About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Modernity, Privacy and Neighbors

I hate my neighborhood.

Well, I guess that's putting it a bit strongly, because I really like my house and I'm pretty happy with my kids' schools. And my hair salon is nearby and I like that, too. But everything else? Notta so much.

I've lived here for almost 19 months now. I realize that it takes time to get to know people. I realize that it's way different moving far away with kids (in three different schools no less) than moving far away when you're just a couple or are single. I have less TIME to meet people than I did before I had kids. But gosh, I thought I'd know more people in my neighborhood by now.

Part of the problem, frankly, is the architecture: people drive up to their houses, the garage doors go up, the cars drive in, the garage doors go down. Privacy is FANTASTIC here; neighborliness is not. People do not spend time in front of their house; everyone here has fairly big backyards (not that I'm complaining...) and 6-foot privacy fences (feel free to sunbathe nude when you visit, nobody other than me will see you).

The effect of such architecture is that all socializing takes place in very private backyards. And, because this is Oregon and not, say, Florida or Southern California, there are only so many months where people are actually out in said yards anyway. People don't know each other AT ALL. If I had to identify my neighbors in a line-up, the only ones I could recognize live across our driveway. All others? No idea what they look like, what cars they drive, or what they do.

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter 45 miles away to another college town, to watch her friend compete in the state gymnastics competition. As we were standing there, a woman started talking to me. She discovered I was from Eugene; "I am too," she said. She asked how old my children were; I told her and discovered that her two are one year older and one year younger than my oldest. She asked me where my daughter went to school; turns out that's where her kids go too! Then she asks me where I live; I tell her my street name. "Oh! Me too!"

I had to meet a neighbor who lives ON THE SAME STREET and whose kids go to the SAME SCHOOL at a gymnastics meet in a town 50 miles away!

Another example: my husband went to the doctor, and the doctor, seeing his address, said, "Oh, I live about 500 feet from you!" My husband didn't ask where; he naively figured they'd run into each other from time to time.

That was 15 months ago. We have no idea where that doctor lives.

Modernity sucks, man!

I've decided, if I have any hope of even KNOWING if I like my neighbors, that I have to get proactive. I'm sending a letter asking if anybody well, wants to know us. I'm not asking for best friend status or babysitting or dog sitting or anything. I just think that, at the very least, we should know each other for safety's sake.

So, what about a neighborhood party?

I'm organizing one. Probably in July. If you know somebody in my neck of the woods that wants to come, feel free to tell them they'll be hearing from that Elaine, a new neighbor who thinks neighbors should actually recognize each other. I'm 42, brunette, white, well-educated, married, drive a Honda, have three kids and an orange cat, teach college and am on a vegan kick.

There's more to me than that, but I'd love to know at least that much about my neighbors.


  1. Well, that gives our situation a whole new perspective.

    When I started working fultime our neighbor noticed I wasn't around the neighborhood during the day (I left in the dark and returned in the dark) and jumped to the conclusion that I had ABANDONED my husband and children and then tried to set my husband up with her single daughter.

    All because she hadn't see me in the yard or my car in the driveway.

    modernity sucks yes, but closeness can too!

  2. I think your party idea is great and I hope you can convince people to attend. Who know what may come of it. I have lived in the same neighborhood for almost 28 years and we have a very active women's group, but there are some who never participate, no matter how we try to entice them.


Politeness is always appreciated.