Buying a lawnmower is a big deal. A rite of passage. It implies you have a yard, and leisure time to cut the grass. And the means to afford one. This is a new thing to me and my spouse, spending hundreds of dollars on something this frivolous.
A lawnmower is something you kinda need, but not really. After all, an overgrown back yard makes for a good place to hide treasure.
And the bodies of your enemies.
Yeeah, my spouse and I let our yard turn into a jungle this year. Mainly because we’ve been slammed with work and childcare.
Landscaping crews would knock on our door every other week. They tried to sound polite, but you could see the pity in their eyes. Their faces all said, “Please let us help you, future crazy cat lady.”
And my face answered, “No thanks. It keeps away robbers.” Instead of Christmas lights, we considered putting up crime scene tape last December. You know, to complete the someone-was-definitedly-murdered-here-and-their-ghost-still-haunts-the-place look. We might’ve been the only couple not worried about break-ins over the holidays.
But soon, no longer.
This Christmas, someone might look at our house and reason that someone actually lives here now. Someone with stuff. So the nice lawn creates the need for a security system, and so on. Stuff begets stuff.
The neglected state of our lawn — if you can call it that — isn’t completely our fault. We bought our house from a little old lady who didn’t pay anyone to keep things up.
We think she might’ve been a witch.
So it’s gotten a little thick back there. Like a jungle. Actually, like two jungles fell in love and started a family. And now we’re going to kill them all. In the most gruesome ways imaginable.
Sharp blades. Poison. Maybe even fire.
Dandelions must feel the same way about a weed wacker as I feel about The Purge movies. Fun to watch, but deeply unsettling.
Some people inherit a nice back yard from the previous owner. Not us. We moved into a house in the midst of a midlife crisis. But I can’t complain that much. Some people never get a house at all.
For a long time, I thought I’d be one of those people forever saving up for a down payment. Now I’m one of those people on the cusp of complaining about stuff like lawns and a swimming pool we never use. If I ever start talking about a pool, you know I’ve sold out completely.
So now we’re finally doing yard work. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even start a garden. But not one of those worthless ones with flowers. One that grows real food you can eat. The kind my grandparents used to have.
We probably should’ve started this process sooner. Lucky for us, we don’t live in one of those neighborhoods with an association that sends you mean letters. My dad does, though. And he even takes them seriously. He loves landscaping. He’s up to his ass in garden gnomes.
For a long time, I thought I’d prefer to live in a city. The bigger, the better. Right downtown. Me, I was too cool for a yard. My way of rejecting my roots, I guess.
Cities. How exciting. You could go to art museums whenever you wanted. Or take in an opera. Sip espresso at the Starbucks where Charlize Theron’s personal assistant orders her skinny lattes.
So we did that — city living. It was great.
And noisy. And light-polluted.
Now I understand why so many 30-somethings want a house in the suburbs. It’s the only affordable way to have some space.
A New York or Beverly Hills lifestyle doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I’m all about suburbia now. I’ll never live in a gated community. But sometimes I still watch The Purge and think, OMFG that house…
Think back a few years. At one point, Ethan Hawke tells the scary people, “We can’t find him.” The plot points don’t matter. What you need to know: A guy gets into Ethan Hawke’s gigantic house, and hides. Ethan Hawke can’t find a guy in his own house. That’s how big it is.
If someone got into my house, I’d find them pretty quick. We don’t even have a proper attic.
Fuck me, I’m saying things like proper attic now…
In my 20s, a yard felt like a remote galaxy. Something I might never have, and might not even want. For most of that decade I lived in various 15-story apartment buildings near some downtown area. My yard was a parking lot, and a slew of bars.
And I kinda loved it. Except for that time I heard someone shout, “Holy shit! I think that girl’s masturbating!” My blinds were almost all the way shut, I swear. How the hell did they see me?
One of my last irritating neighbors considered our tiny parking lot his back yard. The lot wrapped around the building. You could barely squeeze one car through it, but he didn’t care.
