TAMPA, August 15, 2012 - A while back, we tried renting a house in the suburbs. It was challenging. I went to a neighborhood party once for about five minutes and tried to make friends.
One word: Ewww.
I didn’t mind getting a tour from the homeowner who waxed poetic about the benefits of custom-made furniture. Seriously, I didn’t realize someone could talk for so long without taking a breath or asking my name. I didn’t realize someone could be that petty and ramble nonstop about how the previous owners were the “do-it-yourself” types who “bought everything at Home Depot” and didn’t care that the house “looked typical” but that “thank God we have better taste than that.”
What’s wrong with Home Depot? And would I be judged because my husband knows how to work a hammer?
Besides, I didn’t think ordering furniture from sweatshops in Sri Lanka was all that impressive.
But really, that didn’t bother me. I asked tons of questions, nodded and encouraged the crazy talk.
It didn’t bother me when I heard a partygoer whisper to someone, “They may have a nice house, but it doesn’t have our view.”
Nope. That was all okay. Fine with me.
What angered me was this – Elaine, my next-door neighbor, complained about morning routines with her three children and how they were always running late. So I told a funny story about how I said the same 66 things every day and decided to write them down in a Behavior Book. My children were taking responsibility for themselves, marking off what they do without being asked, and my sanity had been saved.
Elaine didn’t laugh at my jokes or look impressed with my ability to problem-solve.
“Yeah,” she snorted, “good luck with that. You know, I’m a special ed teacher and I can’t be bothered with behavior management in the classroom or at home. I am not going to give children credit or points for doing what they should be doing. I’m too busy. They know how to behave. Behave.”
I tried to go to my happy place. Her oldest son is notoriously rude to adults and clearly lacking any attention from his parents. Her youngest son has a speech impediment that needs serious work, yet I bet I can guess her philosophy for that as well.
“You know how to speak. Speak.”
Right. When she was done lecturing me on the futility of it all, she looked at her daughter, who was running through the house, and barked, ”Deborah! I’m watching you!” But Elaine didn’t really watch anything except the television and the Brie because her fat rear end didn’t get up from her chair all night.
Then she turned to me once more. “Have you decided where you might eventually want to buy a house?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. ”We might start looking this summer. I just want-”
”I hope you’re not moving anywhere,” she barked. ”Buy the house down the street. I like having your twins around. They play with my son and keep him out of trouble. Don’t you go anywhere.”
I wanted to tell her that I wouldn’t buy the house down the road from her if it came free with a brand new car and a naked man in the kitchen who cooked every meal. I wanted to tell her that the school where her oldest goes is known for violence in the halls and sex in the bathrooms. I wanted to ridicule her for living in an area where the dogs are allowed to poop all over the lawns and the cats are allowed to breed into the thousands.
I wanted to, but I didn’t. I just smiled.
Why did I smile?
Because I’m. Not. Her.
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