Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Sleep Over?

There’s a guy, Peter Lovenheim, who thinks he’s got the answer to solving any rape/torture/kidnappings that are occurring in your neighborhood.  He even wrote this stupid opinion piece, published over the weekend in the Washington Post, “How Well Do you Know Your Neighbors?”  The article was written to shill the author’s dumb book as a reaction to the Cleveland kidnappings story, and the author, Peter Lovenheim, suggests if only the neighbors of Ariel Castro were just a little bit more friendly with the rapist/torturer they could have solved the Michelle Knight/Amber Berry/Gina DeJesus disappearances.

The fault of this horrible crime, of course, is with whoever kidnapped and held these women. But I wonder what would have happened if the neighbors had spoken to one another more and shared their worries. I wonder if, collectively, they would have pushed law enforcement authorities to check things out, to get involved. I wonder if this tragedy could have been discovered much sooner if the neighbors on Seymour Avenue had been, well, a little more neighborly.

I grew up on a street not unlike Seymour Avenue.  Maybe my neighborhood was a bit whiter (I grew up in Connecticut, after all), and most of the folks who lived there had low paying jobs instead of subsisting on government aid, but there were a bunch of dilapidated houses (my family lived in one) and lots of screaming and crying behind closed doors that was heard out in the street (usually my dad screaming and my mother crying).  If the residents of Seymour Avenue are indifferent to what their neighbors are doing, I’m not surprised.  What passes for normal on Seymour Avenue, and the street I grew up on, would no doubt shock the sensibilities of the privileged writers for the Washington Post.

Friendly Neighbor or Rapist/Torturer?

On the off chance your neighbor might be a rapist/torturer, do you really want them waking up in your house?

In his book, In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, Mr. Lovenheim offers a novel solution to the lack of neighborliness in American society today: sleepovers.  Yes, you read that right.  The premise for his book, which he got paid to write (I can’t emphasize that enough), is this: let’s get to know our neighbors better by sleeping over their houses.  

Because I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking, let me explain right now that he’s not looking for sex, which is the only way this idea even makes a little bit of sense to me.  I figured this was some sort of new fangled swinger party, where he got his sleeping bag and packed his toothbrush and headed over to have sex with his neighbor’s wife.  

I think that would have made a better book.

But that’s not what he means. He thinks the only way to truly get to know another person is to spend time with them in their house, like he did as a kid.

As the mother of two little girls, my home has hosted its share of sleep overs, and I understand the appeal: you get to stay up late, eat junk food, and giggle about boys in your class.  So I understand how this is fun for school age girls.  From my perspective as an adult, however, sleepovers are one long nightmare where our family cat, Noodles, is so frightened she pees on the carpet, at least one of the guests decides she wants to go home at 1am, another one pukes around 3am, and the entire next day is ruined by a miserable, cranky, sleep-deprived child.

To their credit, about half of the people in his neighborhood told Lovenheim, no, sorry, you can’t sleep over.  The other half probably thought there would be sex.

Royalty free stock photos including the image in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.

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13 thoughts on “Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Sleep Over?

  1. Charles Yallowitz says:

    I was thinking neighborhood swinger party too as soon as you said sleepover. Can’t believe this guy got paid to write a book and open his mouth about this. Couldn’t you get a similar and less creepy uncle effect with a neighborhood bbq?

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  2. klsprout says:

    You know, I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, where neighbors have one rule – mind your own business. Sure if you and a neighbor are walking to your cars at the same time, you should exchange a few pleasantries, but that’s it. Now I live in the South, and the attitude on our street is completely different. We have been inside nearly every home on the block, we have keys to each other’s houses, we walk each other’s dogs, we vacation together. Does that mean nothing bad has ever happened? No – there have been a few break-ins over the years. But when the last house got broken into and a neighbor heard the house alarm go off, he called 911 even faster than the alarm service did. “Being neighborly” is defined as different things in different parts of the country. It all depends upon the microcosm of your neighborhood, and where it is. And I love all my neighbors and count them as friends, but I would never spend a night at any of their homes. The guy who wrote this book need to realize that all you need to get to know your neighbors is a keg for the adults and an inflatable bouncy house for the kids. Boom. Instant neighborhood.

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    • Karen says:

      Yeah, but I’m one of those people (and I blame it on my New England upbringing) who really doesn’t want to know my neighbors. I don’t think I would be able to handle the South–how do you cope?

      I think Lovenheim’s point is that you don’t really know your neighbor over a keg or a bouncy house. But I’m not sure if you really know your neighbor after sleeping over their house, either.

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  3. Tamara T. says:

    WOW! No, I don’t think I will be inviting my neighbors to come sleep over. Not happening. I really cannot figure out how some people make money from these obviously deranged ideas! I agree with Charles, have a bbq or a block party. No sleeping over required! Weird…….

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    • Karen says:

      Oh, not sure how much money Lovenheim made on this book, other than whatever advance he managed to snooker out of Penguin Publishing.

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  4. Clever Girl says:

    What a great idea Mr. Lovenheim has with the sleepovers! Just think, Ted Bundy’s neighbors may have discovered his true nature before he killed over 40 women! Oh, and this guy’s name is LOVEnheim, which I think is German for “Love thy neighbor”.

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    • Karen says:

      I’m probably doing Lovenheim and his book a disservice by suggesting that he wants us all to have sleepovers, but he kind of brought it on himself by writing the op-ed in the Washington Post about the Cleveland kidnappings and bringing his dumb book into it, so I’m not going to lose any sleep over maligning him.

      I have to argue with his central thesis, though. How much do you really know about another person just from spending a night in their house? How is a sleepover any better than the neighborhood BBQ or kegger? I probably have to read his book to find out, and I’m not willing to do that.

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  5. stillstrange says:

    I was thinking more of house swap when I read this. Sleeping over at a neighbors house for a night without you in it. Of course, that would be weird too. But then, you could explore the rooms and make sure there aren’t any secret rooms, walls, doors, body parts in the freezer. You might get to know your neighbors habits a bit better.

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    • Karen says:

      Yes, well, for my part, I’m always knocking on walls and lifting candlesticks whenever I visit my neighbor’s house, checking for secret passageways, just in case.

      I couldn’t find the scene I was looking for (the bookcase scene), but this one is funny, too.

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  6. Joyce says:

    The only way I think this would work is if were a surprise sleepover. Show up on the doorstep with your pillow and teddy bear. Surprise! That way he has no time to hide the evidence.

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