Neighbour Shaming!


Today, I’m speaking out about neighbour shaming.  For too many years, thousands (if not millions) of people have quietly lived with the pain and humiliation of living on a street with a neighbour shamer.  It’s time to break the silence.

The main problem is our world has not yet woke to the social devastation caused by neighbour shaming.  Neighbour shaming behaviour is still acceptable and, in fact, even actively encouraged by many public organizations and the media.  So it’s no wonder many neighbour shamers don’t even realize that what they’re doing is inappropriate, and most victims are unaware that they’re being victimized.  They still believe that there’s actually something wrong with them.

So what is neighbour shaming?  And how do we end this unacceptable behaviour?

It’s quite easy to spot a neighbour shamer.  They’re the people whose houses have neatly manicured lawns, perfectly edged sidewalks, trimmed hedges, window boxes and nicely painted fences.  They’re the folks who spend their evenings and weekends planting, weeding, raking, pruning, sweeping and generally working their asses off to create a beautiful home and garden.  The problem is these alt-horticulturists have created a toxic urban environment by setting an unrealistic and unattainable standard for the rest of us.  Through their selfish, thoughtless actions, they make everyone else in the neighbourhood look like a bunch of lazy hillbillies.  But, we’re they’re not hillbillies.  They’re just ordinary people who are struggling – struggling with weeds, aphids and rose blight.  And they could be facing their own challenges — perhaps they grew up in an apartment or an orphanage, perhaps they were abused by florists, or maybe they suffer from gnomophobia (a fear of garden gnomes.)  At first glance at an unattractive garden, it’s easy to be judgemental, but not everyone understands soil composition, mulch, or the dos and don’ts of fertilizing.  Plus, many victims have serious time, space and financial disadvantages.  It’s time we were honest and recognized that “having a green thumb” is, in reality, “green privilege.”

The Home and Garden Industry is a multi-billion dollar business whose profits depend on neighbour shaming, but you can fight back.  Here are just a few things you can do to raise awareness in your community.

1 — Go to the neighbour shamer on your street and tell them how their perfectly symmetrical flower beds make you feel.  Explain to them that the sound of their hedge clippers is causing you emotional harm.  Open a dialogue.  You might be surprised.  Many neighbour shamers feel the same social pressures you do; sometimes, even more.

2 — Organize a neighbourhood garden party to show that you don’t need an immaculate lawn to enjoy life, and people can still party and have fun, surrounded by brambles, weeds and dog shit.

3 — Contact home and garden magazines or websites and tell them just how offensive their “before and after” pictures really are, and then suggest they would be more inclusive if they provided equal coverage of derelict houses and waste ground.  Write or email television networks and demand they broadcast trigger warnings to caution viewers that gardening programs can cause stress or harm self-esteem.

4 — You can also start a support group to let people know they’re not alone or even turn your own garden into an empty, concrete “safe space.”

And finally, but most importantly:

5 – Always remember it’s not your fault your garden kinda sucks, and even though that workaholic, perfect-sized, handy-husbanded, helpful-childrened, cupcake-making, bikini-wearing bitch down the street can grow gorgeous rhododendrons in her sleep — you’re still a good person.

Are You Happy?


One of the things I love about Americans is that, when they set up their government, they took the trouble to guarantee the right to life, liberty and (this is the best bit!) the pursuit of happiness.  They didn’t go nuts and say Americans have the unalienable right to BE happy; all they said was they have the legal right to try.  Not everybody does that.  For example, in my country, the government doesn’t give a damn if I’m happy or not.  They’re far more concerned that I keep my mouth shut when I’m pissed off.  Anyway, happiness is a relatively recent invention.  Before those good old boys from Virginia came along, survival was the biggie.  Singing in the sunshine and laughing every day took second place to making it through the winter, the war, the plague, the drought, the fire, the flood, the famine or any of the other 1,001 calamities that used to regularly wander by.  However, now that happiness is on the menu, everybody wants a slice, and nobody’s sure if their piece is quite big enough.  Here’s a quick and dirty guide to find out whether you are happy or not.

Do you own a rocking chair?  It’s scientifically proven that rocking chairs release enough endorphins to fill a room.  Add a sleeping baby or a cat on your lap and you’ll practically drown in the stuff.

