People are living there

In Dan Savage’s memoir The Kid, he and his boyfriend, Terry, are completing their application paperwork to the agency that will help them adopt a baby, and they are temporarily stymied by the requirement that they produce a letter of support from a neighbor.  They’ve had no trouble getting letters from family and friends, but as Dan puts it, they are city people, and city people don’t get too friendly with their neighbors (even in Seattle, apparently).  But the agency is adamant: they require a neighbor letter because, as Dan puts it (I’m paraphrasing from memory), your neighbors are the only ones who really know if you are dealing crack out your back door; that is, they are privy to stuff that you might be able to hide from even your closest friends and family.  They end up writing a form letter and stuffing it in their neighbors’ mailboxes, explaining their situation and pleading for someone to write a letter testifying that they are not fighting nonstop/harboring criminals/dealing crack out their back door.  And, if memory serves, they end up with four or five letters, all specifically asserting that “Dan and Terry do not deal crack.”  Hee.

Anyway, I was thinking about that story this weekend because the twin girls from across the street came over to play with the Snork Maiden, and I was both aware that the house was a mess and aware that the girls would probably go home and tell their mother how messy our house is (they notice things like that, and say them, too).  And I didn’t care, because I don’t think there’s any neighbor of ours who’s unaware that our house is usually in some state of disarray, just like they all know (if they bother to think about it) that Stubb has been working long hours lately; that although we started getting the newspaper again, we often don’t bother picking it up off the sidewalk until the afternoon; that we are perhaps a bit overprotective toward the Snork Maiden; and so on.  You can’t hide much from the neighbors, especially when there are kids who play together and you’re in and out of one another’s houses.  We know who’s houseproud and who’s slobby, who’s lax and who’s obsessive, who’s easygoing and who’s shouty.  And we are all pretty good at pretending we don’t know a lot of the things we know, because to live comfortably side by side, there are things you have to overlook. 

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