Monday, June 20, 2005

Desperate Housewaif

Everyone has a little dirty laundry.

And it is the job of the Gladys Kravitz's of the world to find out what it is.

If you don't know who Gladys Kravitz is, then you need to catch an episode of Bewitched. Mrs. Kravitz was always snooping around the Stevens' house at just the right time to catch Samantha performing some hocus pocus. Then Gladys would run home screaming to her husband, Abner, who was convinced that his wife was crazy.

I used to have a Gladys Kravitz living in my neighborhood. I'll call her Diane. Though Diane didn't hide in anybody's bushes -- at least I don't think she did -- she did know the name -- and business -- of everybody on our street.

If it weren't for Diane, I admit, I probably would know nothing about my neighbors.

For instance, the couple on the corner had a premature baby.

The people living in across from me are dealing with cancer and a drug-addicted son.

The couple up the street divorced because the wife was having an affair. Consequently, their two kids are a mess.

The teenaged girl living next door had a loser boyfriend, and she gave her parents hell because of him.

So much drama going on around me, and I'm so busy between my job and my own family that I would have never known. I guess I simply prefer to keep to myself. I just don't have the time to cultivate friendships in my neighborhood. Don't get me wrong, we're not hermits. It's just that my real friends are at work. When I am home, well, that's family time.

But Diane would have none of this.

A few weeks or so after we moved into the neighborhood, I opened my front door to find Diane standing on my front porch. Before I could say, "Who are you?" she had stepped into my foyer and was checking out my furniture. Turned out her younger daughter was the same age as my older daughter, so I quickly began seeing a lot of Diane.

I think I was dry forage for her, though. No drugs here. No teenage angst. No wandering eyes.

I was, however, a good listener, and I oft found myself listening to many of Diane's familial ills.

Her husband, for instance, was chronically depressed. That explained why he always looked like he'd just crawled out of bed. To make matters worse, he got laid off from his job.

Then there was Diane's kids. She had a teenage daughter who was one big hormone from hell. And her teenage son became very ill with an autoimmune disorder.

So they had a lot of stressors going on at the same time, a daughter gone wild, a depressed father in need of a job, and then, when they didn't have health insurance, their son got sick.

It was enough to make Erica Kane's head spin.

So Diane and her family were going through some really tough times. They had to sell their house and move into an apartment.

Even so, Diane kept in touch with the neighbors, and she continued to know more about them than I did. How strange.

I thought for a while that I would maintain relations with Diane for the sake of my daughter, who considered Diane's younger daughter to be her best friend.

But then I started seeing behaviors in Diane's daughter that I disapproved of.

The girl was bossy.

When she couldn't get her way, she would rather go home than stay and learn to compromise.

She would purposefully disobey me right in front of me (which resulted in her being sent home immediately).

If she found a locked door (such as that to my guest bedroom, which was locked to keep the kids from messing it up), then she set out on her own to find the key. (This particular sneakiness truly disturbed me.)

And then there's the day that Diane's husband dropped the girl off at my house without first determining whether or not we were even home. Lucky for her, we were, but the fact that he would do that was just scary.

All of these things led me to believe that my daughter was better off finding new friends.

Arriving at this decision was a relief to me. The relationship with Diane was wearing me thin. There was always a new episode of violence for her to tell me about. Or a new episode of illness.

It was always something.

Maybe I could have continued to tolerate it if there had been something in the relationship for me. But encounters with her were usually made up of me listening to her. I just got tired of being her support.

So I quit returning her phone calls. I encouraged my daughter to pursue friendships with children who still lived in our neighborhood. And slowly, Diane became a memory.

I did, however, run into her in the video store the other day. I was there for a quick run, but the instant I saw her, I knew I was stuck for longer. She at least had good news for me. Her son was better. Her older daughter was emerging from adolescence in one piece. They'd bought a new house and were enjoying it.

When she asked me about my kids, I was eager to tell her some humorous stories, but after I got out a sentence or two, she interrupted me to tell me that her dog had died.

It was then that I realized that Diane is like Long John Silver's -- I have to go there once every year or two to be reminded why I usually avoid the place.

I took the first opportunity to politely leave the conversation.

I was left with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth,though. I think Diane only wants to listen to tales of woe. She's not interested in the fact that my husband and I, for the most part, have it together. She doesn't care that my kids, in general, are good kids.

She wants to hear about divorce and drug addiction and terminal illness.

I finally saw her for what she really was: a sad and desperate woman.


At 9:25 PM, Blogger The Cheeky Mommy said...

I can't stand neighbors like that. We installed a peephole specifically for a neighbor like that. It’s awful. Nothing good can happen to this woman. And she'll let you know every detail. It’s to the point I hate to work in the yard because I know she’ll find me. So I stay indoors and pay someone to mow the lawn. :)


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