Am I Destined To Live In the Ghetto?

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I ask myself often: do I live in the ghetto? No, not really. I live in the suburbs.

But as time has gone on, and we’ve moved from one nice area that turned out to be not-so-nice, to another, I’ve come to realize something: the suburbs may be synonymous with the ghetto.

We moved on June 1st to a condo owned by my husband’s family. It was purchased for him and his brother, and as a general investment, when the community was first being built about ten years ago. They’ve had a slew of renters coming in and out for several years. Eventually he and his brother, and their various roommates, moved out and got married, and they had a family friend renting for a few years.

But as we recently found ourselves in the position of having to either (a) pay rent beyond our means in our prior apartment to stay in town near family, or to (b) move back to the city of Los Angeles (where my husband works) – we all realized that it was time for us to occupy the condo.

We really had no other choice if we wanted to stay close to our families, or should I say if our families wanted us to stay close to them.

About a month ago, I was pulling into the drive and parking my car when a crazy-looking, middle aged man approached me and my daughter getting out of my SUV. He was shaking – noticeably – and started screaming at me about how he didn’t like my driving before I even got out of the car. He went on to tell me that my garden on our patio offended him, and – just who did I think I was trying to make the rest of the neighbor’s patios look dumpy compared to my nice set up. Was this guy serious? I still don’t know. I did not engage him in a fight, I simply tried to calm him down and assured him that I drive much slower than I should need to, in a community where my kids and friends have almost been hit twice, already, by crazy drivers. And that we have only the best intentions with our admittedly nice things.

11872302_851094782623_7718313065513953767_o11921727_851094378433_5672761055234370595_oHe wasn’t having it though. For him, this confrontation was not about having a reasonable discussion – it was about the fact that he thought we were renters, just like all the other people that have come and gone through this, the family home. It was about the fact that he felt he needed to threaten me with his supposed-HOA credentials. And, I can only assume, it was about the fact that the guy clearly gets off on accosting and harassing young women in parking lots.

I finally gave up, and just walked into the house as he continued to scream – crying much harder than I should have been.

Naturally, as any blogger will do, I took my upsettedness to Facebook. I talked about the incident on my page, and about how the man brought me to tears. Many expressed sympathy, some talked about the actual issues in my community with me – something everyone should do, because no place is perfect. Then one friend (as she always does), asked “why does this crap always happen to you?” In response I answered a question with a question: “because we keep moving from ghetto to ghetto?”

I never said this was the ghetto.

I never said this place was a dump.

I never actually said anything, other than that I was accosted by a middle aged man in the parking lot, and that it upset me. I cracked a jokey question about ghetto behavior seeming to be everywhere.

(As anyone with any experience with others knows, anytime a white girl such as myself refers to something as “ghetto,” she is referring to a behavior, not necessarily a place.)

The response and the gossip that followed, however, turned into something I could have never – not in a million years – expected. It wasn’t about whether or not I was OK. It was about me saying I lived in the ghetto (which I didn’t ever actually say), me talking trash about my in-laws on Facebook (which, obviously, I would never do), me being ungrateful that we are “allowed” to live in and care for this home (didn’t realize that staying close to family while my husband still commutes 100 round trip miles a day for work, paying the monthly mortgage amount, and caring for the place as if it were our own was an allowance)…and so on and so forth…

So reported my husband, it eventually got to his parents and now – naturally – the gossip wheel left me feeling deflated and bullied, and looking like an asshole to his mom and dad.

All I really wanted was to come home and not be yelled at by a strange man.

Since then, there have been several more incidences:

-We received a letter in the mail that we had violated the HOA’s rules by screwing things into the front door and patio walls (there are no HOA rules about this, not to mention the things hanging are done so with removable, outdoor mounting tape).

-We received another letter in the mail that our plants were not sitting on proper drainage plates when set on the ledge around the patio (there is an HOA rule about this one; however, there absolutely are proper drainage plates under my ledge-lining plants, which I can’t say the same for our neighbors – some of whom are actually on the HOA).

-Someone has stolen and/or destroyed at least 75% of the plants on our patio.

-We saw someone in the middle of the night, just a few nights ago, creeping onto our porch at 4:15 in the morning, and pouring something into our plants (I was wondering why my last crop died suddenly and unexpectedly in August).

-The list goes on…and on…and on…

However, I don’t feel as though I can talk or post or say anything about it to anyone, because the results of me saying anything disparaging about people around here are: gossip, outright lies, and harassment from people that (a) don’t even live here themselves, and (b) should be loving and supportive.

