There’s a neighborhood in the next county over where the residents are known to be a little more “open.” And the rumors have been running rampant about the highly detailed and convoluted ways to message one’s “openness” to other residents—including the infamous “white rocks.”

I originally heard about the white rocks on a talk radio show. Yes, kids, there used to be these things called talk shows on the real radio, and they had hosts. These people were podcasters who talked about something other than real-life murderers.

This particular talk show involved a group of guys who had just moved to this notorious neighborhood. On the show, they talked about how they’d heard this “white rocks” thing was, well, a real thing. I figured they were just making fun of the hood, because it is primarily wealthy, upper-class families, with mini mansions and manicured lawns. The type of place where people certainly do NOT air their laundry, in both senses of the phrase.

Rocky Roads

Per my previous observation of “wealthy, upper-class, mini mansions,” I used to take my kid trick or treating in that neighborhood (they totally gave the full-sized bars) and after hearing this, I was a little surprised at the number of homes that were decorated with white rocks. Coincidence, right?  


Over the next few years, this urban legend was confirmed by a number of different sources! Apparently it’s a tradition that comes from military-base living. Military communities used the white rocks to signal a less-traditional situation, and it carried over to this neighborhood, where we have a lot of retired military folks. And it’s been noted to be a signal in many communities.

For this particular neighborhood, there are other signals you can send as well—including how you place your keys on a bar at a certain restaurant or having an upside-down pineapple in your cart at Whole Foods. Really? That seems problematic and potentially quite awkward.

But, this got me curious. What if someone really does just like white rocks and has no idea what they mean? What do you do when you see the white rocks – leave letters in the mailbox? Knock on the door and just have at it? Are there other secret symbols that I might be doing without even realizing it?

 To the interwebs!

Yes, yes, you can’t trust everything you read online, but there was definitely a consensus from many sites—both trustworthy and Buzzworthy—about the following signals:

Bling Means Bang

Alright ladies (and gentlemen) be careful with your jewelry these days. Anklets, thumb rings, toe rings, black rings, and wearing your wedding ring on your right finger are all possible signs and may suggest you are open to invitations.

Outdoor Décor for Amore

Pineapple door knockers (what’s with the pineapples???), white rocks (or other colored rocks), pink flamingos, pampas grass, and garden gnomes may be sending signals as well. Maybe those really strict HOA rules are good for something.  

With the Band

There is a line of wristbands out there that advertise a different sort of noble cause. These are by far the easiest to identify and understand, and the least likely to result in an uncomfortable conversation because someone just happens to like wearing anklets. There apparently is an entire secret language used by these wrist bands that – to those in the know – spell out what the wearer is looking for. So, if you see someone wearing a “cause” bracelet, but you’re unsure what the cause they are advocating is, maybe just let it go because it might not be a cause you want to get behind.

The Key to it All

I was too young for key parties, but I kind of miss them. There’s no mistaking *I’m dropping my keys in the bowl because I want to sleep with someone else* the way you might mistake *I dropped my pineapple in the cart up-side-down and now I seem to be in the market for more than what is in this market!*

For a little more personal perspective on alternative relationships, read on here.

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About Lily Winters

A full-time copywriter, Lilly Winters lives outside Washington, D.C. in a house full of animals—which include her husband and teenager. Under a different name, she’s written a book of short stories, a Young Adult novel, and was most recently published in Gravity Dancers. Lilly Winters isn’t posting her real picture because it’s possible she is currently wanted by the Mexican drug cartel. It’s also possible she watches too much Ozark.

View all posts by Lily Winters