The Bride said she was going to the neighborhood homeowners association meeting, and I went with her. You can see the marks my fingers made along the hardwood floor as she dragged me outside.

It’s not that I was scared; it’s just that I was petrified. I mean, what if they pointed out that The Bride mows and waters the grass, trims the hedges and plants the pansies? What if they mentioned that my neighbor had to sod the back yard while I was at work? What if they said those green shutters have to go?

Silly me. Here I was fearing my fellow homeowners only to learn that most of them are martyrs – just like me. Every one of them had a chore list. They had home-improvement projects going on, and most were a tad more complicated than my “Fix The Floodlights So That The Neighbor’s Cat Can’t Knock It Over Anymore” saga. Oh, sure, a few wanted to run all of the renters out of the neighborhood on a rail, but most of them had legitimate concerns. More street lights. Road humps. Stop speeding. Crime watches.

But in the end, this meeting deteriorated into Homeowners Association Envy.

You know the symptoms, even if you rent. Because before there’s Homeowners Association Envy, there’s Renters Envy (“Gosh, those Bagwell Apartments are so clean and organized. And check out that banner: ‘Move in on us.’”).

Envy, of course, goes way back, to school (“Gosh, Mrs. Murchison’s Fifth Grade Class is so organized. They had picnic last week, even had a banner.”), church, college, work, Jaycees.

Homeowners associations are no better. (“Gosh, the Beeber Swamp Crossroads Homeowners Association is so organized. They had a picnic last week, even had a banner.”)

A banner makes you legitimate. It shows that you have pride. It shows that you have the money to spend on a banner, or you at least can cut a deal since the vice president of the association owns a printing shop.

Our association had no banner. We hadn’t had a picnic in years. We also didn’t have a crime-watch chairman, as he had moved to Beeber Swamp Crossroads and had rented out his house to a couple who do oil changes in their front yard and listen to Boxcar Willie, points that got the anti-renters faction boiling again.

No one wanted the crime-watch post when they found out that they can’t pack heat. Our neighbor finally volunteered, and the president said he would help her until his term expired. But then he put his 3-2-1 up for rent and moved to Beeber Swamp Crossroads.

It’s too bad. My opportunity to bond with homeowner martyrs seems doomed, but I’m not giving up. Maybe I can run for our association’s presidency, preaching that Renters are OK and that homeowners groups don’t need banners when they all have chore lists. Besides, “president” would have its perks.

After all, the Beeber Swamp Crossroads Homeowners Association president gets free doughnuts for a year.