Today – the doozy – I opened the garage door to take my daughter to tennis, only to find the wife of the guy that accosted me standing there. She yelled just like her husband did, that I am not allowed to open my garage like that. I said “like what?” and she replied “have it open unless you are coming and going.” I responded “um, I’m taking my daughter to tennis…I am literally in my car and we are literally talking as I have halfway backed out of the garage. By the way, are they doing anything about getting some speed limit signs up in this drive?”

She told me that the speed with which people drive through the community is not the HOA’s problem.

My daughter got into the car and we drove off, closing the garage door behind us. I saw that the woman had moved on to another victim: our neighbor, who she apparently finds reason to illegally tape record.

Yes, the HOA woman had climbed into the bushes of our neighbor, and was leaning into the balcony to tape record a conversation going on inside. When we got home from tennis, I saw her out by the school next to our complex. She was yelling at the crossing guard about the position of her chair, where the volunteer sits waiting to make sure children safely cross the street.

Finally I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore: I had to talk about this. I had to share about the experience on my Facebook page. I had to write this blog about it.

Not only because this experience is just another in a long list of behaviors that are not-so-nice, in a community that could otherwise be a very good one; but because lies and gossip should not dictate whether or not I speak out about what I think to be right and wrong.

A lot of people may not like that I say this, but the suburbs – at least in my experience – are ghetto.

This isn’t to say that there are are only trashy communities in the suburbs.

This isn’t to say that there are only terrible people in the suburbs.

Actually, quite the contrary: the suburbs are often much more beautiful than the city, more well-kept. You find better landscaping, and often better neighbors in suburbs.

I’m just saying that there is a common thread that the suburbs of any major metropolis are known for, and that is the suburban sense of entitlement. People in the suburbs often pay more, so a lot of them – read a lot of them, not all – think they can tell other people what to do. They don’t give a fuck about who sees them acting however they are acting, and on that note they often believe that what they do is the right thing (even when it’s sitting on your front lawn with no shirt on guzzling beers). They think they own everything – the streets, the neighborhood, other people’s patios – and that they can tell others what to do.

Again: a lot of, not all. But enough for it to have earned suburbanites a reputation.

In the city, this is one of the biggest complaints people have about the ‘burbs. Everyone is up in each other’s business, and everyone wants to tell others how to live. And this, well this is ghetto. It’s unsavory to act so trashy, entitled, arrogant, and self-centered.

Of course then in bigger cities, you do have true ghettos. Like the Jewish ghettos during WWII, where minorities are segregated into run-down, slum-like districts that have been gentrified for years to keep the bad behaving the way they do because they have no other choice. So between the slums of the gentrified inner-cities, and the truly trashy behavior of a fair percentage of suburbanites, we are stuck. There will always be a chance that someone will act ghetto in a place that is otherwise nice. And we’ve all seen what happens to Hilldale in Back to the Future – there will always come a time when the newest and nicest community becomes the next gentrified, slummy neighborhood.

This of course leads me to believe that: yes, I am destined to live in the ghetto. Until some of these attitudes change – until people are willing to talk about the issues, and not bully those who want to make a change; until people put a stop to gentrification and change their attitudes about what they are and are not entitled to do and say – we all are.

Funniest_Memes_only-in-the-ghetto-will-you-find_7759Oh, and for the record, there’s a lot of stereotypically ghetto shit going on around here all the time too. Like the weekly ghetto cardio, i.e. some random guy running down my street being chased by the police. The random shopping cart that occupies parking space #210. And the tumbleweave that’s been in the grass across from our garage for going on two months now. And we live in the *nice* area of town.

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Has the Blogosphere Become High School All Over Again?

Short answer: YES. Long answer:

I wrote a blog about six months ago called “Are Bloggers Becoming Mean Girls?” In it I argued against the notion that bloggers are cliquey. I had seen some bloggers complaining about how they couldn’t seem to “break in” to the mom blog, and other blog community, cliques, and for this they felt a great injustice. In the post, I started by saying:

In high school, I hated the cliques. Now when I think of them I think of Mean Girls with Linsay-the-trainwreck-Lohan. When you have cliques, you have backstabbing. You have cheating. You have a load of gossip. You have more drama than a daytime soap opera. And you have people being excluded for no reason other than that they aren’t “cool” enough, by whatever standards of “cool” the clique collectively determines. I have a hard time believing that bloggers have become Mean Girls.

