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Stalking is so 1975
September 4, 2012 8:27 AM   Subscribe

How to handle weird notes from apartment neighbor

Hubby and I live with our cat in an apartment on the sixth floor of a U-shaped building. The day we moved in a few weeks ago, there was a handwritten note on the floor - someone had shoved it under the door apparently - scolding us that we were leaving our lights on all day and all night, and would we please either turn them off or close the blinds. The note was unsigned, but it had a distinctive handwriting.

We had just moved in, and we figured the light issue was a situation arising from the fact that the unit had been unoccupied for a while. Not our fault! We forgot about it.

Over the summer it got unbearably hot in our place. We eventually bought a portable AC unit, but for a couple of weeks we were just leaving the windows open. The place is a studio, so when the people in the other arm of the U across the way are looking out of their windows into ours, they're seeing our bedroom. We wanted to minimize that as much as possible, so we've been doing what we can to keep the blinds closed but turned at a slight angle so we can still get a bit of circulation.

Yesterday I got home before my hubby and discovered another note on the floor. The paper and handwriting looked similar to the note before. This time it was a super friendly communication:

"Hi, apartment neighbor! I have some extra cans of food I don't need! Let me know if your little black cat could use some of this! Feel free to come over any time! I'm at home in the morning, in the early afternoon, and in the evening, and I'm right across the way from you. Cheers! Barth"

It took me a second to realize that this wasn't our neighbor across the hall, it was the creep who'd left us the first note.

Then I'm thinking: ugh, I'll be he's seen me too! Garden-variety perv, and I'm freaked out thinking that he might have seen me in various stages of undress. And this guy isn't content with just being an anonymous peeping tom - no, now's trying to lure me over there with the promise of free cat food!

I'll be installing some curtains, but in the meantime I don't at all feel safe at home, even with hubby. We were keeping our door open to get a cross breeze, but I won't be doing that anymore. Our relationship with the landlord hasn't been great since we had a late payment, but we're fine otherwise. I've been reluctant to get him involved, but - I really dislike the idea that someone I don't know from Adam is keeping track of me and physically coming over to our unit to shove unwanted notes under the door.

Is it harassment at this point, or? Any thoughts welcome.
posted by cartoonella to Society & Culture (68 answers total)
 
This is only the second note? I honestly wouldn't worry about it.

It's actually possible that he sent the second note because he's been thinking he was way too harsh with you on the first note and he's been feeling guilty for scolding you about leaving the light on and he's been spending all this time trying to think of a way to make it up to you, and has only just now realized "hey! Wait! Cat! Offer them free cat food! That is a nice neighborly thing! Let me do that!" It's possible he hasn't even been looking in your window, but saw you carrynig the cat carrier when you moved in.

You haven't told me anything to give me personally any concerns that he's been sitting around the house and watching you, anyway. What you're already doing (blinds partially closed in the bedroom) should be fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on September 4, 2012 [18 favorites]


Yeah, maybe he wised up after his first note and is now following the oft-given ask.me advice of "If you have a problem with your neighbors, maybe try getting to know them first so you can bring up the current (and any future) issues amicably and work together instead of making your life a living hell by having a neighbor war of some sort."

No clue why you are jumping to the Perv-Alert level here, unless there was something in the first note to indicate that?
posted by Grither at 8:34 AM on September 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


This actually sounds neighborly to me. If you've been leaving your door open that's probably how he saw your cat. Your safety is better protected by having neighbors who keep an eye on things going in in their surroundings than by assuming the worst of friendly overtures.
posted by animalrainbow at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


One enjoys living in apartment buildings because you can be annonymous. Oh well, that's out the window (pun intended.)

Guy sounds harmless. Don't worry so much.

Call the landlord and say, "Hey, this guy Barth occasionally leaves notes under our door, what's up with him?"

Suss out the landlord and see what he says.

