After finding the home of her dreams, a reader is confronted with a nosy neighbor, a pants-dropping husband, and a quagmire.
My family just bought a house in a quiet cul-de-sac that is our dream home. This is our first home, and we are in heaven, and the neighbors are all welcoming and friendly.
Here is the problem: my husband and I discuss anything serious like finances, school issues, or family issues outside on our porch. We don’t want the kids to hear us when we are talking about anything that could upset them because they are young. Last night, we were discussing something really difficult from our past and my current financial issues came up (I am in the process of declaring bankruptcy due to medical bills and the house is only in my husband’s name). One of my neighbors walked up to me today and said she heard us talking on the porch last night. I apologized and told her if we were too loud, we promised to keep it down in the future. She advised we were not loud, but wanted to let me know she heard us talking (it was after midnight when my husband and I were talking). She was almost smug about it, and the conversation was short and it made me really uncomfortable.
Our house is close to our neighbors on both sides, but not so close that talking should disturb anyone with their windows closed (which everyone’s windows are right now). I am really put off by this (and am obviously embarrassed). My husband got upset when I told him, and he literally dropped his pants and mooned the neighborhood tonight (again, after midnight). He said (not quietly) that it is our house and as long as we aren’t being loud or disturbing, what we do on our property is our business.
I plan to live here for the next 30 years at least, so I don’t want to feel uncomfortable in my own home. What would you do?
Frustrated in Suburbia
When I receive questions for the column, I read them and walk away and let them “sit in my gut” for a while to ponder my knee-jerk reaction to the situations presented to me. I have to admit, the tween-age boy that will forever exist within my almost-middle-aged self hasn’t stopped laughing at the visual of your husband’s reaction to what took place in your new neighborhood since I first read your question. I admire his chutzpah and sense of freedom to express himself – but he was so, so, so wrong to have done what he did (I’m still laughing as I write this, even though his reaction was totally inappropriate).
I do, however, agree with his point: this is your home. This is your slice of the “American Dream,” and so long as you are not disturbing anyone, I think your neighbor had a lot of nerve to say that to you. My skin is crawling at how invasive the neighbor was. If she advised you she wasn’t complaining about noise, I suspect she was attempting to ‘put you in your place’ by simply advising she heard you and now has “dirt” on you. I don’t know how much more passive aggressive one can be.
My advice is to take this as a learning experience and realize that this neighbor has told you a lot about who she is. Keep her at an arm’s length, be cordial, and make friends with the other neighbors. You could confront her directly and let her know you know what she knows, but that would create a quagmire from which you could never really recover from if she continues to react the way she already has. If I were in your shoes, I would duly note everything that happened, and always smile and say hello when you must, but basically avoid all contact when you can. I would also resist any temptation to retaliate in the form of gathering “dirt” on her, or bringing tainted muffins or brownies or anything of that nature. I would let karma play its hand and put a boundary in place with this particular neighbor.
I would be cautious going forward about your volume when discussing serious issues outside, or consider finding an alternate location where you know your kids can’t hear you and where there are no “Mrs. Kravitz’s” lurking and listening (your bedroom with the door closed, perhaps).
Let your husband know I appreciate the humor and his knee-jerk reaction in response to what he learned, but for all involved it would probably be better if he keeps his pants on and avoids “full moons” when outside (even after midnight). Good luck and congratulations on your new home!
They say that the best neighbors are no neighbors at all, or those behind very high fences. When you live in close proximity with different lifestyles, personalities, and clashing schedules, conflict is always a possibility. What do you do to keep the peace in your neighborhood?
Photo: Flickr/Elias Friedman (adapted)
Originally appeared on Dear Dad. Reprinted with permission.