Please, dear colony mates, help me out here. We can take a step away from the intimidation and glitz and be real
Dear Bungalow Neighbors,
When I joined your bungalow colony four years ago, it was easy to see right away that there was a Queen of the Colony. Whatever she wore or liked became the norm, and her bungalow was the place to hang out, with everyone sitting on the chairs beneath her porch almost subserviently.
She walked around bestowing her smiles on only those with whom she was friendly. I wasn’t one of them. When I walked by, she barely acknowledged me, and my friendly texts and phone calls went ignored. It bothered me. I wanted to be friends with everyone. I let it be for a while, working on making friends with other people. I hoped that as more people got to know me, it would even out.
The Queen networked more, and more of her friends joined the colony. As each family moved in, the wives surrounded her and played right into the dynamics. There were morning walks, lunch dates in Woodbourne, night swims, and circle chats. Occasionally, a neighbor, one of you, would move in and get similar treatment to me. You’d confide in me, seeing that I was in the same category as you. I validated you and told you I didn’t think it was personal, and hopefully things would get better.
I watched as even those of you who were treated poorly would kowtow to her so that she’d like you. You’d gush over her kids’ clothes and drool over her new wig.
It made me sad. I can’t imagine it doesn’t bother you to sit in her circle and act and speak in a way calculated to get Her to like you. You’re choshuve, wonderful people who, when you’re not with her, are incredibly sensitive and deep. We’re not in high school anymore, and we should be able to stand up, to be friendly without lowering ourselves to be counted in Her inner circle, excluding others and acting in ways we normally wouldn’t.
I don’t blame anyone. It’s hard to join a new colony. We all want to have friends, especially when we’re so far from our comfy neighborhoods. Something about the way She’s “hard to get,” and the challenge of being part of the exclusive group draws everyone in. It’s hard to stand up to the pressure, especially when there isn’t another circle to join if you’re not part of this one.
I’ve tried. I’ve put out chairs and invited you to come, texted you, and offered to go on early morning walks. Sometimes you stop by to chat for a moment or two, but I see your eyes flitting toward the bungalow directly across from mine, and the moment Her circle begins it’s too enticing; it makes it feel nebby to sit somewhere else.
I can dan The Queen l’chaf zechus. It may be uncomfortable for her to make new friends, so she sticks with those of you with whom she’s familiar. It could be I never got to join because she doesn’t like me or because she’s intimidated by me, or because I’m not falling for this, or just because I’m not her style.
But we all have the power to create a place that’s comfortable for everyone. Yes, peer pressure is hard to resist, but we can make an effort to be warm to everyone new and develop friendships outside of The Group.
Sometimes I start to think I’m making it all up. Everyone seems to love and adore her, and she can be friendly with some women, so maybe it’s all in my head. I feel gaslighted, unsure of reality. But then I remind myself of the women who’ve discussed this with me. Of the person who confided that she didn’t join this colony because she heard about the social situation. I think about those who have cried to me, asking me why it has to be so. And I recognize that there’s no mistaking the hurtful way she puts others down, even her friends, when they’re not around.
So please, dear colony mates, help me out here. We can take a step away from the intimidation and glitz and be real. Just answering texts or going over to someone else’s bungalow to join a different circle, not the one she has created, can change the whole dynamic. We can be friends with everyone. When there’s an opportunity to create a matzav in front of someone else’s bungalow, please do. You’d be surprised how much fun we could have playing Rummikub or Machanayim.
I can’t imagine anyone really wants to hurt anyone else. I know you all want to be friends and that you were bothered by this dynamic just a short while ago, and probably still are. As I sit with my husband and decide if we should return to the colony this coming summer, I think about the pain and wish we could stand together so that all of us can return and look forward to a fabulous summer.
Your Neighbor in the Colony
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 849)
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