I'm the kind of person who'd go over there to say hi. I brought our new neighbors cookies when they moved in. If that's not in your comfort zone, just blow it off.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:36 AM on September 4, 2012


ugh, I'll be he's seen me too! Garden-variety perv, and I'm freaked out thinking that he might have seen me in various stages of undress. And this guy isn't content with just being an anonymous peeping tom - no, now's trying to lure me over there with the promise of free cat food!

Just as another data point, this was not my read at all. I did not read perv or creep or luring or anything, just "Hey we have windows facing each other and I'm home all the time and sort of bored/lonely or maybe somewhat awkward with boundaries and/or anxious and I want to find a way to have a good interaction"

People who live in apartment buildings over the long term tend to have ways of interacting with neighbors that may seem weirder or less weird depending on what you are used to. Unless I missed something, I see nothing that would indicate that you are unsafe or that your neighbor is not just a garden-variety neighbor. If there is more to this story, please spell it out a little more?
posted by jessamyn at 8:38 AM on September 4, 2012 [23 favorites]


You're way overreacting, IMO. The guy is offering you a neighborly kindness. Accept it or don't, but to me there's nothing to indicate he's peeping, stalking, or harassing in the facts as you've presented them.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:38 AM on September 4, 2012 [38 favorites]


Also, the first note was not him being creepy or overbearing--from your description of the layout, your bedroom window is directly across from his bedroom window, and having a bright light shining all night long would disturb his sleep.
posted by animalrainbow at 8:39 AM on September 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Is this the first time you're living in an apartment building? Because being able to see your neighbors (and vice versa) is something that comes with the territory. My windows face an old dude who never shuts his blinds or wears clothes, so every time I go to look out the window in the kitchen, there's naked old dude. I'm also sure that neighbors have spotted me walking around in various states of undress with no desire to do so. This is apartment life: put on pants or get curtains, otherwise people will see you even if they don't want to see you.

None of this sounds weird. If my neighbors had the lights on all day and night, I'd definitely let them know. And if I had too much pet food, I'd certainly offer it to someone who lived nearby because I didn't want to carry that stuff around.
posted by griphus at 8:40 AM on September 4, 2012 [29 favorites]


in the meantime I don't at all feel safe at home, even with hubby.

This seems to be a massive overreaction to me. I have always been familiar with my neighbors' cats, even if they are indoor only, as cats like to sit on windowsills, looking out, often slipping in between the blinds and the window. It does not seem pervy or dangerous at all that a neighbor with windows opposite yours would know the color of your cat. Look, if he wants to do harm to you, telling you his name and location seems a bad way to start!
posted by Rock Steady at 8:41 AM on September 4, 2012 [40 favorites]


1. Your light was probably bugging him, due to the shape of your building.
2. Your cat was probably visible to him, due to the open windows and the shape of your building.
3. Being able to see your cat and your light in no way makes your neighbor a perv.

I think you're totally overreacting to this. Two notes does not harassment make, and notes between dwellers of the same building are pretty common. It's easier than knocking on the door, and that second note seemed rather friendly.
posted by xingcat at 8:43 AM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Garden-variety perv, and I'm freaked out thinking that he might have seen me in various stages of undress. And this guy isn't content with just being an anonymous peeping tom - no, now's trying to lure me over there with the promise of free cat food!

Woa, that's quite an accusation. "Cheers! Barth" sounds like he's just introducing himself. If you have neighbors across the way in a U-shaped building, they're going to know more about you (and you're going to know more about them) than other communal living arrangements would allow for. The polite thing is to pretend you don't see anything unless it's a real worry (just like you would pretend not to hear your neighbor's headboard against the wall unless it was really obtrusive). This guy may not understand that unspoken rule, but that doesn't make him a perv or a scary luring-you-into-danger guy. Seriously, that is a very serious accusation.

