Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The pop-by

A few months ago, a family with three-year-old twins moved in down the block from us. They are maybe only five houses away, but the lots are big, and their house is in the wrong direction (that is, uphill), so we hadn’t quite gotten around to being gracious and welcoming neighbors. Our neighborhood is kind of anti-welcoming. People are all very pleasant, but I have lived here for six years and I only know a handful of neighbors to say hi. The houses are far enough apart that parents drive their kids from house to house on Halloween, or many just go to a more easily navigated area (one with sidewalks, which our neighborhood also lacks) to trick-or-treat.

I know the families on each side of us, and the one across the street. I know the dog-walkers and the power-walkers from walks with the kids. I know a few moms from the cul-de-sac in the back of the neighborhood where we like to walk and play. I know the guy who testified against the schmuck who robbed our house last year. That’s pretty much it. We all wave from our minivans and keep to ourselves. It’s a bummer when you really do run out of sugar in the middle of a recipe, but it’s kind of OK with me. I like my privacy and I am not a fan of the pop-by.

The pop-by, for those who don’t use the expression, is when a neighbor or other acquaintance appears unannounced at your front door. It’s friendly, and neighborly, and I am firmly and vehemently against it.

So here’s why I’m anti-pop-by. It’s very simple. If I am home and not busy, I am in my pajamas. I may be technically wearing clothes, but I am almost certainly not wearing a bra, and there’s a 50-50 chance that at least one of my kids is running around in underpants or less. Also, unless I know people are coming over, the house is probably covered in toys, clothes the kids took off and dropped wherever they fell, goldfish crumbs, and a nice cozy layer of dust. It makes me crazy, but that’s just how we live at this particular stage of my life. It feels like I spend all of my time trying to maintain that level of squalor without it devolving into an even lower ring of hell.

I came home from a night out a few weeks ago and was informed that the new neighbors had done a pop-by while I was gone. I glanced around the living room, horrified, but my hubby reassured me that he had gone outside to talk with them and hadn’t let them in. Relief. Un-neighborly, unfriendly relief. They left their names, but no contact info, and invited us to come on by any time.

Ugh, they’re pro-pop-by. They couldn’t possibly be my people.

But when we went on our walks, we started walking up the hill first to see if they were home. Yesterday, for the first time, they were. It was around noon. The mom was in her PJs. And the kids were wearing PJ tops with underpants. And there were toys everywhere and Cheerio crumbs on the floor and a pile of magazines that had clearly been the recent victim of some sort of tantrum or gleeful naughtiness. Yay, just like us! She used to live in Santa Cruz. Her husband has a PhD. Her kids watched an hour of TV in the hour and twenty minutes we were there, and we bonded over how TV is awesome and totally teaches our kids stuff.

She scooped up the magazines, and threw some dirty clothes in the hamper, but otherwise didn’t seem at all fazed by the fact that she was meeting me for the first time in her PJs. She’s pro-pop-by, but she is my people after all. What were the odds?

So next time I need a cup of sugar… I don’t know… maybe.


  1. There is nothing that makes me love someone more than them letting me see their house messy.

  2. I am 100% on board with being anti-pop-by. It's not that I am antisocial, I am simply in public over half of the time already. I interact with people face to face and over the phone and via email and and and... dammit when I get home I just want to be as alone as I can be. My kids know what I look like when I'm slummin. My tenant knows. The rest of the world can see me some other time! :)

  3. I am anti-pop-by. Always have been. I am glad you have a cool neighbor though.

  4. This made mea LOL!!! I grew up in South America where pop-by is the norm and expected everyday. When I just moved here it was a culture shock when I had to call my best friends to see if it was ok to come over. I also felt vry lonly when friends or family were not at my house ALL THE TIME. Having said that... now that I have kids and my house is a mess all the time, and I choose to be on the computer at home while I should be cleanning. I DON'T MIND THAT THERE IS NO POP-BY ANYMORE!

  5. Due to the fact that my husband is a cheerful buddy-type to every stranger he meets, our neighbors feel quite comfortable dropping by unannounced. Left to my own devices, I likely would not know a single neighbor. But I have gotten used to it over the years and I am cool with the drop-ins most anytime, EXCEPT naptime. Both mine, and the kids.