On being liked

Everyone wants to be liked.

I don’t care who you are. It’s innate, I think – something designed into our minds to help us move forward in evolution, a drive to be not just liked, but likable, putting our best feet forward, even if we’re not sure what that means. It helps our standings in life and, not to be crass, it helps us reproduce. Those who are liked pass on their genes. It’s part of our nature, bred into each of us. We all want to be liked, and I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find someone contrary to that idea.

There’s a downside to all of it, though – we take possibly inconsequential slightings too seriously.

We can’t help it. Naturally, with our feelings of inclusion bearing so heavily on our psyche, it bothers us when people don’t like us. We may try to brush it off, but it’s always there. If someone at work speaks about you with ill will, you are bothered by it. You might completely deserve it. Chances are, you totally deserve it. But it still bothers you.

Cut to our neighborhood. More specifically our neighbor. He’s someone who I’m sure will never read this blog and, if he does, hopefully something will come to light.

Over the past few months, a seemingly casual passing recognition has turned into something more sinister. Lines of communication seem to have fallen to the wayside. The typical “hello” is gone, the light-hearted acknowledgment disappeared.

We were never close. In fact, I couldn’t tell you his family’s last name until a year ago. But it seems like something cold has been built up between our homes.

And it bothers me.

Little things are popping up here and there. An almost strict ignorance of our existence. A mad dash to take the parking spot in front of our house – to the point where I’ve left for 5 minutes and come back to find he has, at 10 at night, moved his truck into the spot. A new air of dissidence, like we’ve done something wrong but our neighbors refuse to let us in on the reasons.

And it bothers me.

Maybe it’s because we don’t mow our lawn enough. Or because sometimes our dog barks later in the evening when he’s doing his nightly duty. Maybe it’s because we had an Obama sign up – weeks after our Obama sign, a McCain sign showed up – the first ever sign we’ve seen claiming any political affiliation in their yard.

Or maybe it’s something more.

The thing is, I don’t know what it is. And I don’t feel I can ask without sounding like a ninny. Without sounding insecure. Without calling attention to something that might all be in my head.

So instead, we wonder what we’ve done wrong. How we’ve managed to slight our neighbor, wondering where things went sour. We’ll be neighbors for a long time. Our girls will probably play together and go to school together and get in trouble together. We’ll share a property line, mowing the same strip of land and raking each other’s leaves around the yard.

We’re connected. It kills me to think we did something wrong.

Because I know we haven’t. And it bothers me.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 31st, 2008