Either I was terribly wrong, or things have changed. A lot. Today – over six months after writing that blog – I believe more than ever that bloggers are the new Mean Girls. In fact, I know exactly who could be slated as the main characters (although I’ll keep that opinion to myself).

Let’s examine how my opinions have changed.

#1 Good versus Bad Content

In my post six months ago, I argued that maybe it isn’t really you or your blog, per se; just that you were not one of the more popular blogs because you had an absence of good blog content. And this is perhaps the most compelling reason in my mind now for proof that the blogosphere has become high school all over again: there is more bad content out there than my mom’s supply of edible panties.

It’s just like in high school. The meanest and ugliest girls were always the most popular. The douchiest guys with the worst acne were co-captains of the football team.

Sure, when you give access to a portal of information sharing to anyone and everyone, you’re going to have gads of bad content. But I’m not just talking about your run-of-the-mill crap that never gets around. I’m referring to the truly bad content that gets thousands (dare I suggest millions?) of hits. That everyone knows about. The bad content that people “like” and comment and share and find witty, in spite of its over all dryness, lack of whit, lack of insight, and glaring grammatical errors.

Here’s the deal: if you are going to call yourself a writer, be one. Only post what’s good. Get the opinion of others (and by that I mean objective others, not your BFFs) before you just assume that anything coming out of you is the next best thing to bars of gold. If you think you’re a writer, prove it with good spelling and appropriate grammar, and nipping your verbosity problem in the bud once and for all. Make sure everything you write about has something to do with your overall point. And for God’s sakes, make sure your blog post makes at least one ounce of sense.

Otherwise, you’re just another pimply captain of the football team, or mean girl wandering the halls of high school. You may be popular, but in the end your blog is nothing but garbage.

#2 Lying versus Honesty

I think that when I wrote that post last year, I was terribly idealistic as to the nature of the blog community. I suggested that your blog may not be that popular because you are dishonest. I really believed that truth prevailed in the world of the blogosphere – as if it is not merely a microcosm of the world at large, where the only people who truly prevail are those whose words uttered are rarely truth.

In high school, everyone creates themselves and others through a series of lies. That’s how the gossip train starts as well. In real life, we’re all supposed to transcend beyond all this lying bullshit and to achieve our successes off honesty.

How infrequently that happens – in life, as well as the blogosphere.

I know a lot of big gun bloggers that lie through their teeth, so much so that there is probably little truth to anything they say. It’s one thing to be anonymous or to change characteristics of people for safety and fairness and such. It’s another thing to fake celebrity endorsements. To claim site statistics that the public record on Alexa shows are clearly false. To say you write for all these different sites, when in fact those sites wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot poll.

To call yourself a writer.

Not to get too uppity about this, but there is actually a criteria for calling yourself a writer. Any old blogger is not a writer. For one, a writer of fiction and Fox News has the liberty to lie. The rest do not. For two, a writer writes good content with attention to rules of writing – as mentioned in point #1. (And to those you unaware, yes: there are rules of writing.) Without some attention to these things, some honesty and brevity, a blogger cannot call him or herself a writer any more than I can call myself the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa.

Well they can, but it would be a lie.

#3 Gossip and Exclusion

What I’ve learned more than anything over the last six months since writing “Are Bloggers Becoming Mean Girls?” is that the blogosphere (at least the parenting blog blogosphere) is loaded with gossip and exclusion. Really great blogs are excluded all the time – and I can’t really put my finger on why. There is a lot of “you pat my back, I’ll then turn that back on you and pretend we don’t know each other” as well. I see it all the time, and is another thing I spoke to the contrary six months ago.

And the gossip is worse than high school. In high school the gossip hurt – don’t get me wrong, it did. People said I stuffed my bra when my boobs grew overnight. That hurt, but it went away eventually. I got over it. One time a friend of mine was dating another friend and a gossip train started that she was cheating on him. That caused some drama in our circle of friends; yet, perhaps more mature than some of the adults I know in the blogging community, as a group we talked about it and it all worked out.

Not in the blog community, though. Here the gossip runs rampant. There is no end to it. There are no resolutions. So and so is doing this to screw everyone else. This writer is stealing content. That writer is not giving us proper credit. God it’s awful, and everywhere – email, Twitter, and the ever-ominous Facebook updates that are meant to be vague, but cause such a ruckus you start to wonder what the point is of any of this.

