I had something else in mind to write about this week, but then I had to deal with screaming neighbors at 3:30 a.m. Mind you, this is not the first set of domestically combative neighbors I’ve had.
A few months ago the couple who lived directly next to me moved out because they broke up. I have never rejoiced so much over someone else’s misfortune. It’s not that I disliked my neighbors—I hardly knew them—but I could not handle their weekly fights.
It is true that I go to bed insanely early and am a light sleeper, but everyone in my building took issue with the repeated screaming of F-bombs at 2 a.m. on weeknights. My neighbors did not settle for the minor bickerings of romantic relationships. This was a blood sport.
At least once a week I awoke to the sounds of “F*$@ you!” being shouted from the balcony followed by copious amounts of screaming from both parties. The language itself was enough to make me blush, and I am known to swear like a sailor at times. The male in this situation was abundantly louder than the female, and though it never sounded as if they physically hurt each other, they destroyed a lot of furniture by throwing it against the wall (which my bed is directly on the other side of) or occasionally throwing it off the balcony.
Was all of this ruckus absolutely necessary? I pondered that many a night as I lie awake, dialing the security number for my complex. More to the point, why did they have to have these fights on their balcony in the middle of the night? Did we all need to hear this? When do these people sleep? And don’t they have jobs to go to in the morning?
Most of my relationships are short-lived, but even the long-term ones have never resulted in this level of anger. And this was sheer, unadulterated rage filtering through my walls. My parents, who have been married for 35 years, have never had a fight as loud or as violent as the ones I listened to several times a month. It was enough to make me want to stay single permanently if for no other reason than to avoid having my furniture tossed off a second story balcony.
Eventually, Romeo and Juliet realized that they really did have nothing in common and parted ways. As I watched them glare at each other from separate U-Hauls I realized that no, this was not a part of falling in love. Fights like that are a part of falling in hate. My parents and my happily married friends have managed to find love without the violence, even the verbal kind. Passion of that caliber doesn’t hold you through the bad times and it certainly doesn’t console your grumpy neighbors the next morning. Like everything else that gets too heated, it eventually burns away.
So I have had several months of uninterrupted sleep until last night, when another couple stood in the parking lot of my apartment complex at 3:30 a.m. to yell at each other. I need to find the number of the security officer again.
Lesson learned: No matter how important you think your feelings are, at 3 a.m., no one cares, so please shut up.
I nickname almost everyone I’ve ever dated. Actually, it’s more like almost everyone I’ve ever met. This isn’t a form of retribution or anger toward men who have done me wrong; it’s more of a habit that I’ve never been able to break.
It started in elementary school. My dad is terrible with names. Every night at dinner he would ask me about my day and would then be completely confused by my dramatic tales of playground hijinks. My mother could remember the names of every child in my class since day care, but my father just stared blankly until I found a relationship between the name and the person that he could identify.
“You know, the girl who cut her hair like Demi Moore’s in ‘Ghost’? A teacher thought she was a boy and threw her out of the girl’s bathroom.”
And then my father would remember Heather = Demi Moore. For a while at least, she was referred to as “Demi.”
The nicknames were sometimes based on various physical characteristics such as “mole” or “big bangs.” Sometimes they were based on their personalities or events they took part in such as “the girl who doesn’t talk” and “daughter of bird lady.”
By the time I reached high school, I think my father preferred to not think about me dating and purposely forgot the names of my various crushes. Nicknames became more vital in keeping his attention until he started choosing his own names for them. While I tried to curb these into something more appropriate, my father took to names such as “idiot” and “douche bag.”
I should have grown out of this habit by now, but years of practice have made it second nature for me. It starts from the moment I first meet them and whether or not it blossoms into a relationship, I tend to refer to them by their nickname, at least to my friends and family. This technique is especially useful when you date multiple guys with the same name. (Daves, Andys and Jasons have been abundant in my life.) It helps people differentiate. I try to keep them pleasant like “Billy Idol,” “skinny scientist,” “cliff diver,” and “infant brit.” Sometimes they name themselves such as “Morbid Jake.”
By now, most of my friends rarely know the real names of my dates, only nicknames. They know I’m serious about someone when I refer to them by their given name.
Lesson learned: At my 30th birthday party, my friends played the game “How well do you know Amanda.” While everyone immediately knew the answers to questions about my love of diet coke and shoes, only one or two could answer: “Why did so-and-so get deported?”
“Who is that?” They all asked.
“Infant Brit.” Hands immediately went up. Say what you will about my tact, it’s a system that works.