pop-ins

Recently I was on the phone with an ex boyfriend of mine with whom I still maintain a reasonably good rapport. That’s an awkward mouthful, and I could just say a friend, but the fact that we were once romantically involved is relevant to the story in that we cohabited for a little over a year. Let’s call him Todd, in the vein of being overly cryptic and vague here at P-Dub. Todd mentioned that our mutual friend Bob* suggested that Todd stop by for a beer sometime. As in, Todd should just go to the house where Bob and his wife live, knock on the door and be all, Hi! I’m here for a beer and friendly interaction! Todd likes to refer to this sort of behavior as “pop-ins”, not to be confused with hop-ons. I muttered something about my disdain for this sort of thing, to which Todd replied that he was fairly certain he knew this about me, given that I once grew seven heads with ten horns and breathed flames from the fires of hell when he mentioned in passing prior to us moving in together that his friends and family might stop by once in a while.

Where I grew up, people stopped by each other’s houses all the time. The south is this wide open bacchanal of people being “in the neighborhood” and just coming to your house unannounced, spending hours there, and doing so remorselessly. The idea that your loved ones could be so brazen in their desire to spend time with you is truly deplorable. Much of my childhood and adolescence was spent feeling uncomfortable because ours was a house with a revolving door. This extreme discomfort typically manifested as surliness, which led to most of the people in my life believing that I was truly heinous. I have never and almost definitely will never enjoy pop-ins. It’s not you, it’s me.

I realize that I have not yet written an explanation of this website, particularly its name. If you are reading this during its current fledgling stage, you probably know me, and you understand that I am exaggerating about neither the weirdo part nor the pantsless part of my domain name. We’ll get to a more in-depth explanation another time, but the pantsless piece comes into play in terms of pop-ins in that I literally almost never have on pants when I am home. Thanks to Sensory Processing Disorder, the moment I hit the threshold of my own home I begin to peel off layers of clothing like a tortured, frenzied banana. A weak metaphor, yes, but you probably have the mental image of a worried looking banana now. This at-home state of constant pantslessness is a luxury of single people, childless couples, and hippies. So, having unexpected visitors puts me somewhere between being extremely awkward and being arrested for indecent exposure.

Knocking on the door is infraction enough. But ringing the doorbell? The doorbell? THE DOORBELL?! This is the first time I have had a doorbell, and with any luck it will be the last. Recently my landlord installed a new air conditioner, a more recent model than its predecessor by about twenty years. The new unit was considerably more compact than the old one, and as such it does not jut out as far. The water dripping from the new unit began to seep into the apartment building’s shared mailboxes, prompting my bubbly neighbor girl to ring the doorbell so that she could passively-aggressively tell me about it.

Hi, um, I’m not sure if you know this {I don’t, because I have been holed up enjoying pantsless potato chips in my newly frigid apartment} but, um, your air conditioner seems to be leaking water into the mailboxes.

{Use your big-kid words here, assert yourself, and say what you mean. There is no “seems” in this situation – my air conditioner is clearly leaking into the mailboxes, unless you have some other magical explanation for why you’re holding a sopping wet, dripping piece of mail and how it could maybe possibly be unrelated to the deluge of water that is clearly going directly from the bottom of my air conditioner into the mailbox unit.}

I’m just wondering if maybe you, um, wanted to turn it down or something? Or if we could call the landlord?

Right then and there I melted into a puddle of molten hot lava and shape-shifted into a giant flaming fist and punched directly through her face. After she’d shattered into a thousand tiny pieces and rained down into a smoldering pile on the ground in front of me, I marched directly inside and found some duct tape with which to cover my doorbell. I may have embellished some parts of this story. But the duct tape? That shit’s real. This whole thing went down right around the time that Joseph went on crate rest and my mom died. My already nearly nonexistent tolerance for this sort of unsolicited visitor was long, long gone.

This searing hatred of pop-ins is not limited to strangers. Most of the people in my life, particularly the ones who get me, understand that stopping over unannounced is tantamount to having one of my pets put to sleep without telling me. It is a nearly unforgivable sin, and I lack the appropriate social skills to hide my utter contempt when it happens. Since I have been in this apartment, more than one proselytizer has left my stoop likely feeling confused and terrified, praying for Jehovah to soothe my visibly hostile soul.

When I am home and someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, the panic that grips every cell in my body is difficult to convey. My gut tightens, a wave of irritability dashes up my spine, and my heart races as I search for a bathrobe or some other garb to render me at least presentable enough to crack the door. You might wonder why I bother to answer the door at all. Couldn’t you just pretend you’re not home? Sure, maybe. There is one major flaw in that plan, though: I have a dog. Not just any dog, but She Who Goes Apeshit When Someone Knocks on the Door. And do you know what people do if they knock on your door and you don’t answer it? THEY KNOCK AGAIN. Do you know what happens when people knock on the door multiple times or – God forbid – ring the doorbell over and over? The dog’s brain short circuits and the love we share is stretched almost beyond its limits as I utilize every bit of self-restraint I possess to not punch her in the face and lock her in the closet, or maybe toss her through the window.

Let’s set the scene of what happens when someone knocks on my door. There I am, wild and untamed curly hair dancing atop my head like a ball of snakes, chip crumbs in my belly-button, running around my apartment looking for some article of clothing to slap on my body. Almost immediately the dog succumbs to the German Shepherd brain that is screaming I must protect this house! and the Beagle brain that is all OMG, MOM, WE HAVE FRRRAAAAAANNNNZZZ! AND THEY’RE HEEEEEEERE! So I’m naked, usually covered in food, hissing at the dog, probably dragging her by the collar into the other room. By the time I have gone through this whole ordeal, I am so beset by ire that I have to answer the door, just so I can fire laser beams of wrath from my eyes, and transfer some of that negative energy out of my own soul and into that of the miscreant who dared come to my house unannounced.

The hardest part about being averse to unexpected visitors is helping people grasp why I don’t want them to just come to my house. It has taken twenty-nine years and a delicate process of pruning out of my life the friends who don’t truly understand who I am to finally reach a point where I can feel okay about this part of myself. As a younger person who was more concerned with social mores, I would quickly put on clothes, let people into my space and stiffly attempt to accommodate them until I couldn’t take it anymore, at which point I would pretend I had to be somewhere. For a while I would pretend that I had some social engagement, until I began to realize that anyone who knew me probably knew that was untrue. Eventually I got very feeble in my efforts, and I would transparently be all, I have to go now.. to the gas station.. because it is imperative that I get gas at 2:37 on a Saturday afternoon. My older, wiser self would love to have back the hours I have spent getting in my car and driving around to avoid having to interact with my loved ones or just be honest with them.

For being a culture driven by individuality, ours truly fails to value alone time in the same way it values togetherness. The assumption is that if you are home alone, you must want company. Let me share something with you: that person in your life who sheepishly says their weekend plans involve a Battlestar Galactica marathon, twelve straight hours of Sid Meier’s Civilization, takeout and beer for every meal, and not talking to another human being for two solid days? They’re not sad about that. Don’t ruin it for them.

*(Seriously, though, I’m changing all names. And I can’t promise that I’ll always use the same nickname for each person. Consider it my contribution to you exercising your brain so you don’t contract Alzheimer’s.)

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