Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer
Fifteen years ago, I was shopping for my first house when I realized I had no idea exactly what it was I wanted. I grew up on a farm with a house smack in the middle of a valley of trees, pasture and corn fields so I was lacking some of the social necessities of being a ‘neighbor.’
I had no idea what it meant to have to “keep up with the Joneses,” and I never saw my mother so desperate for sweetener that she needed to bang on someone else’s door and demand they fill her measuring cup with sugar. I just didn’t get it. And, after a good fifteen years, I still don’t.
Growing up in such isolation taught me self-reliance and a good feeling for minding my own business. Even as an adult, as public as I might seem between my published work, music and television appearances, I tend to be a bit of an introvert. It’s not that I’m unfriendly, quite the opposite, but I just feel like I should keep my nose in my own cupboard and leave others to do the same.
For some, however, that’s not the case. When I first considered a suburban home, I visited several developments and each put me in mind of TV shows of years past. On TV, the houses looked all the same and there was always that one, nosey neighbor who just couldn’t keep off your grass.
Inevitably, I think of Gladys Kravits, the screeching butinsky from “Bewitched,” who spent her day tormenting her happily ignorant husband Abner all about the goings on at the Stevens home across the street. Granted, there were weird things happening on Morning Glory Circle (that’s the street where Samantha and Darren lived on the show), but rarely did those events directly impact the neighbors.
I tend to be an observer of human behavior, which helps me, I hope, to be a good writer. I’ve noticed over the years that the preoccupation of people with the activities of their neighbors can be close to a debilitating obsession.
Constant worry about the concerns of others is, to my mind, ridiculous and kind of neurotic. What if you did nothing all day but ponder such things like … When did John cut his grass – for the tenth time? How did Bob buy that above ground pool when he doesn’t make that kind of money? Do those people have anything else to do but remodel their house every month?
It can get out of control. I’m hoping that level of unwarranted curiosity isn’t the norm but the exception. I would hate to think that my comings and goings were costing a good night’s sleep to anyone but me. That’s not to say that even rural suburbs don’t offer some level of low-brow entertainment of a kind that would even sour Jerry Springer’s sensibilities.
Fortunately, where I finally chose to buy a home turned out to be the perfect fit for me. But I know people who live in suburbs where you can’t make a move without someone commenting on it or having an opinion to gossip about. I’m sure it happens everywhere, but I think people should spend their time worrying about their own lives and stay out of the affairs of others.
If the concerns of those around you occupy your thoughts more than your own actions, it might be time to take a look in a mirror instead of out the front window. Being nosey isn’t the same as being neighborly.
Thoughtful compassion for a neighbor with a sick parent or welcoming a new baby is not the same as feeling the compulsion to always see what’s going on next door. It’s important for people to know the difference and respect those boundaries.