Tuesday, February 1, 2011


We live in an old building that has been converted into a triple-decker of apartments.  These apartments can be found in neighborhoods all over Boston, and I often wonder what these neighborhoods were like when these places were once single-family homes.  We live on the ground floor of the building, which is a boon for matters of grocery and baby hauling, and we were really sold on the place by the first floor apartment's access to a fenced in yard, great for letting the dog out and the husband's grills.  One not-so-great thing about first floor living in an old apartment like this?  The way the noise travels.  Obviously, it is more ideal to have people making noise below you than above you.  However, we lucked out with this place; the apartment above us was vacant when we moved in, and has remained so.  Until now...

Last weekend, on Saturday (which was also Day 4 of our virulent stomach flu, and the day my nerves had been whittled to wee shreds by days of getting puked on, feeling puke-ish, not leaving the house, and generally having my sanity tested), we got new neighbors.  They started moving in at midnight on Friday night and kept moving things up the stairs and around the apartment until 2:30am.  Sometime in there, I was puked on.  I didn't sleep much that night, and then again Saturday night, when they again chose the hours between midnight and 3am as prime moving time.  Who were these people moving in at this odd hour?, we wondered.  And then we met them.  On Sunday morning.  On the porch.  And it all became clear.

They were Dudes.  Dudes in their twenties.  Dudes with earrings.  Dudes who move into their new pad between midnight and 3am.   We met two of the three total Dudes, all of whom are still in or recently graduated from college or grad school.  One "has a job, but we're not sure what it is."  And, they informed us, we are going to get a fourth Dude, once they "get some wood and tools and stuff and, like, build a wall and make another room."  Seriously?  As we strolled away with our baby who goes to sleep at 7pm, we turned to each other and said, "Wow.  It really couldn't be much worse, could it?"  I mean, as neighbors go, I can't think of who I want to leave beneath less than three to four Dudes.

I joke, but I am pretty much devastated right now.  I am someone who goes to a lot of trouble to curate and consciously create my personal space.  Sometimes to my detriment, the aesthetics of my home really, really matter to me.  I've harangued the husband into installing dimmer switches in every room to achieve the mellow lighting effect I prefer in the evenings.  I cook and bake things that create inviting smells to waft through our home.  I buy candles and create fruit and veggie and flower arrangements, and frame photos I love to make this space ours.  I keep it as clean as is quasi-sane to maintain with a toddler and a dog.  I love to have good music playing and I love silence.  I am very purposeful about what I bring to my space.  So, to suddenly have these Dudes appear and have an immediate impact on my living space, one which I have no control over, irks me to my very core.

I am aware that the most telling word in the sentence above is "control."  That I can't control this Dude situation is what bothers me the most.  I can't control when and how loudly they play their music, I can't control when they choose to hammer things or vacuum or dance or have a parade of small elephants in their hallway (which is what I am pretty sure was happening last night).  I can politely inform them of our schedule and what we'd appreciate from them in terms of consideration and quiet, and I did so last night as sweetly and humorously as I could when I was home alone and they were hammering and nailing with a vengeance just after I put the baby down.  They were not pleased with my entreaty, and this interaction left me with shaking hands, a pit in my stomach, and an immediate need for a very large glass of Cabernet.  We can call the cops, I suppose, if things get really bad, although in a neighborhood where shootings and property theft happen with some regularity, I am not sure that the Dudes are really going to be at the top of their list.  Inevitably, what we're going to have to do is learn to live with this thing that is very much out of our control.

The husband can do that, no problem; he's hands down one of the most tolerant and flexible people I've ever known.  Me, well, I'm admitting it to all of you now: living with things that aren't in my control just isn't my best thing.  This, of course, flies in the face of all common sense about parenting.  Once you get pregnant, even, life starts being completely out of your control, and the sooner you get hip to that notion and learn to be happy with it, the better your life is going to be.  Most of the anxieties and ruts I've faced in the past year or two can really be traced back to me feeling the need to control a situation that I can't, whether it be our housing or employment or childcare.  There is so much that has happened that has left me feeling not at the wheel of my own life, and it really takes it out of me.

I know I need to make a change for my health and the health of my family, and I've been working on it.  Still, I can't help but feel like the Dudes are some sort of parable for me right now.  I wanted to live in this eclectic urban place.  I grew up in the suburbs and always felt fenced in there and like I wanted to make my life in a more colorful space.  So here I am in a city neighborhood surrounded by people of every stripe: the great lesbian couple next door, the Puerto Rican party house out the back door, the artists who make installments in their front yards, and the Dudes.   I'm worlds away from the quiet rows of tidy Tudor homes that made me feel suffocated as a wild teen.  I'm living the bohemian life that I had always imagined might appeal to me.  And with this comes a visceral need to let go of the quest for control.

