My wife and I just built a new home in a seaside summer community. It’s the first new build in the area in some time and its approval caused the ire of the locals during construction. As we’re about to move in, we’ve had to deal with numerous icy gawkers, many of whom have asked for a tour, sometimes without introducing themselves. We don’t want to give strangers who aren’t happy for us a tour, but it seems so blunt and rude to say no. How can we avoid this?
Anonymous / Mattapoisett
You can turn them away with some softer version of a straight-up “no,” such as “I’m sorry, that won’t work/we’re not able to.” It won’t take the locals (i.e., the people who have lived there much longer than you have) too much time to figure out that you consider them “strangers” rather than “neighbors.” You’ll be left alone.
But . . . why? Why not consider a charm offensive instead? Do you really want to remain on the outs with these people for decades? You seem to regard the locals as a mob of pesty antagonists, but look: Your neighbors aren’t background extras in your story, they’re the lead characters in their own. If your construction caused local “ire,” there were reasons for that. Even if the reasons boil down to an irrational hatred of change — what, you’re immune to that yourself? We’ve all been there. Have some empathy.
Your neighbors are only strangers because you’ve decided to treat them as such. So maybe throw an open house. Get them all in at once, give them some food, and be nice. Ask questions. Listen more than you talk. It’s not inconceivable that you’ll get some valuable local intel. Or you can continue to behave in a way that justifies their current assumptions about you, and will make it just that much harder for the next set of newcomers.
Our neighbor asked my husband to use our garage to do some work on his truck. I told my husband no, but he let this neighbor use our garage at 7:30 p.m. He was still there when I came home from work at 11:30 p.m. and did not leave until 2 a.m. I believe he took advantage of my husband’s good will and stayed way too late. What is your take?
D.M. / Boston
This is a husband problem, not a neighbor problem. The neighbor stayed late, but I can’t blame him if your husband had said he could work for as long as he liked. Why did your husband give him permission to use the garage after you’d said you weren’t comfortable with it? For that matter, why didn’t you ask him to wrap it up when you got home? You and your husband need to open up communication lines and present a united front. (I wish I knew enough about trucks to make a clever automotive metaphor for that, but alas I do not!)
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.