He and his friends sat in the middle of it every night with lawn chairs and beers. Let his dog run around all over the place.
Until one time I almost ran over his dog.
So he gave me a drunken lecture about how, “This is my yard!”
That’s right. His yard. A giant slab of asphalt. No grass anywhere that I could see, except for one pathetic strip near the stairs. Even it looked lonely, like it wanted to be somewhere else.
Forlorn strip of grass, I shall write a poem about you one day.
So my neighbor finished his lecture about his yard. And I said, “It’s not a yard. It’s a driveway with a couple of parking spots.” This guy wanted a yard so bad, he’d hallucinated one. Someone please check his medication.
My neighbor was a little older than me, and sore about the direction of his life. He worked at a hardware store. So every day, he sold shit to people who had yards. People who didn’t have a property manager who’d knock your security deposit for putting nails into his walls.
Imagine a lifetime of constantly buying those packs of sticky things to mount your photos. In the summer, they lose their grip. Your picture falls on the floor one day while you’re at work. The frame breaks.
Sonuvabitch. You’re back to square one.
On top of that, there’s no place for your pets to run around and be free. They bark all the time, pissing off your neighbors. Yeah, lifelong apartment dwellers have a rough life.
Although I feel sad for him, he was an asshole. There’s no better revenge against someone like this than to give them a six-pack of their favorite cheap beer, then tell them you’re buying a house.
You should’ve seen his face.
Make no mistake. Like my mother before me, I am a mean girl. A mean girl with a lawnmower. Watch your feet.
A back yard is a weird thing. On the one hand, it’s a huge pain in the ass. And yet also a kind of a status symbol. You’re fortunate if you have one. They serve as great buffers between you and whatever noise your neighbor might be making. They allow you some privacy. During warm weather, your spouse can grill things while you down frozen margaritas.
Most importantly, a yard suggests you own a house. Or you’re paying a mortgage. It’s a huge step up for some of us.
Maybe you don’t have a pool yet. But you wear a bikini anyway. Maybe you put in a slip ‘n slide. You know, really class things up.
But you can only enjoy your back yard if you maintain it. When you’re used to middle class, you start complaining about yard work. But when you’re new to it, or returning there after a long hiatus, it’s kind of exciting. Your lawnmower feels like a new toy. It even comes in your favorite color.
Who knew that you, of all people, would one day strut through the storied halls of a Home Depot?
Actually, it’s more of a dazed wander. A quest. But that’s okay. I almost always find what I need within an hour.
Maybe the best thing about hardware stores is the dress code. You could walk into a Lowe’s painted with dried mud and grass, and nobody would care. The dirtier you look, the more yard work you’re doing. Which means the more shit you’re going to buy.
Now, try doing that at Applebee’s.
They’ll almost certainly ask you to leave. Unless it’s one of the ones that’s struggling, because Millennials ruin everything.
Now Moe’s, it could work. They’d just shout, “Welcome to Moe’s!” And you could respond, “I’ve been doing yard work with my baby daddy motherfuckas! Gimme your two best burritos…”
And the manager would say, “Get this crazy bitch a burrito.”
Recently, I also made my first trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We finally have enough plates and glasses and things that we need a way to organize them. Most of my life, I’ve gotten by with a couple of plates, a couple of forks, a bowl. No dishwasher. No laundry machine.
We have so many spatulas and knives now that we had to buy a spinny thing for them all. A special thing to hold your other things. It’s a slogan for the middle class. I didn’t exactly plan on making it here. But I did. And after all, someone’s got to wrangle the weeds on this property. Until the day civilization ends, and weeds take over.
Managing a lawn sounds like a futile gesture to part of me. Then again, you can make almost anything sound that way. Why brush your hair if you’re eventually going to die? But you do it anyway. You do it so that maybe one day you can put a little fire pit out there and roast marshmallows. Because what else are you going to do with your life but live it?