Do you have a pet?  Dogs are better than cats: cats are better than fish: a platypus is the best, but even a well-loved houseplant will change you from a miserable self-centred bastard into a caring, sharing person of quality.  Thinking about something other than yourself will always make you a happy person.

Do you live west of the Vistula River?  For some reason, Europeans are happier than the rest of the world.  I don’t know why.  It must be the wine.

Do you have lunch money?  Money will not make you happy, but if you don’t have any — uh — you’re kinda screwed.  And constantly getting screwed will definitely make you grouchy.

Do you get earworms?  Ohrwurm in German.  (Those people have a word for everything.) These are those stupid songs that get stuck in your head and won’t go away.  Yeah, they’re annoying, but washing the dishes to “Barbie Girl” by Aqua isn’t all that bad.  My personal favourite is “All About The Bass.”  And, quite frankly, it’s impossible to be depressed if your brain is playing “Call Me, Maybe?”  (Are any of these in your head yet?)

Do you procrastinate?  The truth is procrastinators are cockeyed optimists.  They actually think that sometime in the future, they’re going to get their act together and clean out the closet or vacuum behind the refrigerator.  They probably won’t — but believing in a better future is one of the key components of happiness.  Therefore, procrastinators, by definition, are happy people.

Do you laugh at stuff that’s not supposed to be funny?  This is the stuff that catches you off guard and you giggle — even though you know you really shouldn’t.  Stuff that’s inappropriate.  Stuff that buttoned-down people might even find offensive.  Stuff that you really can’t repeat to anyone except your most trusted, trusted friend.  Here’s the deal: being silly in the face of all the pompous ass seriousness in our oversensitive world is a sure sign that you’re happy.

But I’ve saved the best for last:

Are you in love?  If you’re in love, you’re happy — full stop.  Unlike “relationships” that you have to “work at” so hard they eventually just turn into a total pain in the ass, love is the real meal deal.  If you look across the breakfast table and can’t think of any other place you’d rather be, then you’re in love.  And folks, if you do that often enough, you’re not pursuing happiness anymore: you’ve caught it.


Stress — The Final Frontier

stressOkay! It’s two weeks into a new year and you’ve discovered 3 visits to the gym don’t qualify you for a bikini, no matter how positive you are; Jan, at work, is still an asshole, and if you don’t get some cookies soon, you’re going to punch somebody in the face — probably Jan.  Life is hard, folks, and it’s even harder when you’re striving for perfection.  But that’s the mistake we all make.  We strive for perfection, especially at this time of year.  But, here’s a tip: forget perfection!  The only thing between you and that happy camper you want to be is stress.  Shoot stress in the head and, believe me, perfection is never going to come up on the agenda again.  So, in the spirit of Good Works (one of my New Year’s Resolutions) here are a few things that might be of assistance.  Good luck!

Get out of bed — You’d be surprised how good a day you get when your morning doesn’t look like the Mad Hatter is having a two-for-one sale on crazy.  Running out the door, 10 minutes late, with a hairbrush in one hand, a toothbrush in the other and your underwear on backwards is not the way to face the world.  You need to sneak up on it — slowly — so give yourself some time to wake up in the morning and metaphorically put your underwear on properly.

Take 3 deep breaths — Unless you’re the President, the Pope or Vladimir Putin, there’s no situation you’re ever going face that won’t wait five minutes.  Going straight at a problem might work at deadline time, but if you’re constantly letting things get that far, you’re already screwed.  People need time to think.  Besides, sometimes staring out the window for a while can give you a fresh perspective on why Jan is being such an obstructionist bitch.

Sex — Try to get beyond Date Night — but if that’s all ya got, make it the best Date Night ever!

Get some comedy — A steady diet of news, documentaries and PBS drama will kill ya.  Laughing at a fat kid on YouTube getting beaned by a beach ball will cleanse your soul.

Forget about the last word — Arguments are part of life; turning every one of them into the Alamo just isn’t healthy.  There’s no future in being right if you’re still having the mental conversation two days later.  Let the idiots win every once in awhile.

And finally:

Celebrate — Turn off the mobile phone, step away from the video screen and have a glass of wine, a Root Beer float or a slice of chocolate cake (preferably, with two forks.)  This is the reason we get up in the morning and do what we do.  Don’t ever let just doing become the priority.

Now, back to the gym! — That bathing suit isn’t going to wear itself!