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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Appearances aren’t always what they seem

Or, how all my neighbors got the idea I was a raging alcoholic.

For some reason this story has popped into my head a couple of times this week, so I decided to write about it.

Back when I first graduated from college, I lived with a bunch of my friends in a three family house in Somerville, MA. We had a nice apartment on the ground floor, with a huge kitchen, a little porch in the back and a decent sized yard, perfect for barbecuing. It was a nice place to live, but we did not fit in to the neighborhood. Most of our neighbors were working class families or older people who had lived there for years. And who had lots of Virgin Marys and Jesus statues in their yards. Naturally, our dog Wesley liked to growl at the statues, only adding to our bad rep as those “wild” young girls with the devil dogs. It was kind of a narrow minded neighborhood, and we stood out like sore thumbs, with our assortment of multi-ethnic, punk rock, crazy hippie and the occasional (obviously) lesbian friends. And oh, how we were hated.

My roommates and I all had crappy, just-out-of-school jobs. I worked retail, toiling away in a mall bookstore. Sometimes I had to open the store, but mostly, I worked the evening shift, which was 1:30 to 10. Which mostly meant that my roommates just waited for me to get home before starting the party. Endearing us to the neighbors even more, I’m sure. But hey, we were fresh out of college! Staying up late, eating junk food, smoking a lot and drinking were what we knew. And we weren’t really all that excessive. We were party girls by Wellesley standards, but that ain’t saying much. So we’d stay up until 2 or so, and then toddle off to bed one by one.

One of the benefits living where we did was that we could walk down to Ball Square to buy stuff and do things. And most mornings, I would get up around 10 or 11 and walk with one or both of the dogs down to the liquor store on the corner, where I would buy a pack of cigarettes, a two liter of Coke, and usually a bag of chips or some sort of liquor-store snack. Healthy eating was really high on my agenda. Then I would walk home, with my paper bag from the liquor store, get my first hit of caffeine and nicotine for the day, and get ready to go to work. Anyway, one day I saw the curtains a-twitching as I went down the sidewalk, and realized that there was a collection of disapproving biddies who watched me trek down to the corner and back every morning. They all thought I was picking up a fifth of bourbon or something every day! I was a neighborhood scandal.

If only they knew how boring the truth really was.