Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just trying to be neighbourly

We moved one whole year ago already (our whopping 15 block move!), and in this time we have done little to get to know our “new” neighbours. Our new neighbourhood, much like our old neighbourhood, is mostly comprised of seniors -- so other than remarking on the new RV and how lovely the peonies are this year, there isn’t that much kinship going on. However, there are a few “young families” like us. One of our next-door-neighbours are a professional, thirty-something couple with a baby. Still, over the course of a year, we have done little more than wave hello and make very small talk across the lawn.

Until lately . . .

For the past few months, our neighbours have been unusually friendly. OK, perhaps, not “unusually” to normal people, but to cranky Momily it seems that they are very friendly and that they are definitely trying to make friends with us: they have offered to take Daniel on walks to the park to help alleviate our new baby stresses, they have brought over new baby gifts and Daniel gifts, they seem to appear more often than normal to make chit-chat, and they often shovel our walk. We actually know things about their life now and vice versa, and recently we even got the list of emergency phone numbers for when they went on holidays. This is all nice and great – we certainly want to make more couple friends, especially couples with young kids – and they seem like really nice people who we could actually, maybe, be friends with.

But here’s the rub . . . how do you befriend your neighbours? And are there consequences?

D. Sr. and I are prone to some stormy relationship stuff. In other words, we bicker and we fight. Um, we fight a lot and often it is not just bickering. .. it can be extreme yelling and sometimes swearing and, yes, it is terrible to do this in front of our children and we try really hard not to, but it still happens and not infrequently. When our big blow-ups happen there is usually shouting and swearing and name-calling and crying. Sure, they are short in duration and we always make up, but I can’t help but wonder more than ever now, “What do the neighbours think?” I am embarrassed, but I’m not sure that we can reign it all in without imploding and going crazy. It’s just not our way, therefore it’s not natural and shouldn’t we be free to do our thing? I mean, however bizarre and stormy it all is, it’s our passionate way of communication!

The thing about becoming friends with neighbours is that suddenly, it’s all out there! You know how it is normally . . . you go out for dinner with friends. Sweetie pie does or says something to really piss you off and you’re thinking “wait ‘til we get home.” Well, now, waiting ‘til we go home means the neighbours can hear us through their open bathroom window. I don’t like it. The lines between public and private selves seem to be much more blurred than they would with our other friends . . . I mean the neighbours have heard and seen things (i.e. Momily unshowered with bad breath and just overall disgusting hygiene, running quickly out to the car to get something, but instead cornered by chatty neighbour) that our nearest and dearest friends have not.

Sure, I may be overreacting and putting the cart before the horse – we haven’t even been over inside each other’s homes yet (and after our last domestic dispute a few nights ago, I’m guessing that might never happen!). But still, I’m starting to find it troubling . . . like every weed we don’t pull and lawn we don’t mow and every stupid thing that happens in our backyard is on display and up for evaluation. And, of course, every fight we have.

I do not know for sure if they can hear all our dirty laundry or not. I hope not and I hope that if they do, they still want to befriend us. I do know that they are aware that, unlike them, we are slobs and lazy when it comes to yard work. . . and yet they still seem to want to befriend us. And sure it’s true that if they scare easily from an overheard curse word and us making jokes about D. Jr. farting in the backyard then probably we’re not cut out to be friends. It’s just so hard to make new friends at “this age,” and befriending the neighbours is certainly not any easier.

I would love to hear your experiences with befriending the neighbours – good and bad – or if you think it best avoided altogether a la “good fences make good neighbours.”


At 8:00 PM , Anonymous auntie said...

You could drink beer with them and bring your baby monitor (or leave it at home and rely on other neighbors to come tell you that your kid is crying) like my neighbors do. All this done well into the late night hours. It is great bonding time (or bonging time as the case may be).

Tuesday, I talked to my neighbor as she had the month old baby in the carriage, cigarette hanging out of her mouth and a Corona in the other hand. She finally stopped talking to go see where her 3 year old son 'had gotten to'. Oh and this was at about 1:00 p.m.!


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