(Also, when you get more used to living in this arrangement and can relax a bit, watch "Rear Window.")
posted by headnsouth at 8:47 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Also, he told you his name, where he lives and the hours during which you're most likely to find him where he lives. If he is a stalker, he's the most inept stalker in the history of stalking.)
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on September 4, 2012 [42 favorites]


People who have cat food they don't need are possibly quite sad and lonely. Why not be neighborly?
posted by nicwolff at 8:48 AM on September 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Nthing no perv alert. He even told you when he is at home, so you can go there (or send your husband; it wasn't addressed to "Mrs. Lastname") on your own time. A creep would probably have waited for you, at a time he knew you'd come home before your husband, with an armful of cat food.
posted by MinusCelsius at 8:51 AM on September 4, 2012


I'll be installing some curtains, but in the meantime I don't at all feel safe at home, even with hubby.

Wait, what?

This guy sounds harmless. If you lived directly across from me and left your light on at night, I would have probably left you a note or knocked on your door about a bright light shining in my freaking bedroom window.

The second note is just an awkward attempt at friendliness. Maybe it's a friendly sort of building? I've lived in some surprisingly social apartment complexes.

Hey, it's better than your neighbor threatening to poison your dog/asking you to turn down the TV after 8 PM/leaving you angry notes about the way you park your car.

You move into a new apartment, and leave your windows wide open with the lights turned on while you're undressed?

Maybe your neighbour isn't the problem.


Quoted for truth. If anyone sees you changing, it's your fault for leaving the window open and/or your lights on. Unless Barth is standing outside your window with binoculars, he's not a perv, and it's not nice to call someone a perv. For all you know, he's a nice old gay man who doesn't give a shit about seeing naked ladies.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:54 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


just ignore him.
posted by Flood at 8:55 AM on September 4, 2012


You're over-reacting and that's putting it mildly.

You live in a U-shaped building and your neighbor across the way is complaining that you leave your lights on. Perhaps they're trying to sleep and your lights are keeping them up.

As for note number two... some people just like cats.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:58 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


a) I'd be mortified if I was leaving a light on that was bothering someone. I'd appreciate the note, and I'd probably go over to apologize in person to ensure that there weren't any hard feelings. I might bring cookies.

b) Unless you do not, in fact, have a little black cat, I do not read anything alarming in the second note either. It was friendly. Possibly also sad (his cat may have just died and he could be working through his grief by trying to do something nice!). But not creepy or inappropriate.
posted by jph at 9:00 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


And this guy isn't content with just being an anonymous peeping tom - no, now's trying to lure me over there with the promise of free cat food!

This cracked me up, thanks.

I think you're right to be a little alarmed, as the guy does seem a bit strange and you never know whether it's harmless strange or something darker. Sure, he was snippy at first, and now seemingly friendly, but if he knows what color you cat is, surely he could have seen that the apartment was previously empty? Or maybe he but the not under the door before he realized it was empty? Mmm, might be over thinking this.

But to answer your question, no this doesn't seem like harassment, at this point. I'd ask the landlord or other neighbors about him, and be wary of him, but until he does something really creepy, I wouldn't brand him as nut or harasser.

As to him knowing your schedule, that's not surprising. I live in house and know pretty much everyone's schedule on the my block. It just happens from living in close proximity to people.

If you don't want people to see you while you're undressed, especially when you can clearly see other apartments from your window, then blinds or curtains are in order.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:02 AM on September 4, 2012


Cats sit in windows. That doesn't mean he's been staring through your blinds in a peeping tom manner. I think you're overreacting here. Accept the food, if you like, but I wouldn't worry about this being a creepy situation.
posted by Eicats at 9:04 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is not harassment. This is not someone stalking you (you might want to ask yourself why that's the first thing you think of -- have you had a bad experience with neighbours in the past?). This is just someone communicating with their neighbours.

If I were you, I would write a short but polite note, something along the lines of, "hey Barth, thanks for the offer of your spare cat food, but we have more than enough here! Feel free to give it to a local shelter in our name, though. -- Mr & Mrs cartoonella".

