I like my neighborhood quite a lot. It’s quiet, the people are nice, and there were no privacy fences around any of the yards when I moved in. That’s been changing, though, as the old, original owners of the houses have moved out and younger families with kids have been moving in.

I’m not sure why I dislike privacy fences. I think it’s partly because they chop the landscape up into discrete little squares that prevent you from seeing what’s around you. When we moved here, I could stand on our back stoop and look from one end of our block to the other. I was looking at a lot of green in a lot of back yards, and it was a pretty good view. Privacy fences not only block that view, they pretty much ruin it, turning a swath of green into a clutter of boxes. They’re not even good-looking boxes. Most privacy fences are rough, unpainted wood the color of cardboard that age poorly over the years, going from a tan color to a streaky grey that looks a lot like rot. It’s not a good look. But hey, privacy.

Speaking of which, I am automatically suspicious of the contention that you’re doing something in your back yard so personal you must screen it from my defiling eyes. Really? How is anybody doing anything that personal unless they’re holding somebody hostage in their garden shed, or burying the bodies of their victims and then pouring a concrete patio over the graves? What is going on in those yards that is so freaking personal? Nobody’s sunbathing nude; this is Wisconsin. Doesn’t happen.

Okay, I’ll take just a moment here to acknowledge that people put up privacy fences for legitimate reasons. The guy two doors down has dogs. He prefers to let them run in his back yard instead of leashing them, and he wants to make sure they’re not running into other people’s yards, or running into the street where they might get hit by a truck. The family that just moved in on the other side of the block have kids; they put up a fence for the same the guy with the dogs did. I get this.

But I still get a frowny face when I see another privacy fence going up as I’m taking a morning walk around the neighborhood. I don’t like boxes.

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