Monday, July 16, 2007

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

I think the neighbor lady across the street is mad at me.

You might ask, Is this the same neighbor with whom you’ve had very few conversations? The one that you merely exchange pleasantries with and then move on? The one who you used to suspect might be interested in a friendship – you do both have little boys, after all – but after one flat play date, you both thought better of it?

Yes, one and the same.

And it wasn’t the failed play date that did it. We have had conversations since then, and they have been fine. At least I think they were fine…

For though I used to be a practicing psychotherapist (one who, of necessity, picks up on the subtleties and nuances of other’s behavior), I have been known to be a bit focused when going about my business, so I may not have noticed if things weren’t okay.

After all usually when we say hello, I’m heading to work trying to wrangle a preschooler who has a penchant for making me late or I'm heading out for an evening walk - my precious alone time. Add to this that I loathe chit chat with the same fiery hatred that I typically reserve for asymmetrical tank tops, and you may have a recipe for my missing some signals here.

What I can clearly tell you is that recently while leaving for the aforementioned walk, this neighbor has been shooting daggers at me with her eyes – if she deems to look at me, that is. She has also started turning away just as I would come into her field of view, pretending that she doesn’t see me. And then a few days ago, she actually spoke behind her hand to two other neighbor ladies as I walked by.

And my issue is not that I feel bothered by this. Rather my angst is that I feel like I should be bothered by it. If she’s angry at me, then I must have done something (albeit unintentionally) to make her feel slighted or hurt.

And while I act all bad-ass on this blog, I really don’t want to be the type of person who hurts and slights others willy-nilly. Really, it’s not my style. I prefer distant cordiality in most circumstances, but – if pushed – I will attend to the emotional needs of those outside my established circle of family and friends.

So I think I should at least try to make some attempt to talk to her in an effort to re-establish friendly neighbor relations, but – and here’s the crux of the matter - I don’t really feel like it.

We don’t have much in common. Our kids don’t necessarily play well together (mostly because her child tends to hit and kick), and I’m not necessarily interested in making new friends who live across the street and therefore can stop by anytime. Also, I don’t feel like I have the excess energy required to placate someone who’s being kind of stupid about a slight that I don’t even remember.

So I’m torn between acting the part of a decent neighbor (requiring effort on my part) and my natural inclination to ignore her until she eventually moves away (relatively less effort on my part).

It’s really a battle between the person I want to be (kind and neighborly) and the person I am (emotionally unavailable and lazy).

What’s a girl to do?


Anonymous said...

Don't sweat it. You've got enough on your plate. Or, if you must try to restablish the friendship, discuss with her thoughts on getting those crack dealers out (ie, create a different enemy neighbor).

Sandy said...

Wall of Bitch. Need I say more?


Anonymous said...

Introduce her to her drug sellign neighbors down the street and hope they gack her?

Garbo said...

The talking-behind-the-hand thing is deliberately provocative. I've never been successful in any confrontation which was deliberately provoked by somebody else. When we lived on N. 4th Street, the neighbor children used to yell at our visitors, "Don't go in there! Gay people live in there!"

lsig said...

You could also take the aggressively friendly approach. Wait until she's turned her head deliberately away and then make a point to loudly, cheerily say hello. Compliment her child just when he's pitching a fit. Time it so that she's clearly rushing to get into the car and on her way and engage in some chit-chat about the drug dealers down the street.

Properly-timed "friendliness" can be an incredibly effective weapon.

Karen said...

heh. maybe she found your blog. :D

seriously though, what on EARTH. i wonder what's with her? she really wants you to notice her being upset with you.

i'm kinda impressed that you don't care. knowing someone was that upset with me would drive me crazy!

Thea said...

Um, would a wallet help? I have extra parts, I could whip one up in no time...

My other suggestion would be lighting a bag of dog poo on fire and putting it on her front porch.

And you're right, what IS a gal to do?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the being overly nice like nothing has ever happened. It drives people crazy and sometimes makes them think nothing HAS happened. It's actually kind of funny to force people to be nice to you (like doing this in front of others when she can't ignore you becuase it would make her look like an ass). Just my two cents. :) Elengant

Zany Mama said...

There is a decided lack of sweating here - that's what worries me a bit. It seems like any sort of deceent person would be sweating...

I can never quite pull of the wall, that's been my problem our entire friendship.

Show yourself - I'd like to compliment you on your use ofthe word gack.


Such charming little monsters you lived by, eh?

You and Zingerzapper apparently go to the same school of passive aggression.

It may be why we're friends.

It's completely out of character for me not to care. But I don't.

Go figure.

I believe that she would very much like a rainbow striped wallet. If you'll just make that up for me, then I'll send it over as a peace offering.

Good suggestion.

Elengant -
Elengant? Psychotherapist Elengant? Are you truly suggesting that I use manipulation and social pressure to resolve this issue?

For shame.

Anonymous said...



I usually leave my name at the end, musta forgot.

I tried to get a identity name, but I am technically deficient.


zulhai said...

Screw her.

zulhai said...

Actually, if it were me, I would stand more or less with lsig on this, i.e. a friendly wave and calling out a cheery "HI," --and keep moving. It's essential not to stop and get bogged down in any kind of conversation. Headsets help.
Otherwise, life is too short to try and placate angry people you don't even know.

Sue said...

I wouldn't worry about it. It's so much effort over someone who obviously has issues, if she's bothered by something that you don't even remember.

I do like the idea of being overly nice. It would drive her crazy and make her acknowledge you.


Zany Mama said...

Thanks for coming clean, man. I suspected it might be you, but you just wouldn't expect that from a guy from Worthington...

Screw her - right on!

I'm liking the "don't worry about it" option. Even the forced niceness seems like too much effort. I am so lazy.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Toledo originally if that helps expectations :)

Anonymous said...


belsum said...

Hmm. At least you're not at war with the crackheads, right?

L. Noelle said...

Hey, I'm digging the new blog, nice! Nice!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps she doesn't have enough to keep her busy in her own life , so she has to create some imagined stress. Sounds like 'junior-high' games to me. I didn't like them then, don't now and I refuse to play.

My vote is for the lazy approach. Eventually she will move on to a new crisis-du-jour. That will allow you to maintain your own comfortable level of neighborly interaction without any obvious changes.

Do like the earplug(?) suggestion, or just be pleasantly busy. This too shall pass. She will probably find something else to get her knickers in a twist when she gets bored.

Play trains with your munchkin. Nothing like a few train-wrecks to release a little tension :)


Lynn said...

I don't really care what my neighbors think, either. That's because they pretty much suck.