Neighbors

The Friday before the Monday we were to officially move into our new house, Tom and I stopped by to drop off some stuff and check the mail. As I was standing at the mailbox I heard, “When are y’all moving in?”

It was our soon-to-be across the street neighbor. He crossed the street to introduce himself, and, literally right after learning his name, the next thing he said was, “I sure hope you aren’t like the people that lived there before.”

Ooooh! Serial killers? Public fornicators? Loud parties till the break of dawn every night?

“I think in the last year he said ‘hi’ to me or waved a total of three times.”

Shit.

Personally, I think it’s a bad sign when the first thing someone says is they hope you aren’t like the person that preceded you – it’s judgmental and presumptive. I’m learning that you are negatively judging someone else – that’s the first information I’m learning about you, and you either expect us to behave differently or are ultimately pre-judging us if we’re the same way.

Tom and I are both introverts. We like to keep to ourselves, don’t like people in our business, and are not avid chit chatters. We are approachable and pleasant, but we are not the types to strike up a conversation, while, say, you’re doing yard work because you’re doing yard work and we don’t want to interrupt you. By definition, we find social interactions with people, particularly semi-strangers, to be draining. WE CAN’T HELP IT.

In addition, our new next door neighbor described the previous residents as “unapproachable” after asking us if he could pay to move our air conditioning units to the other side of our house (he had literally only had one brief conversation with us previously and we had only been in our house less than a week before he made this proposal). He also explained that The Unapproachables had a lawn service (so they were never outside to be available to chit chat with, I assume), and that at first it was a wife, husband, and daughter, but then they got a divorce and blah, blah, blah…

Maybe it’s just me, but knowing that I have a neighbor that will ask an outrageous favor/request within a week of us moving in (seriously, that would involve moving around duct work and shit), and knowing that while the neighbors were “unapproachable,” he still seemed to know plenty of their business and was happy to share it with us, makes me understand why perhaps they were unapproachable.

I’m not writing about this to bitch about the neighbors (even though I clearly am), I’m writing this as an example of how extroverts sometimes portray introverts. It really did sadden me to hear someone wish we weren’t like the other people only to find out the other people were just private and kept to themselves. They kept their yard nice, they weren’t a noise nuisance (except for their air conditioning, which is just as noisy as any other air conditioning anywhere else), they waved back if waved to,  they just weren’t outgoing. And you know what? It’s OK if you aren’t outgoing.

It’s obviously not ok to be a giant rude dickweed who spreads jerkageddon everywhere one goes, but keeping to yourself is not the same as being a bad or wrong person. It also doesn’t mean that you hate other people. Hasn’t anyone read To Kill a Mockingbird or even seen Home Alone? That weirdo loner could leave you presents or save you from two cartoon-like burglars some day. I’m not saying I’m going to do that but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

So, we face the choice of forcing it – being something we’re not – or just keep being who we are and not let it get to us. When I think about those two choices I also think about something else the across-the-street neighbor said – “I’ve never seen the inside of that house, they hardly ever had their blinds open.”

Yeah, I’m thinking that the problem wasn’t the previous homeowners. I’ll try and remember that if the guilt of not being constantly available for chatting starts to gnaw at me.

27 thoughts on “Neighbors

  1. As an introvert myself, I would get the thickest blinds I could buy. I HATE socializing and it is exhausting and sometimes stressful. My husband is the outgoing one, so I usually let him field all the questions. Makes it easier, while I run away.

  2. So now you can have fun with your neighbors. I suggest starting out with the two of you furtively wrestling a body-sized plastic bag out to the trunk of your car in the driveway around midnight. Next, tell the neighbor you’ll have fresh eggs for him soon because you’re building a pen for chickens in the back yard. Then tell him you want to apologize in advance if there are any booming sounds and smoke from the basement because you’re working on a “project” he’ll be hearing about during the town’s annual fall festival.

  3. So I was all set to invent the word “extrospective” but it turns out to already exist and, from what I can tell, means what I wanted it to. I don’t know the exact connection between being an introvert and being introspective but I suspect there is one – and that the opposite is true as well. Clearly this guy is looking everywhere but inside himself for the explanations for all things not to his liking. Frustrating.

    If the guilt of not being his ideal neighbor starts to become unbearable, I can bring over some of my largest and most annoying dogs. Then when I leave maybe he’ll see that you guys keeping to yourselves isn’t so bad by comparison.

  4. Yeah, I’m sensing that YOU and your previous neighbors are not the problem. Fuck ’em if they can’t mind their own damn biz. And besides . . . they already had normal people who kept to themselves . . . so you doing it will be no different.

    Have you ever read the book QUIET? It’s about introverts in an extraverted world. I’m in the midst of it. Might wanna read it if both you and Tom fit that description. Just a thought.

  5. I’ve lived here for three years (almost 4) now and I don’t know a single neighbor’s name, what they do, when they get home or leave in the morning, or any of their personal details. I live near Old Guy Who Wears Inadvisable Tank Tops, Young Guy Who Listens to Too Much Barry White, Hot Young Guy Who I Think Might be Building a Kayak in his Living Room, and Nice Young Family with Smiley Kindergartener. This is all I need to know about them. I’m completely cool with this arrangement. They seem to be as well. I like this place. We all do our thing, yo.

  6. Ooooh. That SUCKS. Mike and I are always so grateful we have great neighbors, but they’re both like 100 years old so we live in fear of what might be coming.

    I just didn’t talk to my neighbors for about 5 years. When Mike moved in, he was a little more chatty and now our one neighbor bends his ear for an hour every chance she gets while I dive for cover. “Draining” is the perfect word for it. I would like to be more friendly, but small talk just bores me to tears. I’m not mean, I’m just introverted.

    Great piece! Glad to know I’m not the only one perceived as a bitch!

  7. Yeah…I don’t think the problem was the old neighbors.

    I remember when an old neighbor of mine told me I couldn’t park in my own driveway. I snapped a pic of her granny panties on the line and posted them on the blog.

  8. I’m extraverted to cover for my anxiety disorder and to fend people off from finding out all of my crazy right away. That’s what the blog and twitter are for, right?

    My wife and teenager love to be homebodies and thus left alone. But my two younger kids are still innocent and don’t know that people kinda suck. So I act as a buffer after a couple of pills and three beers. anyway, we have some pretty cool neighbors. and by cool, I mean they say hello, let my daughters hang around, and don’t ask me when I’m going to cut my grass after 3 or 4 weeks roll by.

    Good luck with your dooshy neighbor.

  9. While I have no problem being friends with people who don’t live around me, I always feel like my neighbors are invading my privacy. If my one neighbor so much as says hello, I’m like “What are you, a cop?”

    The only reason I know he isn’t a cop because I have binoculars.

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