How do you spend your time?

It’s the last night of a family visit. My brother-in-law and I are sneaking beers in the kitchen as I wash the dishes when I hear someone calling my name outside. First I think it’s my sister-in-law, and then I realize it’s my neighbor at the fence line. It’s my neighbor, whom I see about twice a year, talking to me in my second-story window, saying bitchy things about my lawn.

And it really fucking hit me where I live. I’m not a neat freak, and DP is worse. We’re working on a project to clear out an extra parking space in the yard. There are a couple piles of dirt and some chewed up yard. The lady who lived here before me was a gardener. I have what some call an English cottage garden. I don’t really like the expanse of mulch and one plant, then more mulch, and then one plant. That’s not how it works in the wild. My plants all grow next to each other and every year I try to figure out what is plant and what is weed.

So I could weed better and we could weed-whack more often. The wood pile could be neater. But we’re trying. And DP and I have been working and writing books and entertaining family and trying. But I never really learned how to garden, and I am sensitive about the state of my house/yard/life.

“I was washing the dishes, talking to (brother-in-law) and there she was, practically calling me trashy,” I told my sister-in-law and DP.

“Wait. So there was a woman yelling at you from her yard to tell you that you were trashy?” DP said.

“Yeah, I guess so.” And then everyone tried to outdo themselves with responses.

“Just tell her that something terrible spilled on the lawn, and it’s probably spreading,” said my brother-in-law.

“I think she was drunk,” I said.

“I wish I were drunk,” my sister-in-law said with her blond hair in two small braids, “then I’d have something to tell her.”

And I looked at these people who are my married-into family. These people love me, they have my back, and I have theirs If one of you had told me that story, I would have said, “Fuck her. Who has time to mow the lawn every week?”

I may be a mess, but I sure as fuck was raised better than to yell at someone for their housekeeping. I know better than to yell about housekeeping to someone who is minding her business inside her own fucking house. Jesus H. Christ. How do you respond to people messing with you (literally and figuratively) where you live.

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7 responses to “How do you spend your time?

  1. “I’ll admit I’m messy, but I do have manners. And personal hygiene.”

    My expression, copied from my pre-teen, adds the final, essential “So %#&% you.”

  2. This gives me that icky feeling inside, the one I get when I’ve been dressed down in front of people for something I know is at least partly true, or something that’s already been bothering me. I can also relate because I know ZERO about flowers and plants and gardening and, compared to my neighbors’ elaborate and well-tended yards, mine is basically a few bushes and a bunch of bark so the dogs have a place to do their business.

    Like your relatives, my first thought is Fuck Them and the Ass They Rode In On!! But none of us have to live next to this woman long-term.

    • Ha! My mother-in-law (who was asleep when this happened) said this morning that I should tell her that we’re building an Olympic size swimming pool (on about 100 sq. feet of grass/dirt/tree) and SIL suggested a drive-thru Dunkin Donuts, “You don’t mind if we use your driveway, right?”.

  3. Tell her you are planning on planting an invasive species of bamboo so she doesn’t have to look at it. If she gardens, that should do it.

  4. Indy, Indy. Square your shoulders, stand tall, and IGNORE the drunk neighbour. That’s what Mom would have said. You know that.

      • Actually I look around the house and think, hm. My dog is alive, my cat is alive, my marriage is going pretty well, we hosted in-laws and cooked for them and everyone was really pleased, I’ve been writing, and DP and I just read at a writer’s conference. So we’re a little bit messy. So what?!?

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