Leave it in a communal area (if you have one) or stuck to the outside of your door if you don't. That way, if he comes back to see if you've recieved his note, he will know that you got his message and you're (politely) turning him down.
posted by fight or flight at 9:04 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nthing the opinion that you're massively overreacting to this situation. You've got no reason at all to assume that this guy is a peeping Tom or that he's been perving out over you.

It might have been less weird if he'd come over and knocked on your door in both instances, instead of leaving a note, but in my time as an apartment dweller I found that there appears to be a 50/50 split between those who'll knock on your door and those who'll leave a note (and, of course, there are those who'll knock and then leave a note if you don't answer).

Nothing this guy has done so far indicates anything other than an apartment dweller communicating with his neighbour, once to request that you stop doing something that was bothering him and a second time in what appears to be an attempt at being friendly.
posted by asnider at 9:05 AM on September 4, 2012


I'm going to be contrary and agree that, in US apartment complex settings:

(a) Leaving anonymous notes is a common way to push boundaries, and
(b) Leaving signed notes offering cat food to people you don't know is massively boundary-pushing.

I would feel squicked by the combination of these two signals of a lack of awareness of boundaries. I would probably internally describe it as 'harassment', but I would be careful to use that term with anyone else because, to put it bluntly, rape culture does not recognize boundary-tests as anything to worry about.

I would pretend that I never received either note and buy some curtains, and do whatever necessary to feel safe again. I would NOT engage with Barth. Even if he is harmless, you clearly have no interest in being his friend and there is no obligation to be neighborly with anyone.
posted by muddgirl at 9:07 AM on September 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Scratch that - there is an obligation to be 'neighborly' (keep your music down and don't leave trash in the hallway, for example), but being neighborly no longer means being acquainted.
posted by muddgirl at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa, whoa, whoa.

You are under no obligation to engage with Barth what so ever. Zero, nada, niet etc. You do not need to accept his cat food and you certainly do not need to visit.

But. There is no need to take this as a threatening situation and there's no need to feel unsafe. He left the first note because he was frustrated (light shining 24/7 into his bedroom window? Maddening) and he left the second note because... he maybe feels bad about the first note, has glimpsed you guys and the kitty, and maybe desperately wants a friend. That might go against social norms, but unless you are leaving something MASSIVE out, I don't think there's any reason to feel like he's stalking and/or perving on you.

Get curtains, toss the note unanswered, but you should try not to feel unsafe. This is really par for the course for apartment dwelling.

(I am not a perv, really, but I have seen the incredibly hot lady that lives across our kitchen window naked. Multiple times. Why? Because she has no curtains and I have eyes and I have to do the dishes.)
posted by lydhre at 9:13 AM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


No need to pile on the OP, she obviously thought the blinds situation was enough to protect her privacy and is now understandably alarmed to learn this was not the case.

OP, it sounds to me like maybe Barth is trying to tactfully alert you to the privacy issue and to do something friendly to make up for the previous grouchy note. Or he may not even realize you're the same person who received the last note--in my building people move in and out a lot and I can't always keep track of whether the same person is still in the same unit. Probably he leaves a lot of notes around the place, i doubt it's just you. In the interests of maintaining neighborly harmony, send your husband over to accept a few cans of cat food and suss out Barth's general weirdness.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:14 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


No need to pile on the OP, she obviously thought the blinds situation was enough to protect her privacy and is now understandably alarmed to learn this was not the case.

Well, it probably is enough to protect her privacy. Cats love window perches and often slip behind the blinds so that they can observe the VERY EXCITING things occurring outdoors. That's how I know my window-neighbors have a cat, even though I am not a peeping Tom or a stalker.
posted by lalex at 9:18 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does your cat not get in the windows? I've had neighbors in apartment complexes who I only knew by their cats (and they mine).
posted by Lyn Never at 9:19 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Folks, just answer the question being asked, do not make this a by-proxy argument about something else, please.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:22 AM on September 4, 2012


I have a bit of an odd house. I sit on a hill and what's the first floor where I enter, is the second floor as I look out the window of my home office, and, as a chronic procrastinator, I look out the windows a LOT.

