When I first moved into my house, my next-door-neighbors sat in their garage and listened to country music and drank beer. They wanted to chat every time I stepped out of my back door. My pleasantness wore thin rather quickly. I put up a privacy fence which didn’t block the #&*(@! country music, but I thought it would stop Charlene from gluing herself to me while I sat on my deck. No such luck. The neighbors simply turned up the country music and moved their chairs a bit further back in their yard so they could watch expectantly for my reappearance. I added fence. They moved their chairs again. I added more fence. My yard is skinny, but very long. If I needed to add 300 more feet of fence, I was going to do it, but eventually they gave it up and went back to their garage to listen to their wailing songs of how even the dog doesn’t love them and the wife ran off with the best friend but left the kids, and working fingers to the bone…
I hate country music. I cranked up vintage Rolling Stones to drown it out.
The neighbors on the other side are just as nosy, but they’re surly and unfriendly. The woman who never talks to me suddenly acted like my best friend when I came out with a date and dressed in my best. Good manners were beaten into me as a child, so I refrained from snarling “It’s none of your business!” while my date happily told her about our theater plans while I gritted my teeth in a painful smile. If she has locksmithing capabilities, she probably took the time we were away to break in and read my diary.
This extraordinary interest in my doings might make it seem like I do things worth spying on, but I don’t. Okay, I was dressed up for the date, but otherwise I just pull weeds in my garden or brush the dog. A neighbor across the street actually started looking in my windows too. I reported him to the police. Maybe I ought to move.
Boundaries come in different forms. A fence is a pretty clear signal of I’ll stay over here and you should stay over there, but mental boundaries get crossed all the time too. A few months ago I wrote about a disagreement I had with a woman about school lunches. I told her I’m never going to agree with her opinion that we should let children starve and said I don’t want to talk about it with her any more. She won’t let it go. She recently brought it up again in a group setting because she thought she had an ally. I said once again, I don’t want to discuss this with her because it just upsets me. She has sent me multiple emails pushing the discussion and I keep saying “I’m not discussing this with you!” She’s been relegated to the spam folder. I don’t know how I can be any clearer about my boundaries, but she still has a need to throw things at my fence? It doesn’t have anything to do with me or my opinions. She just wants to fight until she feels she’s won.
This is where I turn to Harry Potter. Obviously J. K. Rowling understands dementors, beings who suck the happiness out of people. “Expecto patronum” is a spell where you think your happiest thought to drive the dementors away. If it works in a children’s novel, it’s got to work in real life too, right? If I say “Expecto patronum” at my next meeting or family gathering, at least people will know it’s time for them to back off before I charge at them with a silvery animal protector. Maybe I should carve a wand too? I just don’t know where I’m going to find a phoenix feather or unicorn hair. Oh well, if all else fails I suppose I could just hit my dementors with a stick?