Living in the ‘hood can change you. Or at least it threatens to.
People here don’t look at you as you walk by. I usually enjoy being friendly and saying hi. Some are okay with it, others give you wide berth as if you’re about to go all Terminator on them. Still others are so anti-social and/or threatened, they’ll literally say things like, “Whatchu lookin at bi@#%^?”
I don’t make eye contact as much as I used to. Living in the ‘hood can change you.
|2009, Bentley and Friend|
So that I don’t lose that social skill all together, I purposefully work on being friendly when I’m outside o’ the ‘hood. To be honest though, there is a part of me that enjoys not having that obligation.
Living in the ‘hood can also threaten conversation skills. For example, I walk the dogs often in a nearby subdivision. It’s a nice area with nice, new homes. Lots of friendly folk there, but when they find out I’m from THE apartments, the conversation usually ends abruptly. If you let it, the social stigma from living in the ‘hood can make you feel less than. I refuse to let it.
That same subdivision was recently spray-painted. The vandals got 11 houses, 18 cars, the sidewalks and even the streets. It appeared to be random with no specific targets.
Nice, pretty, new – are not accepted around here. I keep to myself. I don’t dress up, and I haven’t worn makeup in over a month. Fortunately, I now have a job that allows for that too. In fact, I recently cut my hair really, really short and I probably won’t color it anymore. And what’s really strange is that I’m more comfortable now with myself than I ever have been.
I know those attributes aren’t reserved for people living in the ‘hood, and living here isn't the reason I made those changes, but as silly as it may sound, living here has given me the permission I needed. Bottom line - I have found great freedom here. I can even take the dogs out at 4:30 in the morning, in my pajama bottoms, without brushing my hair, and it’s okay. I’ve never, ever done that before.
I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and other than making sure I’m safe, there are no boundaries. I can be nice when I want to be, or not, and stay to myself when I need to. I can say hi when I want to and walk on by when I don’t. No one notices here. I can be me, the real me, 24/7. I’m finding myself here. I don’t think I’ve ever had that luxury before. In a very strange but real way, I’m growing by leaps and bounds.
Nonni & Bentley have grown to love it here. They love the walks each day – they get at least 2 long walks a day and a minimum of 2 short ones – 2 to 5 miles total. They love the variety of sights and sounds (and probably smells) and where their mom is learning to be strong, aloof and independent, they act like they are at a County Fair on every outing. They are very popular with the kids and I think they know it. They act proud. Too funny.
Speaking of kids... The ‘hood is completely incongruent. Who lets their 3 and 5 year-olds walk to the caged corner mart that is across from the local bar, unsupervised?!? But in the 'hood, this is routine. In fact, it’s not unusual to see kids like this throughout the day and every evening, and one or two of them are usually pushing a stroller or carrying a baby! Seemingly no one thinks twice about it around here.
At the same time, if a baby goes missing –another routine occurrence–the entire community is out in full force until that baby is found. It can be a baby, a toddler or a child, black, latino, or oriental, and you’ll hear adults of all color yelling and knocking on doors until that child is found. It usually turns out that the errant youth had just “wondered off.” Whatever that means.
Regardless, once found, emotions rise and tempers usually flare to a pitch until the story is played out and everyone has had their say. Then the cliques segregate again, stereos are turned up, partying and drinking resume and life is back to normal in the ‘hood. Until the next event. Whatever that may be.
It is definitely a different world here. I try to stay in the periphery, unnoticed, while I watch in amazement and wonder. And learn. And grow. I like the old me, but I am definitely enchanted with the new me that is evolving. I look in the mirror and ask, “Hey yo! Wassup?” The tough old broad staring back at me just nods with a thrust of the chin. I like her. She makes me smile.