody so I would LOVE it to have a best friend living downstairs that could just come up for coffee with me, or take a walk, or keep me from swallowing a bottle of pills. You know, the usual :) I don't think it makes you unneighborly or unfriendly to want your privacy. Close your shutters when you need to. I'm sure your neighbor understands. And keep dancing in your underwear to Ring of Fire! That's one of the most fun things - dancing around in underwear. I usually pick show tunes or, embarrassingly enough, Britney Spears.

Gypsy May 26, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

I'm totally unneighborly. I mean, I wave and all, and I'll chat if they start it, but mostly I just avoid. My mother, however, met all of my neighbors the week she was here. I don't know how she does it. I kind of want to be left alone. They're all old anyway, and I don't want 'em all up in my bidness.

Wow. I'm heartless.

Anonymous May 26, 2009 at 6:17 PM  

I can't imagine having people that close. In my neighborhood, everyone has at least an acre, and that's still too close for me. Of course, I also hide from people in the grocery store. I once hid from my own mother and sister in Target. Oh, and in first grade my best friend was the daughter of June Carter Cash's first husband.

Yo Momma May 26, 2009 at 8:45 PM  

living most of my life in Cali. Neighbors are always in close proximity but no one is out of their way neighborly. I mean, you wave and say hello if you happen to out at the same time but that's about it. You should let nothing get between you and your Ring of Fire dance. NOTHING. Shut those curtains and dance your ass off. I'm sure she'll be as relieved as you are.

Ellie May 26, 2009 at 11:04 PM  

Show down at the OK corral. No Norwegian's going to take a suburban cowgirl like Blues down! What you do: you dance that ring of fire dance in your underwear with the curtains open and watch her reaction.

(a) Goes inside. Interpretation: she's a bit frigid and doesn't appreciate a good ring of fire underwear dance.

(b) She keeps sipping her tea, and doesn't appear to notice. Interpretation: she's not offended, might even appreciate the spirit, but has the decorum to pretend she's not witnessed your display of verve.

(c) She winks at you. Interpretation: You might want to close the curtains. (or wink back!) ;-)

Thanatos June 3, 2009 at 11:47 AM  

Maybe you can close the curtains at like 4 am and never open them ever again.

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