Courtesy of FriendFace Town ... for more of their satire on all the weirdness on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friendface-Town/484841884903320
Courtesy of FriendFace Town … for more of their satire on all the weirdness on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friendface-Town/484841884903320

Here’s the thing about blogging: it’s a double-edged sword. Everyone can do it. But then again, everyone (with a computer and an opinion) can do it. There is a lot of bad stuff out there. There is a lot of good stuff out there too. There are popular blogs, sure; but there are no cool people. As a fellow blogger, or just a reader who likes information other than what the mass media puts out there, take a step back from your old-favorites and take a look around. Falling for the bad content and the lies, and narrowing yourself to a small group for no reason other than you don’t know any better, makes you nothing more than a bleating sheep. For every bit of crap you fall for, day in and day out, there is a world of awesome out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Four Holiday Mantras

Well, faithful blog followers, it looks like it’s going to be a long holiday season.  Hunker down – just yesterday I saw some idiot had put up and already lit his Christmas lights, including a large Santa face on his roof.  Everywhere you go, you are already inundated with holiday ads, holiday music, holiday sales – so get in the spirit because they are coming whether you like it or not.

If you are like me, your response to “whether you like it…” is in the not.  For me, the holidays have always been a matter of feeling forced to spend time with people I would otherwise never associate with, buy gifts for those that as a general rule tend to act relatively ungrateful or who don’t need anything, and just all-in-all turn in to two months of exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed.  It was only until recently, though, that I realized there is no reason any of us should deal with some of the drama that comes along with the holidays – for the majority of us, it is not only unhealthy but unnecessary.  So I’ve created these four holiday mantras for us all to say to ourselves every morning as we go in to the busiest time of the year.

I will not pretend that things are perfect for the sake of holiday unity.

Nothing is more obnoxious than a group of people that gets together and acts like a perfect group, when they all spend the other months of the year talking shit and treating each other like the absolute scum of the earth.  I imagine it to be like a perfectly constructed ice sculpture – every edge is delicately carved so that the fine sculpture of snow and ice does not fall apart.  But underneath, it’s nothing but dirty ice that is going to melt and become a pile of dirty sludge the moment things start to heat up.  For our first mantra, let’s vow to take a chainsaw to any group events this holiday season – and chop that perfectly structured sculpture to pieces.  Note:  this doesn’t mean to cause drama when everyone just wants to have a nice holiday.  It just means be honest to who you are and how you feel.

I refuse to participate in family gossip.

If your families or in-laws are anything like both of mine, there is such uninhibited levels of gossip going on during normal times of the year that the holidays only makes it worse.  As a general rule, we should all vow not to participate in family gossip all the time; however, it is all the more important during the holidays for the sake of minimizing stress and avoiding unnecessary holiday drama.  There are a lot of things that shouldn’t be discussed with family – from finances to living situations, to marital problems, even to problems conceiving.  The thing about families today, though, is that they have become enmeshed family systems that are so over-involved in each other’s lives that they often do not even believe that what they are doing is gossiping.  Especially during the holidays, talk about something intelligent – books, films, art; stay off the gossip.

I will stop comparing myself and my life to the lives of others.

There is a current phenomena going on called Facebook Depression.  It states that many people spend a lot of their time on Facebook and other social network sites comparing their lives to others, and successively getting more and more depressed.  One of my friends recently told me that this is exactly what she does at holiday parties:  watches other people in the perfect lives, all-the-while she is getting more and more depressed because her ass is just a little bigger than someone else’s, or because her job is not as exciting as the next guy’s.  Just after the holiday season, statistical rises in depression and suicide have been reported for decades in the United States – quite obviously for this comparative mode of thinking, as well as general loneliness.  Don’t depress yourself by spending the entire holiday season comparing your miserable life to that of everyone else.  Remember:  what is on the surface is very often not what is inside.  Life sucks.  Life sucks a big, fat snow dick.  Take your chainsaw to the comparisons as well.

For the entire holiday season, I will reserve judgment on the homeless and look at them as people in need, rather than as worthless, alcoholic bums.

The funny thing about people that judge:  they often do it as a way to make themselves feel better about their own insecurities.  This actually applies to all of our mantras, but is particularly important in this final one.  From now until the end of the holiday season, force yourself to reserve all judgment when encountering homeless people in your community.  Rather than assuming they are irresponsible, lazy, alcoholic, or crazy, consider the horrible economy and the hardships people have had to face in recent years.  Have a little charity and at least try and remember that you could one day find yourself in a similar position.

Ultimately, faithful blog followers, the holidays are a miserable time in which many of us dread doing things we don’t want to do.  Set some boundaries, do what you want rather than what you feel obligated to, and remember that life is way too short to deal with some of the crap that always seems to come up every year.