Saturday, January 9, 2010

That Neighborhood Party: People

When we went to the progressive dinner last weekend, Matt's mother and brothers were in town visiting us, so we did not intend to stay out a long time. Normal Neighbor's house was to be the last stop of the night, so I told her at the beginning of the evening, "We're not going to stay super late, we've got a houseful of company." In the South, saying you have a houseful of company is understood to excuse any behavior, any lapse, or any absence. It could get you out of going to your own funeral. As the mourners stood around the empty casket, someone would say, "Well, I bet they have a houseful of company."

So yeah, we weren't going to stay late. Normal Neighbor and her husband laughed and repeated those words to me as we tripped gaily down their frozen sidewalk at 3 o'clock in the morning. That party sort of took off. Everyone was just so darn convivial. It was a nice mix of people we already knew and people we'd never met. I wanted to file a few reports on the people you've come to know here on SubMat.

Normal Neighbor: I really love that woman, she of the beer koozies with grosgrain ribbon around them. She is one of those women--and I don't know if this is particular to the South, but I see it a lot here--who really knows how to use her voice. I mean, her speaking pitch is really dynamic, and she uses it to great advantage. She is pleasant to listen to, and can give you a hug with her voice, or convey intense amusement, outrage, whatever. This is not to be underestimated. Also, she has never failed to be nice and normal. Her husband, a golf pro, is among the professionally gregarious. Those two like to party, if we're using "party" as a verb. They certainly do it like it's a verb.

Frenemy Neighbor: Frenemy arrived alone because her husband was "having symptoms." I was like, "Oh no, symptoms of what?" Then she said he had a cold. I was like, who talks like this? I steered clear of her in general, though I did get a lot of enjoyment out of a moment when another woman's husband was trying to hug her. I missed why this hug was occurring--it was a little aggressive on his part probably, like forced merriment--but she acted like he was covered with poisonous spines. Another friend from up the street--she has six kids so we'll call her Mother of Many for the time being--was complaining to me that Frenemy has been trying to recruit her husband into their multilevel marketing scheme. We shared an eye roll. Also, Frenemy was wearing a bright orange, really hairy scarf. She looked like she was being choked by a Fraggle.

The Mystery People: Okay, here's where I sound kind of weird. I spent a while with the Mystery Lady, sitting next to her at dinner and chatting. Even given her quirks and abrasiveness, I would far rather spend time with Frenemy than with this lady. Her husband seems just garden-variety creepy to me, but she left me kind of unsettled, with a cold feeling.  I mean, Frenemy has a recognizable personality, with recognizable human emotions, however awkwardly they are expressed. Mystery Lady seemed to me like someone completely turned inward, moving through a world of objects, trying to wrest her desires from the material world. My intuition is that the people in her life are objects to her too, with different purposes, in a utilitarian array around her.

She can make normal chit-chat, sort of, and smile when appropriate, but there is no animating spirit behind it. Really strange. They have had a series of au pairs in their house, so she told me a little about the au pair program, and about how you can try to bend the rules to get more than the allowed amount of work out of your au pair. Then she told me about how she and her husband met online, and their courtship, and I felt like I was talking to one of those automated customer service robots who simulates human interaction. The thing is, from seeing her daughters, I think that she has no idea how needy they are. It's clear that there is some kind of nourishment they aren't getting from her. Yet she looks pretty, her house is pulled together, and she's going around having an adult life. 

That's a lot to take from a dinner conversation, huh? Maybe I'm the weird one. I'll say more if I can figure out how to articulate it. I was just uncomfortable with her, in a deep way.

So we are all up at the mountain house, playing in the snow, which explains my blog slacking this week. I hope you are all managing to stay warm. Back soon!


Kelly said...

Hope you guys are having fun up there! Sorry about Matt's car. Stay warm =)

Michele said...

Mystery Lady sounds really strange and a bit manipulative. Who spends time figuring out how to get more work out of an au pair? You have them to take care of your kids not your house. Wouldn't you want them focused on the kids?

Have fun in the mountains. It reach a high of 40 here in Houston which is dang cold.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

It sounds like Mystery Lady is on meds. You don't live anywhere near Stepford, right?

Wish I could hear Normal Neighbor's voice!

Beth said...

First off, Word to the Fraggle Rock shout out. Secondly, that Frenemy is part of a multilevel marketing scheme explains so much. I have some family who are all about their participation in one of those "companies" and they are constantly talking about how if they just get a few more "legs" under them, they can go "double diamond."

gretchen said...

There is absolutely a movie script in this. Let me know if you want to write it with me. But in the script, the Mysterys would have to end up possessed by aliens or something (Lawyer Mom noticed the Stepfordism). And we could have lots of torrid affairs and key parties. I think Frenemy sounds like she could use a good torrid affair. She could end up as a pseudotragic character like Sigourney Weaver in The Ice Storm. Who do you want to play you?

Casey said...

Haha, being choked by a fraggle. I love it.

Keely said...

I totally get that feeling from a person, sometimes. Even just from a casual conversation. I personally imagine it's that they're a bit sociopathic - they know their cues but have no emotional connection.

(Not all sociopaths are murderers.)

(Or, y'know, she's heavily medicated.)

Ginny Marie said...

Love your description of Normal Neighbor! Beer koozies with grosgrain ribbon! And mystery lady...whoa! Something's not quite right there.

I'm glad you had a wonderful time up at the mountain house!

The Dental Maven said...

You left at 3 a.m. and Normal Neighbor is the partier??

Becky said...

Maven, I KNOW. Matt was like, we cannot keep doing this!

Keely, sociopathic is exactly what I was thinking. And then I was talking to my sis-in-law, who is a therapist, and she said that often, when we get that cold feeling from someone, it's because they have an axis II personality disorder. I dunno. Maybe I need to hold off on the Judgy McJudgerson for a bit.

Beth, the MLM thing. . .ugh. It is awful.

And Gretchen, I always saw myself as a Gwyneth! :)

Sara said...

Dude. I have nothing clever to say but I am lmao and literally lol-ing over here.
ahhhhhh *sniff* phew. that was awesome. thanks for that....uh oh, laughing again!

Marsha said...

I don't get a drugged vibe for Mystery Lady based on your description as much as maybe an Aspergery one or perhaps more deep into the spectrum. Like she's parroting what she's observed to be the way that people interact but can't quite get there.