A house in my neighborhood was recently purchased by a man who looks to be in his early to mid-30s. I haven’t met him yet. But after being his neighbor for a month, I already know about the size, make and model of the TV in his living room; his affinity for wearing robes during off-robe-wearing hours (this actually is something I might start doing myself); the color and presumed plushness of said robe; the number of chairs surrounding his kitchen table; and the type of red wine he drinks (Apothic Red).
I, however, am not stalking him. That seems too time-consuming. Instead, I’ve discovered these details about him by doing things such as walking my dog and walking to my car and glancing out of my living room window to see if it’s raining. And these things were so easily discovered because my neighbor is a 30-something white person living in an urban space, and 30-something white people living in urban spaces apparently hate putting curtains and blinds on their windows.
It’s something that any person of color living in or near a recently gentrified place has discovered. An apartment building will be built from the ground up or renovated. And it will have rents that are FUCKING INSANE for the city and/or neighborhood that they’re in (in Pittsburgh, FUCKING INSANE is $3,000 a month). And then they’ll move in. The Patagonia-rocking and $28-cheeseburgers-served-in-mason-jars-eating herds.
And then, when walking or driving past this complex one evening, you notice that you can see clearly into every apartment. You can stand on the sidewalk and watch them watching Stranger Things and applying nipple tape for their post-dawn runs. You can read their lips while they’re having aggravating and self-aggrandizing conversations where words like “disrupt” are used frequently and unironically. You can almost smell the pesto and the privilege. It’s their most prominent aesthetic.
(And just so you know this isn’t a Pittsburgh-specific phenomenon, Panama—who lives in Washington, D.C.—brought it up two months ago in a piece about Amazon Key, and this was a point of discussion recently on the Facebook page of Dr. Stacey Patton, a professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore.)
To be fair, this is one of the few times where #NotAllWhitePeople truly does apply. You won’t see this as much in the suburbs. Those white people have curtains and blinds and shit to hide all of the money they’re embezzling and neighbors they’re fucking. And even in the city, you’ll usually find curtains and blinds on the windows of older white people and white people who happen to have families.
But with the type of white people who live in hyper-urban areas—basically, the type of white people willing to pay a spleen a month in rent (and can afford to) just to live in a “trendy” neighborhood—they seem to hate curtains and blinds more than Dustin Hoffman hates John Oliver.
As for why this exists, well, I have my theories. And they all revolve around hubris. They believe they own those neighborhoods and those urban spaces, and them not giving a shit about covering their windows is a subconscious taunt, a pervasive lack of the type of natural self-consciousness that causes most people to reflexively conceal their living spaces. Most people don’t want strangers all up in their business. But these people don’t give a shit about that because they don’t believe they need to. It’s a psychosis called Dunhamitis.
Or perhaps they spent so much money on rent and avocados that they just can’t afford curtains and blinds. Who knows?