Neighborhood Encounters and Alienation

SwimwaysToday has been one of the warmest days of late, and not too rainy. I took Tyoma out for a little swim and was spied by our neighbor Ann who waved us over to play. Tyoma completely ignored her and her son, but was captivated by Lily, the three year old over for a play-date.

I chatted a bit with Ann, feeling awkward and insincere. I had a Catcher in the Rye moment where I felt like a fraud. Adulthood was a never-ending string of phoniness that had captured me and turned me into a phony as well.

Exchanging platitudes with Ann bored me. Could she see how disingenuous I was? High school angst returned full force. Will some part of me always sulk, wearing heavy black eyeliner and somber goth garb? The notion sank in and settled, depressing me.

Ultimately, I realized what a blessing it is to have intelligent and unusual friends. My soul does not belong inside a suburban soccer mom! Bring on the unconventional intellectuals and detail-oriented Dungeon Masters!
Swimways 2Fifteen minutes into our visit, I mentioned that Tyoma could read. She seemed unimpressed, until Tyoma read her son’s shirt (“Adidas!”) a few minutes later. I was offended since she did not believe me the first time.

Ann finally turned her full attention to us, scrutinizing Tyoma and me. It seemed as if she mentally crossed us off some special list, for we were never welcomed back after that day.

It’s not the first time others excluded from future barbecues. I cannot name it, but our family seems to emit some subliminal signal that certain people have an aversion to. Maybe we are beyond the acceptable quirkiness levels allowed for our economic level. Perhaps middle class means average in more than one way.

When we chose our neighborhood did we notice how same the houses looked? And did we not feel proud to “move up” from our zany first home with its odd location, weird wiring, and twisted construction? Sameness is insidious. I pray not to succumb to it.


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