Where do you park your car? Of course, in front of your house. What would your neighbors say if you parked in front of their house?
How quickly do you shovel your sidewalk after it snows? Do you shovel your steps and the elderly lady’s next door?
If there is garbage on your street, do you pick it up, even if it’s not yours, even if it’s not in front of your house?
Remember why the big fat Greek wedding family was embarrassing? Not because they cooked a lamb on a spit (though that’s a little weird), but because they cooked it in the front yard. They broke the unwritten rule of suburbia, cookouts happen in the backyard!
The appeal of suburbia is its rules. Early suburbs weeded out the rule breakers with money—you had to have a chunk of cash and maybe even a car to make suburban living feasible. The rules got really strict in communities with convenants. “Some of your best friends” couldn’t live next door. We laugh. We’re sophisticated now, we would never tolerate such exclusive behavior in our communities in this enlightened era.
But leave your garbage can at the curb all week and see what happens. Paint your house pink and you’ll end up as a community curiosity, maybe even featured in the local newspaper.
The rules of suburbia make it quiet, safe, and—as confirmed in any piece of pop culture—dull.
And people may take pride and possession of their properties, but they don’t necessarily use them, as discussed is this UCLA study. They are too busy working to keep up with the Jones’.
What are the unwritten and written rules in your neighborhood? What is the physical and social infrastructure that keeps you mowing a lawn and driving to the local pool, when you’d really rather be harvesting vegetables or riding your bike?