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.