Sunday, February 20, 2011

Keep Your Distance

Most of us choose to be around people who bring some light and laughter to the days, friends or acquaintances thoughtful and sympathetic to others, who make their presence if not a comfort then at least harmless. Not to say that everyone can be sunshine and smiles in every instance, but few are willing to tolerate unrelieved negativism.

For the past seven months the third Saturday of each month has turned into the kind of day that approaches with ominous forecast, one that adds anxiety to the Friday before and regret to the Sunday following—It’s board meeting weekend.

For many years I lived among people in another country who would do almost anything to avoid confrontation. Acquaintances, co-workers and neighbors wouldn’t dream of insulting others in a gathering. Disagreements on policy or procedure discussed without red faces and snarling frustration, meetings calm and unthreatening and differences of opinion respected without ill humor.

Three, four, five different friends warned me of getting involved with boards and home owner associations. Each friend recounted their own experience (little of it good) and recommended keeping a distance. I listened but didn’t take their advice. How I wish I had.

And so on the third Saturday of these past months I’ve found myself entangled with neighbors who value control over conciliation, brashness over self-effacement. The distressing (and difficult) part of it is the discovery that I am member of a community that includes neighbors who embrace critical behavior as a normal part of socialization. Would be ridiculous to hold myself up as a paragon of social graces, as someone admired by all and full of unselfish graciousness. On the other hand, allow me the hope of being one who offers reasoned and benign opinion instead of hurtful snipes.

Sometimes I miss Japan.


  1. Home Owners Associations are hell on earth.

  2. Thank you for enduring that "3rd Saturday" of the month. It will be over soon (maybe not soon enough), but know that your giving of yourself is appreciated by most. It's only a small percentage who ALWAYS cause the problems.

  3. We are grateful that you didn't listen to those friends. I'm sorry you have to bear the brunt of so much negativism and sniping, but leaving the board as it was simply wasn't an option. Things are getting done - albeit in an atmosphere (every 3rd Saturday) of criticism and downright nastiness. Change is often difficult and often painful but definitely necessary. Thank you for being an instrument of that change. We'd miss you if you returned to Japan! K&F

  4. This is exactly why we chose to live in an old, established neighborhood. There was no way in hell that I would be a part of a homeowners association!

  5. And some people wonder why others sometimes shut themselves off from contact. The bad thing is the rancor you described does have "control" over your life other than just during a very unpleasant meeting. Other side of the coin is who will voice reasonableness if not you?


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America