Tuesday, June 12, 2012

6/12/12 - Living in the Hood


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.

10 comments:

  1. Yup, I would say neighborhoods can change a person....you can either stay locked away in your own little world, blocking out whats around you, or get out there and mix it up, learning and adapting and ultimately blending in...

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    1. @ John - I agree with you for the most part but have to admit that I honestly don't think it would be safe for me to "get out there and mix it up". And I am definitely learning and adapting, and I definitely need to "blend" but again, in being honest, I have to say that I really don't want to become "a part of" the lifestyles here. I know that sounds bad. :(

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  2. now i will be worried about you, i have the worlds largest What Iffer in existence. and as funny as this is, you have wonderful story telling skills, it scares me silly to think of you outside in all that at 4;30 am no matter what you have on. stay safe and remember to What If once in a while. i lived in an area like yours, not once but 3 separate times, I am relating really well to your story. and i lived to be here reading about yours. I used to sweat to death because there was no AC and i was afraid to sleep with the windows open.

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    1. @ Sandra - no worries, I'm pretty cautious and I learned at an early age how to beware of my surroundings. My alarm goes off at 4A. The PAWbabies are about to burst by 4:30 - so, no choice. Yeah, have to admit - would not feel safe with Nonni & Bentley and would not sleep well. Would definitely not ever sleep with my window open here, especially on 1st floor - with or without my dogs.

      Wonderful story telling skills? Why, thank you very much my friend. That means the world to me. More than you know. :)

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    2. * would not feel safe WITHOUT Nonni & Bentley (oops, my bad, grin)...

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  3. Well I hope that you add a glossary page to this site for when you start writing all "hood talk."

    TeeHee!

    You're such a social person Debra... far more than I. I've lived in this neighborhood well over a year now and other than a smile and wave know absolutely nothing about any of my neighbors. Something I've been reflecting on lately...

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    1. @ Maria - That is SO funny. And actually, it is a completely new language to me. Sometimes, and I'm not being negative or sarcastic, just honest - sometimes I don't understand what they say. I listen to my neighbors' conversations when they're outside (walls are paper thin) and I know they are speaking English but for the life of me I cannot determine what they are talking about. Too funny. I'm determined to learn it before I move however - whenever that may be.

      I am an introvert and social - a dichotomy that has not always served me well but I am what I am, as Popeye would say. ;)

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  4. Well she makes me smile too :) I love how well you are adapting to your new environment. It's sad thought that people from the upscale neighborhood would think differently of you just because of where you live.

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    1. @ Ann - I love that you get my humor. Thank you. As far as being treated differently - it reminds me of the journalistic piece done by someone where they wore a fat suit for an entire year. They were still the same person but were treated completely differently than they would otherwise have been. Social stigmas are complex and perplexing. From a writer's perspective, I am enjoying being in the mix of this one. It is fascinating. We'll see how it plays out.

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  5. I am going to have to keep dictionary.com up when reading your blog. Some of the "big" words throw me off! :) Now, I can probably hook you up a lil translation of the "talk" seeping in through your walls.

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