Vote for the Cocktail Party
By Lauren Green
Illustration by Jennifer Hart
An old mauve recliner slumps on a porch, faded and stained. Off to the side, a wild-haired baby doll sets up housekeeping in a clump of grass. And directly across the street is the driveway where a bonfire once engulfed a splintered piano. I recently spotted these oddities in a small town close to my heart. Not once have I seen anything remotely similar here in Southlake.
Like many of you, I live in a community managed by a homeowners association (HOA) and, for that reason, I am confident that discarded recliners, abandoned baby dolls and torched pianos won’t go unnoticed for long. However, this guarantee comes with a cost. For one, my HOA dues are darn expensive. The other cost has nothing to do with money, but it carries a price.
Consider what happens if I stain my fence Umber Rust Sherwin-Williams 9100, an earthy brown. Chances are good that I’ll receive a letter in my mailbox. It will inform me that an HOA representative recently drove past my house and “couldn’t help but notice” that my fence was not stained CLRNT OZ-384, BL 3-318, CL 3-75, FL 0-301 or KX 4-72.
These are the official color formulas for wood fencing in my neighborhood. As per established guidelines, my HOA can dictate my stain color, so I pay for a limited choice. I’m OK with this. The silver lining is that I never have to worry about seeing Sherwin-Williams Berry Frappé, SW 9068, on a fence down the street.
This authoritative reach stretches beyond paint colors. Window styles, landscape design and basketball goal placement also require HOA approval. Over the years, I’ve grumbled about this procedural rigamarole. Yet as much as I complain, I admit I need my HOA.
A few years back, I received a notice that my mailbox needed power washing. I had noticed mildew advancing into the stonework, but it took a written tongue-lashing for me to get it cleaned.
While the HOA has the unenviable task of reminding us that sometimes established community standards hold greater weight than personal preferences, it also nudges us into the maintenance we should be doing anyway.
There is another neighborhood issue that needs attention: The election sign. Red, blue, purple — regardless of the color or content, political signs have a way of overrunning our communal landscape seemingly overnight. Where is that HOA letter when we need one? With all due respect to those who display these endorsements, perhaps our political sway would benefit from rethinking how we use our election signs.
Instead of posting a sign telling our neighbors whom to vote for (people can figure this out on their own), consider painting over the political jargon with the date and time of a front-yard happy hour. Over cocktails, discuss the issues face-to-face, and at the end of the evening, propose a toast and promise to vote.
How about covering up those candidate endorsements with glue and glitter?
Graduations, retirements, birthdays and births are all noteworthy for sure, so use your sparkly sign to commemorate your family’s big events with those who live around you. You may not share your neighbor’s political views, but you already share the same fence color, so why not share life’s milestones, too?
Convert those sturdy political signs into charcuterie boards. Flip them on their side and load them up with tasty nibbles. Over apple slices, prosciutto and brie, find out what the neighbors’ kids are into currently. As a bonus, if there is a big game, concert or competition coming up, grab your glitter sign and mark the occasion together.
On a starry night, invite your neighbors to sit around the backyard fire pit and talk. If a divisive topic prompts too much hot air, simply use your election sign as a fan to cool everyone down. It’s easy to find connections over the glow of a shared flame.
Back when my mailbox showed signs of wear, the HOA reminded me that life in a community like ours sometimes requires attention and extra work, especially when things start getting ugly. This election season, I plan to spend less time ruminating about my neighbors’ political parties and, instead, turn my attention to a more unifying party — one involving cocktails, charcuterie boards and celebrations under starry skies. Of course, I’ll need to run this by the HOA. But first, let’s figure out the details. Happy hour tonight, anyone?