Naughty Neighbors

Naughty Neighbors

Getting along with your neighbors can mean the difference between serenity and insanity. We have advice to keep the peace with the people next door.


Scott Griessel/123rf Photo

My darling Singularians, if you’re old enough to recall those Vanilla Land sitcoms where happy families lived on cute streets named Dogwood Lane, you saw that neighbors were like “family.” Kind and caring, the whole town knew each other and rallied in good times and bad. I’m sure there are a few places like that somewhere, but face it, times have changed. These days, our neighborhoods have turned into mega-cities where A) you may not even know your neighbor’s name and B) chances are your biggest interaction with them may be “your lawyer or mine.” Let’s look.


Dear Marnie: I recently rented a house in a new community. It appears that most of my neighbors stick to themselves. I would like to get to know them, but I’m not the type to go ringing doorbells and introducing myself or to throw get-to-know-you parties. More, I may not even want to start a friendship with some of them. My question is, how do I meet them in a more natural way? – MS in New Digs

MARNIE SAYS: Ah angelpuss, all it takes is a smidgen of creativity – mixed with a dollop of chutzpah.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* Join your community association – if there is one.

* Do something obvious to improve the exterior of your house, then hang around outside. I learned that after painting my truly ugly fence. Well, sweetie, nothing attracts neighbors more than junk hauling trucks, ladders, and men with tools. More neighbors stopped, looked, and commented than if I’d given out free dirty martinis.

* Advice. Ask for some. Make your visit to neighbors a mission. Where’s the best fish, deli, Chinese food, dry cleaners? Everybody adores being an expert. And what’s more, we all think we’ve found “the greatest” around. You get the information, plus a look-see without the commitment.

* In each case, consider it to be a compatibility opportunity. While you’re discussing your Home Depot coupons, you can fish around for those with whom you feel that natural connection. You’ll also find out about local doin’s. Who’s having a garage sale? (My favorite hobby and a great way to meet the folks – in a grab fight for a cracked candle holder.) You’ll learn who else has just moved in, if there are neighborhood traditions, for example, pot lucks, card games, or reading groups you can join.

As you slowly make their acquaintance, you can start weeding and flowering friendships without false starts that fall flat.


Dear Marnie: Try this on. I’m a divorced software engineer. I have a good friend I’ll call “Lorna,” a stay-at-home single mom, who spent six years going to back to school and is now graduating. I threw a “girl’s night out” celebration at my home in her honor. She got a little wasted, took a walk (with another friend, who was straighter) and managed to damage my neighbor’s wooden carriage lawn ornament. The value is about $400. My neighbor showed up on my doorstep with a bill. Lorna doesn’t actually remember what she did. She’s a dear friend, but I don’t have that kind of money. Here’s my question, do I ruin her graduation and the reception her mom is throwing next week by handing her a bill, or should I suffer, pay it and say nothing? — Lorna’s Friend

MARNIE SAYS: Of course you don’t ruin the lady’s graduation by handing her a bill, you dear silly thing, you. You send her the bill — after the graduation. (Sheesh!)

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:                       

* Tell yourself, “I’m a sweetie pie. I did a good thing. I threw my pal a party.”

* Add, “I’m letting my affection for my pal mess up the simple truth: She messed up – all over my neighbor’s lawn.”

* If this were any other time or situation, would you be hauling out the Visa? No. You didn’t let her drive drunk. OK, you did let her roam drunk, which wasn’t smart, given that she was obviously more than “a little” wasted. But she was with another semi-functional adult. (Where was this person?)

* Of course, apologize to your neighbors and assure them they’ll be paid.

* After the graduation festivities, send Lorna the bill with this note: “That must have been some ‘carriage ride’ that night! How do you want to handle this?”

* To make sure she gets it, include a photo of the damage as a reminder that this cockeyed “kid” has graduated and hopefully grown-up.


Dear Marnie: I recently bought my first house and love it. There’s just one problem – my next door neighbor is a snoop! I swear, sometimes I think she has a hidden camera in my house. She texts me and asks about things that make it obvious that she’s keeping a close eye on when I leave, when I return, if I have guests, if my dog is out and wants to come in – it’s crazy! As a single woman living alone, I can appreciate having neighbors that watch out for each other, but this is over the top. Is there a diplomatic way to tell her to get a life and stop watching mine? – Under the Scope in Los Angeles

MARNIE SAYS: Now, if you were me, you’d scream “STALKER! STALKER!” every time she takes out her garbage, until the HOA calls those people in white coats. But that’s so … childish, and they may mistakenly grab you. Why in the name of Perez Hilton did you give her your number? Of course, she could just be lonely, and you might go over for a Lite beer and a look-see before using your Big Guns to stop the gawking. You did? You found out she’s just an annoying, nutty, rumor “mongerer” and you’re fresh fodder? If so …

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy for Truly Snoopy Neighbors:    

* Block her! Yup. Or change your number. Or get two phones and give her the info for the new one. Yes, it might be a pain. Then, never answer or text back, blaming the app or phone service.

* Freak her with favors. She texts that she noticed you just took out the garbage? By all means, ask her to help you move it to the street! She texts you about your dog? Would she mind walking him three times a day when you’re at work? She texts you that your windows are open? How about suggesting she come over and help you wash them? Make her sweat for her snoop.

* Social” Security. Turn your home and environs into your version of Area 51. Build fences with spikes to break up the “friendship,” think monster plants (look up Skunk Cabbage), get security cameras, buy smashing purple drapes, install locks, chains, and tumblers on your garage, mailbox, and gates that are so complex even a Houdini would turn to accounting.

*Tit for Tattlers: kill with kindness. Overwhelm her with news about her life, moment by moment. “Someone walked by your place: 10:20 p.m.” “Your paper arrived at 8 a.m.” “I heard a funny noise in your basement: 1:12 a.m.” Hey, you’re just returning the favor, right?

Finally, should she question you, you could say you have a morbid fear of stalkers, which has made you a tad paranoid. Then look like this:


That should do it!

Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC

Marnie MacauleyAdvice guru Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with  hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications.  She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work.  In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 
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