'Deer Karen, I'm writing in response to . . .'

I asked this visitor if he had just been at [deer-attracting woman]’s house. He said, “Of course. Who wouldn’t want to go there? It’s better than your yard. Ha ha. Though, actually, I must say, there’s plenty of great stuff here, too.” Since that conversation, a couple of city council members I talked to suggested that residents who are concerned about the deer problem contact Mayor Kahlil Seren at 216-291-3737 or mayor@clevelandheights.gov. I wrote to him in early March and, so far, as of mid-April, I haven’t received a response yet.

Just to be sure, I looked up the term “Karen.” A slang dictionary said: “Karen is a pejorative slang term for an obnoxious, entitled middle-aged woman who uses her privilege to get her way.” I’ll get back to that.

I’m a member of a Facebook group about Cleveland Heights. A few weeks ago, a woman posted on it that she was getting worried that the deer had disappeared and weren’t going to come to her yard anymore, and that she was planning to plant a garden that would attract them.

I could tell from the photo she included that she lived on the next street, approximately behind my house. I said that we get three to five deer every day, usually from behind our garage (in other words, from the direction of her house), and that, as with all of my neighbors’ yards, the deer are extremely destructive and eat much of the stuff we’ve spent a lot of time and money on, and which we are then not able to enjoy in the few months we have in which to do that.

She told me to put up a fence behind my house. I pointed out that they come up my street, too, and approach my house, and all of my neighbors’ houses, from the front as well. She said that she liked looking at deer. I said I like to look at them, too, but they don’t belong in the city, especially where they’re so destructive.

One early commenter posted: “Here is just one of about a million resources you can easily find on why feeding wildlife is not a good idea,” with a link to a pamphlet titled “Please Don’t Feed the Deer” from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Under the heading “More harm than good,” the pamphlet’s introductory paragraph reads: “While feeding deer may enhance wildlife viewing, decades of research has clearly shown that supplemental feeding leads to increased disease risk, long-term habitat destruction, increased vehicle collisions, habituation to humans and alteration of other deer behavioral patterns and, ultimately, the demise of the value of deer and deer-related recreation. With CWD [chronic wasting disease] approaching our borders, the increased potential for disease transmission and outbreak is perhaps our greatest and most immediate concern, but habitat degradation, resulting in loss of wildlife diversity and abundance, and the introduction and invasion of exotic plants are consequences of feed that have been documented throughout North America and are a concern for Pennsylvania. Supplemental feeding diverts the attention, resources and efforts of wildlife management personnel away from more beneficial work; and studies universally reveal many disadvantages and few advantages to the practice.”

Then the pamphlet goes on to explain each of those points in detail. The original poster responded by saying, basically, that she didn’t care.

Then someone else posted an article called “Feeding Deer,” that did not say anyone should feed deer, but that if they did feed deer to give them the right things (food that wouldn’t kill them). She, apparently, interpreted that as meaning he was encouraging her, because she responded with a three-second video of a woman literally dropping a microphone.

Our conversation continued for a while. She claimed that all of her neighbors liked the deer and wanted them to come to their houses. That’s possible. But it’s a pretty drastic change from just one block over, on my street, where no one wants them. (A city council member I talked to said one of his neighbors is also actively trying to attract deer.)

She shifted slightly, saying that she was planting a nice garden, and if it happened to attract deer, there was nothing she could do about that.

Someone stepped in and said it sounded like a “you-do-you and she’ll-do-her” kind of thing, and that she could do whatever she wanted in her own yard because she pays her taxes. I compared that to the situation in a movie theater when a person behind you is talking and you ask them to stop and they say they paid for their ticket, just like you, so they can do whatever they want. The difference, of course, is that my not talking does not bother them or anyone else, while their talking bothers me and, probably, everyone else. He said the two things weren’t the same.

The original poster said, essentially, she didn’t care. I asked her if she also didn’t care about her neighbors. She called me a “Karen”—which really seemed to describe her, more than me (see above)—and told me to leave her alone.

I told her that I hope her garden turns out nice, and signed my response “Karen.” (For the record, she “liked” my response.)

David Budin

David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 9:47 AM, 05.02.2023