“It’s a what?” I wasn’t hard of hearing in my late 40s; I was just thrown by the new term
“A Gated Community,” my husband announced, articulating slowly for my edification.
“Why?” I asked.
Placed in the heart of 450 acres of undeveloped forest, a gate seemed the height of redundancy. The one I was looking at flanked a cute little fairytale cottage my husband identified as The Guard House. It was attached to…nothing… on each end. Floating freely just beyond the cottage with only beech trees and air for neighbors, it was obvious not even the woodland wildlife would be stopped on either side of it.
“What in heaven’s name is a Gated Community, and why would anyone what to live? … My voice trailed off as I waved my hand at the forest cottage with faux barriers.
“They’re the future”, my husband explained, again with some pride I was trying not to pay attention to. “People owning high-end real estate will want to know who their neighbors are and that their real estate investments are protected.”
“So, at some point in the future it will presumably be important to keep people out of this place in order to call it a community?” I knew my expression was less than accepting. “I don’t like it,” I added, unnecessarily, I realize now. “Reminds me of the entrance to a cemetery. A very well-tended one,” I added in hopes of mitigating the harshness of my statement, “but it’s all so…incongruous…out here in what we called the middle-of-nowhere just a few years ago.”
A few years after that, we built a huge home there on a bluff 180 feet above Peconic Bay with 180 degree views West, South/West of the sunsets turning water, boats and clouds scarlet: all within that Gated Community. I lived there for almost 20 years, but never figured out what that community was meant to be. My husband ran the community board and association for many years before we even built the house, having purchased the land before we’d sold our other house. Wanting to protect his investment in waterfront property, he saw the Community Association as the best way to do that, and so eventually was involved in every decision, financial, practical or legal, that was made; and he knew everybody who bought land within the community as the 35 lots relentlessly developed into the high-end real estate assets he’d envisioned in the beginning.
I never went to even one of the annual meetings of the Association, nor did I get to know many of the other owners much more than to nod to from afar. I wondered if I was becoming anti-social, but decided that since my early efforts to connect the first people who moved into the community were rebuffed, I wouldn’t waste any more effort to connect people who didn’t seem to care…about each other or the developing community itself. If the protection of each individual asset was all that mattered, then this “Community” was actually more of a private club formed to keep others out; something I’d been allergic to for a long time.