Meeting The Neighbors

I met some new neighbors and the couple visiting them and witnessed something akin to spousal abuse. Woo.

The neighbors across the street are high-functioning alcoholics. They maintain good jobs, they are responsible, they are kind, and they do not have any physical ailments related to the daily boozing. That said, they drink. A lot. In this regard they do not differ much from the majority of people I hung out with when I was in Atlanta. I’m acclimated to high-functioning drinkers, and to those that are not quite as adept at maintaining a boozahol / everything else in life kind of balance. After literally picking friends and acquaintances up on sidewalks, and holding hair for vomiters, and hearing tales of hangover woe, and fending off bleary advances from sticky, wobbly, wandering hands, and witnessing drunken fuckwittery and alcoholic shoutiness (“I hate everyone and everyone hates me, blarrrrrr!”), and saving furniture from un-extinguished smoking materials in passed-out paws, and much more, I’m at peace with my drinkin’ neighbors.

The new neighbors are also drinkin’ neighbors. At least the two women I met are drinkin’ fools. One lives next door, the other was visiting with her husband. I was hanging out with the across-the-way neighbors and the gals came to visit and stayed. Their husbands decided to take a dim view of this, as they were apparently unable to entertain themselves and unwilling to join the impromptu party. Fuckwittery ensued.

The men wandered over with a hyperactive terrier and attempted to lure the ladies back to their house. They were unwilling to leave. The men retreated, and, I am guessing, became obsessed with the idea that their women were not snapping to it and getting their heinies home immediately. They flicked the porch light on and off, stood on their porch and shouted across the street for the women to come back inside, and so on. The ladies declined to do so.

The visiting wife proceeded to vent a lot of personal angst. Her husband is a youth minister, and he doesn’t approve of her having a cigarette, and he doesn’t approve of her having a beer, and so on and so forth. Screw that, we said. Screw that, she concurred.

The next door neighbor lady eventually gave up when her husband embarrassed her by coming back over and demanding that she go to bed right away. The visiting wife held out and continued to chat and vent and smoke and drink and, all in all, enjoy herself. Note that it was only about 10PM and it was a Friday night and she was at least 25 years old.

At about 10:15, the door across the street slammed open, slammed shut, and the visiting minister husband stomped his way over and shouted at her to get her ass inside right that second. And she fucking DID. She went. We thought he was going to hit her.

As much as the across-the-way neighbor lady and I dislike discussing other people (our own issues are much more interesting, I guess), we were unable to hold back, and proceeded to huff back and forth to ourselves about this shittiness. We could actually hear yelling from inside the house across the street until well after midnight. Note that the visiting husband said something about how it was discourteous for them to keep their host and hostess up late–this was supposedly the reason he was so irate and demanding her obedience. Does not compute.

We were further charmed when the visiting husband stomped BACK over to claim his wife’s shoes, which she had not been wearing, and which were not with us. We were concerned that we were going to be physically assaulted, frankly.

Meanwhile, I haven’t been drinking at all, and I’m not finding any of this crap cute or funny, and have been responding with exaggerated politeness and calmness to everything the angry man says. Nice angry doggy! (Where’s my stick?) The goal was to give him a subtle hint, by way of contrast between his rude belligerence and our calm reasonableness, that there was no need to be a raging arsehole. This did not work, but he did go away.

It’s been two weeks now and the nice next door neighbor lady has not been seen (at least by me) since. I guess she’s been embarassed or scared away from making friends in the neighborhood or something.

Would you call this spousal abuse? Was it some kind of fundie Man Rules The Roost mindset? Was it an insecure 20-something young husband who can’t admit that he doesn’t like going to bed alone any more? Were the men also drunk, and thus far more idiotic than was necessary or normal for them? I don’t know. But it was unpleasant.

I had a male roommate in North Carolina who tried that “I’m the man, you’ll do as I say!” stuff on me exactly once. I’m not a ball-breaking feminist (I doubt these mythical beings actually exist, actually), but I’m an adult, for fuck’s sake, and I’ll be damned if anyone, regardless of gender, tells me what I am or am not going to do if they are not in a position of authority such as judge, police officer, professor, or what-have-you. And even then, they need to follow the rules that go along with their position of authority. Know what I mean? This roommate and I were not even dating, not that this would have excused it. We shared RENT. At the time, I was carrying HIS ass from month to month, and being understanding about it. Shit happens. Everyone is going to have a time in their life when they may need an understanding roommate. This, however, was not acceptable.

I also got the message, loud and clear, especially as he raised his voice about his demands on me, that an abusive association was likely to result. I put a lock on my door, stayed out of the house as often as possible, saved my pennies, and bailed. It’s a much longer and messier story than that, but that’s the gist of it. He did contact me via a letter scrawled on the back of some receipts and restaurant guest checks and sent to my mother’s address a few months later, begging pardon for his assiness, and blaming it on any number of things (without taking full responsibility or claiming it wouldn’t happen again, notably), but I declined to respond. Duh.

Incidentally, I live in an older neighborhood and most of the residents are retirement-age or older but new families with kids are starting to move in. Elderly people in large cars and unattended children are a bad combination. There is no speed limit posted, but the neighborhood association has made it clear that 25mph is reasonable for the ‘hood.

