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The sting of a neighbor’s accusation

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By Daryn Kagan EBS contributor

Now, that was embarrassing. What happened at a neighbor’s house this week. Even worse, the wrong kind of embarrassing. It’s one thing to goof up. It’s a whole other thing to be misunderstood.

It all started with Husband handing me an announcement about an event in our neighborhood. “Come to the house of Sue and Frank,” the newsletter read. “Our other neighbor, Ron, will do a multi-course cooking demonstration.”

It sounded fun to bond with neighbors, learn something, and enjoy delicious food. I went to the website and signed us up. Fast forward weeks later, five minutes after walking into our neighbor’s house one of the organizers came up to me and said in a rather loud voice, “Either you or your husband is going to have to leave.” I thought she was joking. She was not.

“Everyone else paid for two people to be here. You can’t pay for one and bring two.”

I was so confused. I was sure I paid for two. I even remember putting Husband’s name in the “guest” field. “No, you paid for one,” the organizer insisted, producing a receipt. “Everyone else who brought someone paid for both.”

And there it was: Exhibit A. Although, I could swear I paid for two, the evidence of only paying for one was right there on the paper. I’ll own that. But this neighbor lady seemed to be suggesting, rather loudly, that I was being slick by paying for one and bringing a guest I had no intention of paying for.

Call me an illiterate techie. I’m okay with that. But say I was trying to pull a fast one over on my neighbors? That’s hard to swallow.

It was funny to me a few days later. As I thought about the things that bother us, the stories we tell ourselves about other people, about what other people think of us, and why we care.

Has this happened to you, Dear Reader? Being accused of the wrong transgression? Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who screwed up. There was another couple who showed up having only paid for one person. They were so upset, they left, leaving room for Husband and me to stay, which we did—uncomfortably.

Was I imagining those sideway glances neighbors I had just met were giving me?

“Can you pass the potatoes and for the record, I am not a cheap slime ball,” I wanted to announce.

The dessert course couldn’t arrive soon enough. Little did I know what I was there to learn that night. I mess up. You mess up. Does it really matter how and why? Does it really matter what the neighbors think? I need to scrape leftover embarrassment like cleaning crumbs off dirty dishes.

The check I dropped off the next day to settle up our debt was the best money I spent all week. Thank you for demonstrating what I really needed to learn.

Daryn Kagan was a featured speaker at TEDxBigSky 2018. She is the author of “Hope Possible: A Network News Anchor’s Thoughts on Losing her Job, Finding Love, a New Career, and my Dog, Always my Dog,” and the founder of, a resource for uplifting and positive news.

The Outlaw Partners is a creative marketing, media and events company based in Big Sky, Montana.

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