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.
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.
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