I want a cohort. I’ll be even more specific: I want a neighborhood cohort. After spending my formative years with my nose glued to the boob tube watching Lucy and Ethel, Laura and Millie, Mary and Rhoda, and so on I fully expected that when I grew up and moved into my own ranch house in the suburbs, a built-in best friend would come along with the 30 year mortgage. I assumed that like thinking gal pals were strewn across the country, just waiting for me to appear so we could have coffee, go shopping and not work.
With expectations like that, I was bound to be disappointed. Again and again and again. While I can’t think of a single neighbor we’ve had I didn’t like, I’m still asking “Where’s Rhoda?”
One of my favorite neighbors was Helen, who was the source of a constant stream of tips on marriage, child rearing, home maintenance, and, occasionally, sex. But her favorite tips were about cooking and her tips were always cloaked in comments about how good she was at it and how I, well, sucked at it. I still remember answering the phone one bright summer morning and hearing Helen on the other end.
“Burned the bacon again, didn’t you?” she asked in lieu of saying hello. “I can smell it clear over here. You’ve got to cook it slow, over a medium flame. You always rush too much. That’s why you’ll never be a really good cook.”
She went on to tell me my other failings and, like a good neighbor, I listened. I even agreed with her about most of them which shows how desperate I was for a little Mary and Rhoda telephone chit chat.
The only problem with Helen was that she was 91 when we moved in. As sharp as she was, I couldn’t exactly gossip with her about, say, Liam Neeson’s love life without having to explain: a) who Liam Neeson was, b) why I was interested in his love life, or c) why I spent my time talking about movie stars rather than washing the basement floor or making my family a decent meal for a change.
Also, Helen was a widow, so any discussions that even smacked ever so vaguely of what she perceived as criticism of my husband were met with a rapid, “Be happy you have a husband! Some day he won’t be around and then you’ll wish he was there to leave his underwear on the floor and forget your anniversary!”
Always shamed, I usually slunk out of Helen’s house full of good intentions to never complain about my husband, my children, or any other aspect of my life ever again–good intentions that lasted all the way to my front door.
This lack of a best friend next door has never seemed to affect my underwear-dropping, anniversary forgetting husband, in spite of the fact that he grew up on the same sitcoms that I did. He doesn’t seem to long for a Fred Mertz to play golf with or a Jerry Helper to share a game of chess.
Which leads me to conclude that men truly are different from women. My husband doesn’t care if he has a best friend in the neighborhood while I crave it even more than I crave cheesecake during reruns of “The Golden Girls.”
All of which leads me to suggest a new kind of reality show. Why not a series about how neighborhoods really are today, filled with tired, rushed people who are too exhausted to chat up our spouses, much less our neighbors. I know, Dullsville. Why would anyone want to watch that kind of drek when there are all those Real Housewives shows to watch instead?
But I’m not giving up. Rhoda’s out there along with Millie, Ethel and Betty Rubble. And some day we will move in next door to her and then let the mid-morning kaffee klatches begin.