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Advice & More July 2016

Ask Miss Nora

Witness Protection Program

Perhaps she’s lonely. Maybe she’s used to full-time activities or large gatherings and has moved away from the throng and misses the connection such events gave her. It also sounds as though she might be trying to engage the neighbors in similar camaraderie.

We are being driven mad by a new neighbor who feels entitled to comment on everything we’re doing in the garden, what time we got home from shopping and how late our company stays! Last week she even commented that she noticed we’d gone to bed early as all our lights were out by 8:00 o’clock and the car was in the driveway!

I've taken to hiding in my house when I hear her talking to the neighbors across the street. And once I stayed in the garage for what seemed like ages, waiting for her to go in before I could scurry into the back door without an inquisition about where I've been and why.

But despite all the dodging and craftiness and maneuvering, she’s still at our door for every little thing and won’t take subtle hints that we’re in a hurry and don’t have time to chat. We love our home but we’re even contemplating moving houses to get away from her incessant stalking.

All that said, she is a nice lady. I suspect that she means well and just wants to be neighborly. But like I said, we’re being driven mad. Please give us advice on how to stop this before we do something drastic.  — Hiding in Houston

 

Dear Hiding:

Oh dear, it sounds as though your well-meaning but persistent neighbor needs a hobby!

Perhaps she’s lonely. Maybe she’s used to full-time activities or large gatherings and has moved away from the throng and misses the connection such events gave her. It also sounds as though she might be trying to engage the neighbors in similar camaraderie.

Whatever it was, it definitely appears that you’re making up for a multitude of previous goings-on in her life. I don’t know that I could tell you the last time we had company, let alone how long they stayed.

Anyway, constructive advice: Speak bluntly but politely. No hinting, no subtle implying. Some people just don’t get insinuations or elusive clues to your discomfort. Walt’s mother was one such creature. After a couple months of hinting, I finally told her outright that we wouldn’t be going on vacation with her, despite all previous family traditions and pre-arranged reservations. In the beginning I had tried to be diplomatic and hint at my horror of spending ten days with a woman that I was having a hard time spending even a single afternoon with. But my subtlety fell on deaf (or defiant) ears. By the time she was choosing my vacation clothes for me, I was breaking out in a rash from the stress.

In the end it was over a rather comical conversation about holiday shorts verses skirts, when I just blurted out that we weren’t going, at all, ever! Mother-in-law sweetly said, “Well, why didn’t you just tell me?” It hadn’t dawned on me that my anxiety was invisible to the untrained eye!

Lesson learned. From that day on, I was the queen of straightforwardness and candor. No more pussyfooting around or relying on Walt to confront his mother when it came to important matters.

Let your neighbor know that you would like a visit from time to time but that you’re not the “just drop in” kind of people. When comments are made about bedtimes, company visits, gardening techniques, or how long you’ve been gone, say that you don’t appreciate the surveillance and then bid a polite goodbye.

However, try to find an activity you could do with your neighbor away from your homes; loneliness is dreadful. And, you never know, when she isn’t stalking your every move, you might enjoy her company.

Although, if truth be told, I never learned to feel at ease with Walt’s mother – even in small doses. Give that woman an inch and she’d tell you how badly you’re raising your children!

 

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