We had an Aggravating Bro Family in the neighborhood until recently. (I say Bro and not Redneck because they were apparently slightly more white collar and had more teeth than the average Redneckus Americanus and their vehicles appeared to be mostly Bondo-free, plus none of the children were roaming about clad in JUST a diaper (that I saw)…but it’s often hard to tell the breeds apart.) They owned FIVE large vehicles and about as many children. The FIVE large vehicles could not fit in their yard, and their lot was located at a curve in the road. What do they do? Park two or three of the large vehicles (SUVs, vans, lifted trucks) in the road right at the curve, meaning that they render a two lane road impassable in one direction, so you risk head-on collision going past their house. Then they let their kids ride bikes and run about in the roadway. So far, so bad, right? Well, before they finally moved, to the entire neighborhood’s delight, their favorite hobby was standing in their front yard drinking beer, not supervising the children, and shooting the bird and yelling at passing motorists for going the posted speed limit, complete with obscene commands to “slow the fuck down!” and so on. Even more delightful, occasional missiles like pine cones or sticks were hurled at passing cars to underscore their comments. Yet more fun, the four- and five-year-old children learned to yell at the motorists rather than to stay out of the damn street.

Nothing is more adorable than a snot-faced sprog trying to master the muscle coordination required to shoot you a bird and offering unsolicited commentary on your driving skills when they are in the fucking road at ten at night and their damn parents have parked two or three enormous vehicular behemoths in the fucking roadway. They’d often do this while the parents were RIGHT THERE egging them on (to be obnoxious, not to get their arses out of the road).

They let their dogs run wild and out into the street as well. It is truly a miracle that no children or dogs were pancaked during their all-too-lengthy stay in the neighborhood.

Good riddance. I finally verified (my across-the-street lush-y neighbors know ALL) that the peace and quiet I’d noticed were not my imagination, the Bro Family was gone. Huzzah! There was much rejoicing.

There were other, less earth-shaking events. I became That Neighbor, and I felt bad about it. The yard was neglected (due to wet and miserably hot weather, a freakishly busy schedule, and lack of obsessiveness about lawns in general) until the grass went to seed, which is what those nearly uncuttable tall things with black Vs on top are. Aggressive grass trying to spread grass babies all over the place. There could be a long and boring saga here about the elderly yardman and the apparently Alzheimer’s-afflicted elderly crone neighbors we share him with (or did) and some possible amusing surreal conversations with the dotty neighbors about the yardman’s well-being (or lack thereof–he’s nearly 85) and so on, but you’re better off missing out on that.

So. Yard grew too much, Mom whinged about it and guilted and blackmailed me until I had to get over my admittedly stupid lawnmower phobia (last THREE times I used a mower, I managed to get injured somehow, so I developed a “thing” about mowers as a result…I have nice scars from where projectiles were lobbed at me at high speed by evil mowers and, ten years later, these scars still decorate my lower legs). Spent a miserable five hours attempting to get new evil mower to function and mowing around chuckholes and fire ant nests and sharp, pointy sticks and the electric cord powering the mower and snakes and some flora (one type of which I am apparently extremely allergic to), after which I managed to mow 3/5ths of the yard before saying “never more!” and giving it all up as a bad job. I now have to find someone willing to mow the damned grass. I don’t have the skills.

Eventually I will live in a condo specifically so someone else has to worry about the frickin’ grass cutting and the neighbors whipping out their mental yardsticks and checking the height of the grass fronds to make sure they are robotically precise and even with everyone else’s. I like tall grass. It doesn’t bother me until it becomes possible to lose a shoe or pet or small child in the yard. That’s too tall. Golf course grass is not a high priority in my life. I doubt I’d be sexually attracted to anyone neurotic about mowing, so I can’t count on having a husband or live-in partner who digs yardwork in the future. See? I’m doomed to condo ownership…a condo with yard service.

Irritatingly, I do love gardens. It’s the upkeep that kills me. I’m just not an outdoorsy person. I like to parcel out my outdoors time as a result, which means I want to go sit in a garden and enjoy it, not grub about with a hoe. I want to go for a walk up a mountain, but I can do nicely without going potty under a shrub. I enjoy the genteel allure of a porch swing or a gazebo, but I am less fond of bugs and weeds.

This is akin to the reason why I appreciate vaulted ceilings in theory, but not so much in practice. Who is going to dust the damned things? Or change the bulbs in the fixtures?

I’m just going to have to earn enough money one day to hire a gardener and a housekeeper to come in weekly and bail me out of my unhouseproud messes, or learn to love basic maintenance chores.

To be fair, when I have the tools at hand, I am very good at keeping up with things. A functional washer and dryer and ample closet space = I have a perfectly maintained wardrobe at all times. A working dishwasher = dinner dishes get done right away, not the next morning. If you want to cook, a working stove and oven are required. I’m just saying. If I have sufficient shelf space, no book gets stacked in a teetering pile. I need to pare down my material goods further than I already have, true, but it’s amazing how much easier it is to be houseproud when you have the right tools. My first three apartments were immaculate at all times with anal-retentive vacuum tracks in the carpeting. Then again, my responsibilities were fewer, I had more free time, and I had the necessary tools to make cleaning up on a par with Adrian Monk a feasibility.

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