Thursday, May 17, 2007

Have To Post This

Oprah says we should reach out to our neighbors. And because Oprah is always one to practice what she preaches, she sets the example by throwing lavish dinner parties for her neighbors complete with celebrity chef and Michael Buble and hires a celebrity gardener to landscape their balconies.

I want to like Oprah. But something about her 400 carat diamond earrings makes me leery.

And she doesn't know my neighbors.

On one side I have the senile widow who likes to call the cops on us for pretend grievances. On the other side of her is the manic depressive housewife who flashes widow lady from her front yard whenever she feels threatened. Across the street from her is the middle-aged, hot tempered wannabe rock star who sings bad karaoke from his garage till the wee hours of the morning.

I have a theory that Oprah had her neighbors balconies beautified so she wouldn't have to see the less-than-glamorous exteriors on her way into work every morning. She only did this for the neighbors facing her studio. Of course, she did give the rest of the people in the building gift cards from Lowe's so they could do it themselves, but they could just as easily go get a new grill or a shower curtain or plastic pink flamingos, and really, why would she care?

I have a new friend who also homeschools her children. Yesterday we met at the park and let the children run amok in that crazy, carefree way kids do when it's 78 glorious degrees and the sun is shining. As it is with most new friends, she has been somewhat guarded, not feeling free to be herself completely until she's felt me out more. But yesterday, she let her guard down a bit and I found she has a pretty good sense of humor, as well as that other thing a lot of us women have...criticism.

Can someone tell me why we love to talk about other women? I'm not saying I'm above it. It's true. I have critiqued people, especially other mothers, behind their backs. And these are people I like.

But I'm tired of it.

While we sat in the shade and watched the kids, a little girl - two-ish - bumped her mouth on a toy. It didn't look like a hard bump, but the girl screamed that scream little ones do when something really hurts. Her mother, who looked to be a child herself, wasn't overly panicked, but scooped her up and patted her curly little head. But suddenly she turns, quickly grabs her backpack and runs for the nearest bench. And as she turns, I see the blood.

I have three kids. I'm no rookie. But this was a good amount.

This poor woman is searching her backpack frantically for something to wipe away the blood while all the other moms stand there and watch, some of them even making snide comments about overreacting. I grab my water bottle and run to her. The toddler is screaming and slapping away her mother's hands as she tries to see what has happened. I offer her the bottle, asking, "Can I help?" and she takes it without answering. She has blood all over her shirt and she is shaking. She begins gathering her things, hurriedly trying to get to the car and carry her hysterical child. Again, I offer to help, maybe carry something, but she is terrified and she rushes off, ignoring me, perhaps even wondering if I think she is a bad mom. I don't take it personally.

Oprah may be on to something, but I think her approach is misguided. Good deeds are admirable, even if it's only a practically empty bottle of water when your child is bleeding as opposed to hiring Michael Buble. But how would her neighbors have felt about an intimate lunch without TV cameras? Or a phone call? Or even having her remember their names?

I'm no saint. I just want to connect. I just want to be me and know when I screw up, the person next to me understands. I'm not interested in finding other's faults so I don't have to think about my own, though I am sure there will be times I fall into that trap.

I'm trying to be friendly to the senile widow and not think about the nights I have lain awake, worried she might call the authorities and tell them I'm abusing my kids.

And yesterday, I even waved to the wife of karaoke man. I heard he lost his job.

Maybe that's a start.


Anonymous said...

I just recently found your blog...I can't remember where, now. I really like what you had to say on this post! It is so easy for me to sit and get into my own groove and never really get to know people, or especially hard to help a stranger. It is so easy to judge others. I have a neighbor who's child seems to run wild, and I just yesterday found out that she is a wonderful mother and he has some developmental problems. I felt so bad!

Tara Sloan said...

Thank you for saying what all of us think- but none of us say! (grin)

Lynnae said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, and this is the first post I read. Well said!

but Momma said...

Amen! I like Oprah, but it feels sometimes like she's a little full of herself.

Oops, look at me talking about people. Miles to go before I sleep...

jjofar said...

oh, i miss you! so glad i read this! and don't get me started on oprah...i have first hand info. so technically it would not be gossip! we all need to reach out...'A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle'-Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Hey there!
I have missed your writing lately. I know life gets too demanding and sometimes more interseting than the blog world because I was just there, but alas something draws us back again and I am glad. I really like hearing your opinions on helping others and true "caring about your neighbor". It's so weird because ever since I found your blog you always seem to be writing about the same things that have been on my mind. It makes me feel not so "the only one" if you know what I mean. Anyways, good to hear your voice... I mean keyboard again!

Misty said...

new to your blog but i had to comment...
YES! I saw that episode and the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way. Sure she was generous to solicit someone to redo the balconies, or find people willing to cater/bartend/sing at a neighbors party...
But it isn't like any of this is selfless.
And there was no way that any of us could ever compete with.
When we remove all that we have to gain, from a situation, very few of us will get off our asses for anything.
I have recently been growing weary of the female cattyness that seems to blend throughout my social circle. Self doubt caused me to question my desire to seek a change but thank you! Because your blog post confirmed that it's the right choice!

laundrylessons said...

Okay, I admit it, I'm an Oprah groupie. See I have a handicapped daughter who eats religiously at 4:00, Oprah time. But, I've noticed, along with you, that she's changed. My thirteen year old daughter has noticed it too.

Oprah likes stuff. Maybe a little too much. You would think that with all her trips to Africa, she would remember that even in this country there are those people who could live a whole month on the money she spent on just one balcony.

Oprah has the capacity to change the world. Literally, she has that much power. I hope she continues to use it towards great projects and maybe downplay her celebrity friends and 400 carat diamonds.

Thanks for the post... this is my first visit. Stop by and see me sometime.


Mama of 2 said...

I have to say that I enjoy many of Oprah's shows but I don't watch religiously -- as a mother of a 10 year old and 2 year old -- adult tv what's that?

But while I believe that Oprah is there to entertain her audience I also believe that for the most part say even 75% of the time the woman has a good heart. She does things that she doesn't have to whether it be for the publicity of it or not alot of them are wonderful thought out things that help many.

As for the 400 carat earrings...those don't phase me anymore than the money other celebs spend on things I wouldn't even dream of.

As for the content of your post over all...I couldn't agree more. It's difficult to step outside of our comfort zone and help others and it's just as hard for others to accept our help without wondering what strings might be attached. It's the jaded world we live in.

Té la mà Maria said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
leendaluu said...

Very nice. If people just tried to be nice, instead of critical, just once a day---well, think of the possibilities. Nice blog.

My Minivan Is Faster Than Yours said...

That Oprah show also inspired me to meet the neighbors, but to no avail. I did wave once! I'd rather meet the Fochers :-).

Nice of you to try and help that young mother. I'm sure she much appreciated it after she got home and her 2 yo taken care of.

a happier girl said...

True that. I like Oprah alot but she can seriously be a little out of touch with the rest of America sometimes.