Love NOLA: (Personal) boundaries? What (personal) boundaries?
To hear Brett Will Taylor's take on how rhetorical comments in New Orleans can be invitations to (over) share or, maybe, become saved, listen to his commentary on NolaVie partner, WWNO/89.9 FM
Boundaries. They sure are in short supply ‘round here.
The boundaries between land and water are ever-shifting (land is losing). The boundaries between inside and outside are paper thin. And personal boundaries? Shoot. They don’t exist at all.
To live in New Orleans is to overshare. Have you ever asked a New Orleanian, “How are you doing?”
The response can take hours. By the time it’s done, you will know things about that person you never knew … and, most possibly, never wanted to know. Inevitably, you also will learn things about their family members, co-workers, current and former lovers, best friends and hated enemies.
Because, in New Orleans, you cannot answer “How are you doing?” without, at least once, saying, “Do you know so-and-so? Well, let me tell you (insert one of the following): a) what she just did to me; b) what I just found out about him or c) the kind of night we had.” Oversharing, it turns out, knows no boundaries.
It’s also not just about us. We’re going to overshare about you, too. That’s right: In New Orleans, we get all up in your business, whether we've known you for 30 years or 30 seconds. Don’t make no difference. We’re all family here. And family is going to tell you how it is with you, even if you don’t want to know how it is or, as I recently witnessed, don’t want a total stranger to know.
Take this kid, Brad. I met him the other night while stopping by Cosimo’s for a bite of bartender Stephanie’s soon-to-be-famous apple cake in a Mason jar. Brad’s a nice-looking kid. Cleancut. The kind of son you know always makes his mama proud.
While chewing the cake and sipping my scotch, Brad and I talked about the state of schools in New Orleans; what, exactly, a sequester would do to America; and who, pray tell, gets the Pope’s red shoes when he retires.
As we were getting ready to leave, Brad’s neighbor walked in. He is a gay gentleman of a certain age. Neatly pressed and slightly prissed. A dandy, you might call him (I’m pretty sure he knows where the Pope’s shoes are going). Brad explained that he and his neighbor shared a courtyard a few blocks away on Bourbon.
“That’s right,” said the neighbor. “Our doors are practically across from each other.”
Then, without missing a beat and oblivious to the fact that he was having this conversation in front of someone both of them had just met, Dandy looked at Brad and said, “Listen, who’s that girl who came out of your apartment this morning?”
Brad’s face flushed a bit. “Um, that’s my dogwalker,” he said.
Dandy corrected Brad immediately. “But, that’s not the same dogwalker who came out of your apartment last week. And it's not the same one who came out on Saturday.”
His face and neck now fully beet-red, Brad managed a smile and a shrug and said, simply, "It's difficult to find a good dogwalker in this city.”
True dat. Lucky for Brad, he lives in New Orleans, where someone always is willing to help you try. Which, I am sure, pleases his mama to no end.
To hear more about New Orleanians boundary issues, listen to my segment on WWNO at 89.9 this coming Monday at 8:35 a.m.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie. The Diving Board Chronicles are Will’s occasional check-ins and observations from his indefinite road trip to indeterminate places west. Follow him @bwtshaman.