I'm a Victim.
When I was 16 I got yelled at in a parking lot by a stranger. I had exited my (mom's) car and was heading into the mall when this young mother type pushing a stroller stopped me and told me that she was sure I was young and busy but I needed to remember there were other people in the parking lot and to be mindful of my speed because at the rate I was going I could have hit a toddler. In retrospect, I want to tell her an in-the-way toddler would still get hit no matter the rate at which the car was traveling.
Anyway, her confrontation affected me in a very emotional and personal way and on the verge of tears, I called my friend Cedes (pronounced Say-deez) for support. It was later in the evening and I wasn't the type of kid who hung out at the mall. I was on some sort of destination trip and I was so upset. I had only had my license for a few months and this mom had told me I was a trained killer.
Cedes calmed me down and told me all mothers are uptight and the speed limit in malls is 10 mph. I was the type of kid that went the speed limit (seriously). I was a good kid, I doubt I was going any faster than the average person in that parking lot, and gee whiz, lady, I was 16 and I was already working two jobs and only getting to the mall right before it closed.
Once I was calmer I wanted to go find that lady and tell her some things. I wanted to tell her that I understood that she had supernatural mother concerns but that I was being responsible and that I wasn't acting like no one else existed. I wanted to tell her that stereotypes were bad and then tell her my life story. I wanted to tell her how hard I had worked to even get behind the wheel of a car. That I had gotten a job the minute I turned 16 so I could pay for a driver's ed course. That only after I had saved $300 could I even take the class and only then, months and years after everyone I knew, did I procure a driver's license. I wanted to tell her that I was borrowing my mom's car and I wouldn't be able to afford my own until I was 20 and living off student loans so I could go to college. I wanted her to understand ME, who I was! before judging. And apologize for making her (unfoundedly) nervous.
This evening, one of the neighbor dad types (R--'s husband, J--) stopped by to talk to me about the party we had last night. You know, six people staying over late, maybe being a little loud. It wasn't a rager, but I could understand the physics of noise traveling.
I apologized profusely. I told him that I understood where he was coming from and that I would take physics into consideration in the future. I told him that it was helpful to know what was disruptive or how late disruptiveness was occurring so I could be more aware of what the problem was.
Because I DO get that. I don't want to be a bad neighbor. I DON'T want to ruin people's lives by interrupting their sleeping or preventing them from sleeping. I want to be a respectful person. I was to take responsibility for my actions and do my best to respect other people.
And I said ALL THOSE THINGS. I was sweet and apologetic and articulate and he just kept hammering (nicely) into me how serious of an offense this was (or threatened to be). He kept interrupting my apologies to make me feel worse. He told me how many people wake up at 4 in the morning to start their days. He told me that someone in our hood is sick. He told me that there are small children. He told me that his son could hear us even though he was playing music. It was that kind of excessiveness. I was apologetic. I told him it wouldn't happen again and just kept pushing it.
And honestly, the man was exaggerating.
I feel emotional about the situation. I feel exactly like I'm 16 again and a mom is telling me that I don't deserve to drive. I feel invalidated and guilty and so very, very, sorry. I feel regret. I feel the need to turn back time and muffliato our house.
But the infraction occurred at 10 at night. That is not that late. His son stopped by at 10 and said we were being too loud. We apologized and took appropriate measures to decrease our volume. I tried to get J-- to tell me that the noise persisted after that but he didn't say that. He had no idea.
And he didn't know exactly who it was that was sick. Which means he got that second hand. And I know who fed him that tidbit of information. Remember C--? I will bet money that C-- told him that A-- was sick. (C-- also once told me that J-- was a bad husband. And that L--, the diabetic who apparently wakes up at 4, was lazy. Oh, and A-- owes her a million favors she's never paid back.This party drama seems just the thing she could get her bonnet all twisted gossiping about.)
And there are no small children in our district. There are three high schoolers. One of the high schoolers has friends come parading through our yard several times a week.
There are plenty of things about living in such close quarters that are unpleasant to live with. For example, somebody in our district receives a ride at 7:10 a.m. every single morning (even the weekends). I know this because the ride pulls up in the alley at honks three times. THREE TIMES. I wake up every time and curse the honking system.
When people drive the busy street we're next to I can hear their music. If they've got the bass up high I can feel it in the shower. As quaint as it looks, we're not in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Waking up at 4 a.m. is an unfortunate course of life and I'll do what I can to respect that, but it's not my thing. It's not my job to pull the sun down when you want to go to bed early. There has to be a line somewhere.. what is expected and what is crossing the line. Noise from 9 - 10 p.m. in a neighboring house is hardly law-breaking.
When we moved in (in January) we were accepted with open arms. The neighbors were so happy to have some nice girls come. The people before us were hated--they had, after all, had illegal pets and painted the walls crazy colors!--and so the shoes were easy to fill because we weren't them.
But still being what these neighbors want isn't easy. When a new family moved in last month C-- told me she was worried because they looked like gang-bangers. Carolyn and I thought that was a weird statement to make; there were sunflower decorations on the front porch and what is a gang-banger, anyway? But I met them a few days later and it dawned on me that they had been judged on their ethnicity.
I don't want to make excuses. Hell, I don't need to make excuses. I've been having parties here regularly for six months and this is the first time we've drawn attention. (And I know this is the first time because passivity does not exist here.) Our windows are stuck open right now which means the sound is traveling like crazy. I tried to tell J-- this so he would understand why it was so loud and he thought I was just making an excuse. He told me it would be easy, that he or L-- could get them closed. I don't think that's true; every guy I know has felt the need to prove his manliness by trying to close the window and then marveling in the impossibility of it. They're stuck and we're only going to unstick them with a lot of sandpaper.
I want them to understand that I'm sorry.
And I want them to understand that just because we're young doesn't mean we're disrespectful. (J-- suggested that maybe we party at the beach because that's what he did when he was a kid.)
And just because we're young doesn't mean we're not perceptive of the crazy we're surrounded with.
I can choose to never party but that won't change the 7:10 tri-honks or the bass on the street or the singing cat lady when I'm taking an afternoon nap. Not partying isn't going to cure A--'s illness or L--'s diabetes. We're never going to be able to all be happy--we pay too little rent for that. And I wish everybody could just understand that.
I'm a good person.
And, apparently, really defensive.