On Visiting and Boundaries

Hello!  Sorry it’s been so long since my last post.  While you’ve been anxiously awaiting more news from the wonderful Lot 26, I’ve been hosting our first overnight guests (who got to use a working shower!) and dutifully playing my role as co-maid-of-honor in my friend’s wedding this past weekend!  It’s been a serious whirlwind.  But now, it’s back to business:  thinking and reflecting on our living situation.

As you’ve already figured out from the title of tonight’s post (because you’re all super smart!), I’ve been thinking about boundaries and visiting–more specifically, the “drop by.”

I’m not very good at unexpected visits.  (Maybe because I’m a control freak? as previously acknowledged in a post about the bathroom situation…).  I like to know when people are coming over.  I like the house to be in order before I have company.  Not only that, but when I come home from a long day at work, I need some downtime.  My whole job revolves around working with people, and taking those unexpected visits from my students during office hours.  I can’t control everything that happens at work–so I’d like to know that my time is mine and my space is mine when I come home.

This feeling, I’ve learned, is a bit at odds with the stereotypical trailer park culture.  As a friend (who lived in a trailer as a child) told me, these “just dropping by” or “just wanted to see what’s up” visits should be expected.  And once CF and I have been here long enough, we might start to expect a “sharing” aspect of the culture to kick in–“can I borrow your…?” or “do you have a…?”  I am in no way against sharing, but I am the kind of person who likes to be asked via phone or email–not during an unexpected drop-by.

I don’t think I am alone in this feeling.  I’ve said before that CF is a better adapter than I am, but I’ve noticed that he too is not fond of the drop-by.  For example, the first time an unexpected visit was an annoyance to us was when a neighbor came over just as CF was getting ready to go play a gig that night.  He was literally tucking in his shirt as he answered the door.  We let this neighbor in, but CF needed to get going and did so.  As soon as CF left (which was a couple of minutes later), it was obvious to me that our neighbor was uncomfortable being with just me (she knew CF before we even moved to Lot 26) and she left.

(As a side note, her uncomfortable-ness around just me made me wonder a bit about several things: was she uncomfortable because I don’t really “belong” yet or haven’t found a way to “belong” yet?  is there something about me that is stoic or un-engaging…or maybe just less welcoming than CF is? or was is just obvious that she had come at a bad time, so she let CF’s departure be her cue to leave as well?  These musings may be the subject of a later post…)

The next encounter we had with unexpected visits was with this same neighbor.  This happened just last night.  CF had been away recording at a studio for a few days, and he planned to come back to make dinner and spend time with me.  We’d missed each other and were looking forward to a quiet evening together.  When we arrived at home, we discovered a (mostly full) beer can on our front step.  This indicated to us that our neighbor (who sort of has a drinking problem) had stopped by.  CF threw the can away and was annoyed that she had left it there.

We went into the house, but then realized that we needed to get some stuff from the garden (fresh parsley!) down the road to make dinner, so we left the porch light on for ourselves and got into the car.  As we were turning around in the trailer court to leave, we saw our neighbor headed to our home–probably both to pick up her forgotten beer and to see if we were home for a visit.  We continued out of the trailer court hoping she wouldn’t be too mad that her beer was in the trash now.   AND I thought that we had avoided a visit that I didn’t particularly want on our first night together in a few days.

However, once we had returned and were in the middle of making dinner, there was a knock at our door:

Me: “Shall I answer it or you?”

CF: “We’re not answering that.”

Me: “But we don’t have curtains and it’s obvious we’re here.”

CF: “Our porch light is off.  That should be a signal that we don’t want visitors.  Plus, I want to spend time with you uninterrupted.  For all she knows, we’re kissing and smooching in here too loud to hear the knock at the door”

(The knocking continues)

Me: “But she does know.  She can see us.”

CF: “We’re not answering it”

Me: “Ok.  I like your porch light rule.”

At this point, the knocking stopped.  For some reason, perhaps because she’d been drinking, our neighbor decided it was best to try knocking on the outside wall near the kitchen window to get our attention.

Me: “Oh!”

(CF and I continue to chop veggies.)

I admit:  I felt really bad about completely ignoring the intrusion–but I DO like CF’s handy rule about the porch light.  Porch light off=not accepting visits.  Porch light on=welcome!  Also, I realize that it may have been easier and taken less time and energy to simply open the door and say “Hey!  We’re kind of busy right now.  Can you come back tomorrow?”…except that I really wouldn’t want the visit the next day either.   AND, I got the impression from CF’s reaction that we were standing up for the principle of the thing…or something.  Overall, it was just really really awkward.  And I still feel bad.

In the midst of making dinner, I said something about how now that we live in a trailer park, we should just try to tolerate the “drop-by” culture, even though it bugs me.  CF said that it didn’t have to be that way.   I hope he’s right, and I hope we find a way to make it work for us.

I think that in my next encounter with this neighbor, I will be blunt about what happened last night.  I will say that CF and I didn’t want to accept visitors and that we were trying to have a quiet night together.  And I will explain the porch light rule.  Nicely.

I still think that by living in a trailer court, we must open ourselves up to the possibility of re-evaluating our sense of boundaries, but I don’t think we have to be so open that we are uncomfortable.  We’ll see what happens the next time we get a “just dropping by” visit.

And that’s about all the thinking I can do tonight.  Soon, CF and I will be picking out tile for the bathroom floor (yay!) and a new cabinet for the new sink in there.  But before that happens, we’re headed to Chicago to see Carmen at the Civic Opera House.  (I wonder how many of our neighbors enjoy opera?  Perhaps this is yet another example of how I don’t totally belong here?)  The next post might have to wait until we’ve come back.

But–until then, may all your homes be happy, and may all your visitors be welcome!

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About Cathy G Gilbert

I am veggie-loving, community college professor who lives, teaches, and writes in Central IL.
This entry was posted in Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to On Visiting and Boundaries

  1. Hazel says:

    Wow, Cathy, I love the concept for your blog! As for drop-in visits, that would drive me nuts. Having people over stresses me out as it is. That sort of culture would make me go mad in short order. But maybe I’m just a grump.

  2. WenJoMath says:

    You’re the best co-MOH ever! (PS – you’re no longer a 26 year old vegan… you’re a 27 year old non-carnivore?)

  3. Pingback: There’s something in the air…and at my backdoor! | The Stigma of Lot 26

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