It all began on February 1st because I went to see my therapist for ideas on how to feel closer to my neighbors and become a bigger part of my local community.
Therapist: How can I help you?
Me: Every day I walk exactly 11 miles before 11:11 pm on the clock and…
Therapist: So you’re here to address your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Me: No, that’s just my lucky number. The point is I encounter tons of neighbors on my walks but nobody says hello or acts friendly at all. And if I wave, they just ignore me.
Therapist: So you have a fear of rejection and a wounded child syndrome.
After I convinced her I was emotionally healthy, we decided the approaching Feb 14th holiday was the ideal opportunity for me to foster a more neighborly attitude. I would bake heart-shaped cookies and leave a sweet message on nearby front porches. Perfect. It would be a “Love Thy Neighbor” type of deal. Hey! Maybe I’d even start a new trend like that “Pay It Forward” kid did and become famous!
Then came all the trouble over “LOVE.” Because it was centered around the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, of course I wrote “I Love You!” on a sticky Post-It and attached it to the plate. Hallmark says it and so do those putrid conversation heart candies — why can’t I?
The next morning my neighbor confronted me at the mailbox with raised eyebrows and asked me what exactly I meant by that? I assured him I’ve lived here for nineteen years now and had just grown fond of his entire family. He frowned and hurried away, issuing a warning about mounting one of those video surveillance cameras on his front door.
I consulted my therapist who advised me to omit the “I” from “I Love you!” It was too overt and felt threatening to people, she told me. “Besides if you’re signing your name, they all know who you are anyhow,” she further explained.
Okaaaay. Cookies went out again, this time with a card that simply stated, “Love You!”
That afternoon, I overheard two neighbors talking in suspicious tones underneath my window.
Neighbor #1: What’s up with this Stephanie chick and those weird, mushy sentiments?
Neighbor #2: Yeah! Why can’t she just wait until Halloween and leave the normal, “You’ve been booed!” scary anonymous goblin note with treats instead?
So essentially I live in an area where people would rather be spooked than loved!
My therapist next recommended I try a different cul-de-sac of homes and dial it back even more. She suggested writing “Luv Ya!” because that was somehow more appropriate. Why I had to intentionally misspell words didn’t make any sense, but if that’s what it took, I was on it.
My children were annoyed that I kept baking heart-shaped cookies around the clock but not a one was for their consumption. Nevertheless I was determined to make this plan a success. The next batches went out late at night and I felt really good about it — plus my signature was now, “From Your Secret Valentine Vixen!” so it would be completely anonymous like the Halloween ghost thing they mentioned.
I was confident my neighborhood would now be a much nicer place to take walks in! But that was before I ran into five women standing in a huddle and looking disturbed. I moved in closer to hear what all the fuss was about.
Neighbor #1: There’s a Valentine Vamp after our husbands!
Neighbor #2: Yes! And she’s also a Valentine Vandal. There were cookie sprinkles littered all over our brand new front doormat.
Neighbor #3: Plus she’s undermining our parental authority because we don’t allow sugar anywhere near our children.
Me: (enthusiastically joining in) The sheer audacity of this woman. Let’s intercept her mail!
And that’s how I hit on the best way to get close to all my neighbors . . . I would bond with them through everyone’s anger and disgust over me – the loving Valentine cookie baker!
But for good measure, I left a plate of exactly 11 heart-shaped confections on my therapist’s office door with a note that said, “Wuv U!”
She called me immediately. Her voicemail said, “We really must work on your OCD and that neglected Inner Child of yours!”