Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gossip Helps Us Define and Enforce Norms of Group Behavior

When Normal Neighbor came to drop her daughter off for Laura's slumber party on Friday, she stayed for a beer and a chat. The previous Friday, some of these same little girls, Laura included, had been at a slumber party around the corner, hosted by another friend of ours for her daughter. This mom has six kids. (I've never quite come up with a blog name for her but I really like her, and she is a part of the whole scene. Maybe Mellow Mama?) Her little girl and Normal Neighbor's girl and Laura are all good buddies. Anyway.

So Frenemy Neighbor's daughter P was also invited, but the hostess was told she'd be arriving later because her parents were busy and she was at her grandmother's for the evening. Frenemy told Mellow Mama she'd go get P and bring her to the slumber party by 8:00.

Normal Neighbor said that around 10:30, the hostess figured that P wasn't coming, turned off the porch light, and went to bed. At 11:30 the doorbell rang. Mellow Ma had been asleep, as were half of the party guests. It was Frenemy wanting to drop off P at the party. So drop her off she did, and then picked her up again at 9am.

Normal Neighbor and I exchanged grimaces over this episode, and then I told Pretty Neighbor about it too. It's just a typical page from the Frenemy parenting playbook. They take P with them everywhere while they conduct adult business, so she misses out on a lot of things, then they control her time so rigidly that she misses out on some more stuff. She is home schooled, but they aren't the networking type of home schoolers. P seems isolated to me, very isolated.

I just don't think that girl has enough fun or enough kid time.

This afternoon was another characteristic episode. I texted FN at about 2:00:

Me: Hey, Matt is going to take Laura to the climbing wall at the gym, would P like to go?

FN: Yes but we r eating right now. We need to work on the rental house today, P would need to stay whole afternoon with u. What do u think.

Me: Well, the climbing closes at 5 so they would prob be there until then anyway. We are having lunch too but we are almost finished. Y'all?

FN: We are just sitting down, would u be up 2 her staying with u the rest of the day???

Me: We would be great with that part, but it sounds like they might not have enough time if y'all are starting lunch. Maybe a different day? Climbing is open til 8 on the weekdays.

FN: Ok, if you want P for playing we will prob leave in 15 or 20 minutes and back this evening. Thxs.

With that last message, I didn't feel that she had gotten my drift at all, and I also felt that if we didn't take P with us, I was condemning her to spend several hours sitting in her parents' empty rental house. Because I know that, to Frenemy, "the whole afternoon" doesn't mean until 5 or 6, it means until 7 or 8. But I didn't think we were communicating well, so I called her. I learned that they were having lunch at their house, not a restaurant, and P would be available soon. And I learned that I was right about the 7 or 8. Frenemy asked if "7 or 8" was okay, and I, remembering her penchant for lateness, said, "That's fine. 8:00 is when I start getting the kids ready for bed." That must have worked, because they rolled up at 8:20. Improvement. And the girls had a good time climbing, and then P helped Laura clean her room.

Whatever! I guess I'm telling you this because I tell you everything. I am a magpie, and here is another bit of shiny thread.


Amy said...

Yeah, she is *different*! This is the problem, to me, with texting. I text way more than I call, but it seems to take a lot more back and forth to get your point across sometimes. Especially with people like Frenemy!

It seems like she is on a different wavelength than everyone else around her, and that she doesn't pick up on social cues and norms like most people do. I bet you have to be alot more blunt with her than you would with others. It's so interesting--I love this kind of stuff!

Jenni said...

I live vicariously through your neighborhood gossip. My neighbors are not nearly as interesting, or as social. I was having a bit of a FN withdrawal, so thanks for sharing.

A Day That is Dessert said...

Oh my. There are hardly any families with kids right around me; your stories make me think it would be plus/minus :) (I often wish we had more/that I had more company.)

delaine said...

I think it is a very good thing that you include "P" and Laura invites her to join you all in activities. Sounds like she is a sweet girl and needs those opportunities to have fun.

Amy said...

Who drops off their child at ELEVEN-THIRTY AT NIGHT??

I don't think I could stand to interact with that woman, much as I feel for poor P. I have only so much self-control, and I fear I would be standing there one day looking at her in befuddlement and suddenly a tsunami of outrage would pour out of my mouth, swamping the entire cul-de-sac.

Sweet lord above, she ain't RIGHT.

Amy said...

ps: Yes, this title is a perfect chapter heading for your soon-to-be-published book, the back cover of which will tout you as the "Jane Goodall of Suburbia"...

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Unbelievable. I cannot believe she rang the bell at 11:30 p.m. There are no words. Bless you for your rescue efforts.

City Mouse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fantastic Forrest said...

Where to start? First of all, LOVE that Rockwell illustration for your post. Some day I will reveal to you my secret alter ego who used that same picture in an incipient novel-promotion blog. Meanwhile, read this and enjoy - it's a piece about how Rockwell would picture our lives today:

Amy and the rest of the gang pretty much cover the other things I'd planned to say. I'll just echo the 11:30 pm - WTH?! comments and note that afternoon ends a lot earlier around here than 8:20 pm. The woman has time sense retardation.

You are my most favorite magpie ever. Now come over and share your thoughts about blogging and porn - similar addiction issues? You decide.

Elle said...

She is weird, but it takes all kinds, I guess. A lot of the girl going around with them doing adult stuff sounds like perfectly ordinary only-child lifestyle. I think that most people I know who choose to stop at one do so because they are not interested surrendering to the organic mass of more -- kid stuff is something that people with kids have to endure and they have opted out, thanks -- and within those families, no one thinks anything of it.

I say all that with love. My only-child friends are good friends of mine. As an only child myself, a lot of what my two get up to is totally foreign to me, disgusting, uncivilized, and not at all what my life was like in the home I grew up in. Yuck.

Sara said...

I so enjoy these posts!
And I really give you credit for putting up with FN so well. Cuz I'm not so sure I'd do that well.
It's like, is she not so good with social cues, like Amy says, or is she just an a$$h81@?

shiny bits of string. heee! look how they sparkle!

Casey said...

I love reading about your weirdo neighbors and their shenanigans. It makes me feel like I live on your street too. Hmm, what would you call ME? Probably unkempt, weird diet forcing on her family, screaming at her kids all the time neighbor?

Or how about NYC hotel room neighbor who's gonna throw down some beers with you at BlogHer? Hmm?

Michele R said...

I'm just trying to picture FN pulling up to Mama's house at 11:30...."OK, P, here we are for the slumber party. See, I told you I'd get you there on Friday night. No, it's OK that it is completely dark in every window--I bet the girls will be up for hours! But remember, we have things to do in the morning so be ready at 8:00!" (and then she gets there at 9:00).

Fantastic Forrest said...

It would be funny if it weren't so sad, Michele. Poor little P.

Michele R said...

Fantastic Forrest, it is indeed, as I have lamented about the child P a couple of times previously when Becky recounts FN's antics.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Michele, I was feeling guilty because I giggled when I read your previous comment - I mean, the situation is just absurd! I am a bad person for finding this funny when it is SAD! Oh, crap, I'm laughing again. Bad FF.

chnault said...

Thank goodness you have such a menagerie of neighbors, imagine if they were all like FN. You'd be ready to run like your pants were on fire.