The Friday before the Monday we were to officially move into our new house, Tom and I stopped by to drop off some stuff and check the mail. As I was standing at the mailbox I heard, “When are y’all moving in?”
It was our soon-to-be across the street neighbor. He crossed the street to introduce himself, and, literally right after learning his name, the next thing he said was, “I sure hope you aren’t like the people that lived there before.”
Ooooh! Serial killers? Public fornicators? Loud parties till the break of dawn every night?
“I think in the last year he said ‘hi’ to me or waved a total of three times.”
Personally, I think it’s a bad sign when the first thing someone says is they hope you aren’t like the person that preceded you – it’s judgmental and presumptive. I’m learning that you are negatively judging someone else – that’s the first information I’m learning about you, and you either expect us to behave differently or are ultimately pre-judging us if we’re the same way.
Tom and I are both introverts. We like to keep to ourselves, don’t like people in our business, and are not avid chit chatters. We are approachable and pleasant, but we are not the types to strike up a conversation, while, say, you’re doing yard work because you’re doing yard work and we don’t want to interrupt you. By definition, we find social interactions with people, particularly semi-strangers, to be draining. WE CAN’T HELP IT.
In addition, our new next door neighbor described the previous residents as “unapproachable” after asking us if he could pay to move our air conditioning units to the other side of our house (he had literally only had one brief conversation with us previously and we had only been in our house less than a week before he made this proposal). He also explained that The Unapproachables had a lawn service (so they were never outside to be available to chit chat with, I assume), and that at first it was a wife, husband, and daughter, but then they got a divorce and blah, blah, blah…
Maybe it’s just me, but knowing that I have a neighbor that will ask an outrageous favor/request within a week of us moving in (seriously, that would involve moving around duct work and shit), and knowing that while the neighbors were “unapproachable,” he still seemed to know plenty of their business and was happy to share it with us, makes me understand why perhaps they were unapproachable.
I’m not writing about this to bitch about the neighbors (even though I clearly am), I’m writing this as an example of how extroverts sometimes portray introverts. It really did sadden me to hear someone wish we weren’t like the other people only to find out the other people were just private and kept to themselves. They kept their yard nice, they weren’t a noise nuisance (except for their air conditioning, which is just as noisy as any other air conditioning anywhere else), they waved back if waved to, they just weren’t outgoing. And you know what? It’s OK if you aren’t outgoing.
It’s obviously not ok to be a giant rude dickweed who spreads jerkageddon everywhere one goes, but keeping to yourself is not the same as being a bad or wrong person. It also doesn’t mean that you hate other people. Hasn’t anyone read To Kill a Mockingbird or even seen Home Alone? That weirdo loner could leave you presents or save you from two cartoon-like burglars some day. I’m not saying I’m going to do that but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
So, we face the choice of forcing it – being something we’re not – or just keep being who we are and not let it get to us. When I think about those two choices I also think about something else the across-the-street neighbor said – “I’ve never seen the inside of that house, they hardly ever had their blinds open.”
Yeah, I’m thinking that the problem wasn’t the previous homeowners. I’ll try and remember that if the guilt of not being constantly available for chatting starts to gnaw at me.