You can't have it both ways, the saying goes.  If I want my life to be an adventure, it is going to come with elements I can't control.  I need to let go, but I don't know how.  Do you?  Dear readers, have you figured this puzzle out?  I came across a quote awhile back that really resonated with me, and I tagged it on to the bottom of a post in December, but want to put it out again now: "Perhaps true happiness comes not from creating the perfect balance of conditions but from finding a balance that doesn’t depend on it."  I think that applies to my hunt for a job and a place to take care of little J, it applies to my life in this neighborhood, and it most certainly applies to the Dudes.  I know this, but I'm just not quite sure yet how to get there.  Do you know how?  I love the comments and e-mails I receive when I pose these questions, and this one is the biggie in my life right now....

How do you make peace with that which you can't control?
Pray tell.
Thank you.
  The quote above and this photo are both from the Tiny Buddha website, which rocks.


  1. I'm with you, Sista!

    Remember that time that I woke up at 3 a.m. to the neighbor boys hosting a huge (huge) bonfire in their grill complete with melting anything that wasn't nailed down and loud national anthem singing?

    Or how about the time that they banged and banged on the adjoining walls for weeks until I finally stormed over there and found out that they had installed an arcade sized basketball shooting game on the other side of my living room wall (not to mention this was the wall in Brian's office).

    Unfortunately you don't have a bonding mechanism like law school to make these Dudes endearing. BUT I know that you can use your charm to make them like you, the hubby and the baby so much that they start to respect your noise and hour boundaries. You catch more flies with honey...

    Easy for me to say! :)

  2. Might i make a suggestion? Cook or bake something for the Dudes. If SMJ's culinary delights don't get through to them, perhaps lace the next batch with sedatives... ;)

  3. Jane, I don't know if you rent or own, I can completely understand your frustration, especially with me living in a tent with 25 other women in Iraq. We all work different schedules and some people are disrespectful. Here's how I roll, first be nice explain your life i.e. baby early wake ups and your friend is right bake them something, then ask them to tell you when they are going to make noise so you can prepare. Then have Ben go down there and puff his chest out a little in a pseudo-threatening way so they understand that you and your husband are not going to take their you know what. Then be proactive go to a hardware store or a music store and find out about sound proofing your home, I have mattreeses and egg crates covering my walls so I don't have to hear my roomies fart, screw, skype or sleep. Luckily I live with 3 really respectful women but others not so much. Be pro-active, don't take any shit and call the cops if need be, you pay taxes only one of the Dudes do, and police actually love to do that shit, plus maybe they will be smoking weed or ripping lines and when you call they can get busted for that too. Make them understand that yes your are a peaceful person but your are not above a bitch slapping, oh and get an NRA sticker for your car, make them think that you are packing heat. Good luck chica, Nora

  4. Jane, I feel for you! As a person who long dealt with morons...I can understand your frustration. Right now I feel complete bliss in that we have no neighbors, living in a house in a new development with empty lots still all around us. We are trying to enjoy this as much as possible because we know it won't be forever. I have to say that I admire you for living your dream in an urban setting. There are many times where I wish we had bought a loft downtown instead of our house. But I digress. I agree with others about baked goods (always a hit) and I wouldn't hesitate to call the cops if need be (especially if you've played nice already).....if it comes to it, I would play dirty too, use the fact that you're up early with a baby to your advantage (I'm sure the guys would like to sleep in) You & Judah could start a kitchen pots & pans band at 6am (just make sure you don't annoy the neighbors you do like). Sending you all good vibes & nights of complete rest and relaxation! xoxo

  5. Wow. I just wrote this huge response and then it disappeared when I tried to post it. Hate. That. Talk about releasing control over something, huh?!!

    So here's the poorer cliff notes version:

    Your home/space/environment is very important to you. Don't take crap from the Dudes if their behavior continues/escalates. You have a child who needs to nap/sleep, which you cannot compromise on. You compromise on things like parking spaces, NOT on obnoxious neighbor noise. Keep the landlord informed. Prepare for a Plan B - working to get the Dudes kicked out, or moving.

    Hope for the best. Bake something for them. Don't be afraid to admit that they're horrible neighbors if that becomes the case, and to enact Plan B sooner than not. Wishing you the best outcome!!! xoxox

  6. Thanks for all the support and advice, ladies, and sorry for the comments-section troubles!

    An update: two Dudes came down on a peace-keeping mission last night to discuss quiet hours and to see which room the babe sleeps in so they can try to be quiet over it at night. Big points for the Dudes. Additional points for the employed one being a pastry chef who hinted at bringing us desserts...

    I'm still not convinced that this won't be disastrous, but am heartened by their reaching out to us.

    More Dude tales to come, I'm sure.

  7. maybe they read the blog and the comments

  8. Yeah, my first thought was Early Morning Playdates :-). And I'm right there with you on the control thing... Relinquishing control has been/is probably my biggest challenge as a mom.