Saturday, June 09, 2007

Neighbors

To make up for a Memorial Day faux pas (I bailed on a neighborhood bbq in favor of one at our every-day friend's) Egg and I hosted a dinner party for 7 adults and 7 kids. The 7 kids part was unnerving. As usual, I cooked way too much food that was also perhaps too unusual for a neighborhood-party with kids. I made salmon with raspberry vinaigrette (raspberry jam, white wine vinegar, cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil and a little water), Greek Salad, baba ganoush, hummus (Egg made the Hummus) and this yogurt-cilantro-cardomon-caraway seed concoction that no one liked (I liked it!) And we roasted potatoes on the grill in foil which would have been great, had we not burned the crap out of them.
Our neighbor next door has a great yard for kids and she invited them over to play in her yard--which was OK--but then the party was split in two. The guys over here, drinking beer and the women-folk over there, watching the kids. Later, the guys went over there but I was annoyed at the splitting over the party and the division of labor. But I was happier to be annoyed than if all the kids were running around our small, flowery yard or if they were bored to tears asking to go home. So it really did work out, though the labor had to be divided. I kept running back over here to get appetizers and more wine to take over there and to roll my eyes at the guys. Only Egg had a clue what I was rolling my eyes about. These folks, except my neighbor, have a much more traditional understanding of labor and division than we do which I find difficult to understand. I don't understand how the division develops. At what point did it become clear to them that he would work and she would watch the kids? That she would take the kids to the bathroom? That she would be the one to make sure the hot dogs (I did not force my salmon or weird yogurt on the kids--although I made enough for 27 of them) were eaten? Even were Egg and I to come to that decision, we'd have to argue and pontificate and be stubborn and relent for eight to ten years and by then, Z would already be able to find the bathroom and cook her own hot dogs. That it was assumed that that's how the labor would be divided was fascinating, if also disturbing, to me.
Our next door neighbor is a single mom and she makes more sense to me. One of the kids asked her daughter where her dad was and the daughter said, "I don't have one. It's just me and my mom," in the most confident of manners. Under her breath, my neighbor said, "and if I did have a husband, he'd be inside doing dishes." A dig at the division of labor or a comment on her own cleaning skills, I'm not sure.
And, finally, the woman with three kids asked if we were going to have another baby, which everyone always asks, to which I said, I don't know, one seems so manageable. I hope I didn't imply that they weren't doing a great job managing their kids. They were. I was just commenting that it takes both me and Egg ninety percent of our concentration to manage the Z. More because we prefer Z management to other activities, but still, it is a big job.
All in all, a fun barbecue that left me thinking I could possibly invite near-strangers over again although I felt terrible about the one neighbors we didn't invite who kept looking over from their deck with left-out-itude in their eyes. That sucked and it makes me think it might be too hard to be friends with some neighbors and not others.

5 comments:

Dr. Write said...

Thanks for posting and giving my life meaning again.
And congrats on your foray into neighborhood-ism, mixing with the Others, whatever.
I'm sure the food was amazing, maybe too amazing for the Midwest. And I, too, have noticed this weird division of labor, though I admit we have fallen into it (as if it were a huge pit) but mostly because MB doesn't cook and I like it, and because he's good at doing the dishes. It's his talent, and I wouldn't want to deprive him of expressing that.

Nik said...

Oh it's not to say we don't have our own obvious division. Erik does not cook (though he does barbecue and, apparently, make hummus). It was the job thing that was so very odd. But that's exactly it too--Erik and I do gravitate toward certain tasks too--just not as markedly. At least MB does Son and dishes with good humor.

Lisa B. said...

This is a whole story, or even a novel, and perhaps a saga. I can see you writing the eye-rolling to husband while fetching hors d'oeuvres part already. Or perhaps--perhaps!--it is a canzone. Just waiting to happen.

Molly said...

On division: This is the way it was at my house. On Sundays, we had a formal dinner and my sister and I would clear the dishes, load them, listen from the kitchen while the boys watched football. I am happy to report my brothers did not remain these men and neither did my father. I do not know how it happened, but they changed. They clear dishes. They load dishwashers. We, alas, still do not watch football.

On neighborhoods: I grew up in a neighborhood on a court that was more family than neighborhood. We frequently, oftenly had barbecues with many families. I cherish this from my youth and wonder at it all at once.

Trista said...

left-outitude. Thank you for this word. That's exactly how I've been feeling when in a certain group lately and I needed a good term for it. I am forever in your debt.