I'm in a lookout tower peering out at my neighbors yards and houses below, where they and their company and cats spend a lot of time. I am absolutely not stalking anyone, but I know the habits and hideouts of their cats, I know when Kathy leaves for work each day, I know when Ty is putting the sail up on his sailboat and needs a hand, unless I close my blinds and never look out, there is no way I can avoid being aware of this stuff. I doubt they are in danger from my observations.

Some people are just friendly, sadly, in this day and age, that's not the default assumption.
posted by HuronBob at 9:22 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bottom line for me is that observing things you may or may not want to see is par for the course in apartment living, but commenting on those things is not acceptable by old-fashioned standards of etiquette. When my downstairs neighbors fight about money, I don't slip them a note offering financial advice.
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like he wrote the first note because he was disturbed by your lights being left on, and he probably wrote the second note in order to be friendly and offer you some cat food he didn't need.

Fear and suspicion isn't the obvious way to react to this.
posted by tel3path at 9:28 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bottom line for me is that observing things you may or may not want to see is par for the course in apartment living, but commenting on those things is not acceptable by old-fashioned standards of etiquette. When my downstairs neighbors fight about money, I don't slip them a note offering financial advice.

Which is not even slightly the same thing as leaving your neighbor a note asking them to not shine a light in your bedroom window.

Maybe I've just lived in cities where everyone is up in everyone's business all the time (Boston, NYC, LA), but neither of these notes would do more than slightly annoy me.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:30 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guys, thanks so much for your reassuring responses. Some made me chuckle :) I think it's possible Barth's bark is worse than his bite, but I'm not at all inclined to test my theory. I don't feel I have an obligation to interact with this guy.

Oh, quick note - we DON'T leave the lights on. We received the first note the day we moved in. The landlord had been showing the place, apparently, and left those on. I have no idea how long our unit was unoccupied. Also, I don't parade around naked in front of our window! Like I said, it's been HOT, so I've had to leave the blinds open on rare occasions. I usually do this after dark. Nothing about my behavior constitutes "asking for it," so let 's not even go there ;)

Some background - I've been stalked before. Went to court, got the first-ever lifetime restraining order against anyone. Made history, but the order turned out to be unenforceable locally. (Don't you love justice?) Anyway, so yes, I'm a bit sensitive to anything that pushes the old boundaries. (Thanks so much to some responders who acknowledged that.)

Barth's note said "Hi neighbor," leading me to believe he's only aware of me. But it could be that he's only seen my husband, and thinks he's hot and wants a crack at some o' that manly goodness! Which is possible of course...

I do appreciate all your input, I feel better. Thanks!
posted by cartoonella at 9:31 AM on September 4, 2012


It is totally your right to feel squicked out and not interact with him in any way. You're not obligated to be friendly to him.

That said, I don't see any glaring red flags, but that's irrelevant to your personal assessment of the situation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:33 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Keep an eye on your cat - it may be getting between the blinds and the screen to look out into the courtyard. In which case he's not peeping, he just noticed the cat.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:35 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's possible Barth's bark is worse than his bite

He didn't bark, he sent two completely understandable notes. Either respond or not, I doubt he cares much, get curtains if you feel you should, mostly though just chill out.
posted by Cosine at 9:38 AM on September 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


Barth's note said "Hi neighbor," leading me to believe he's only aware of me. But it could be that he's only seen my husband, and thinks he's hot and wants a crack at some o' that manly goodness! Which is possible of course...

I thought this as well. Maybe he was addressing your husband? Not necessarily thinking he's hot and wanting to jump his bones, but just inviting him over for a chat. People do like to chat and socialize without nefarious intentions.

OR

He wrote "neighbor" by mistake and just forgot to pluralize it. Typos happen, even in handwritten notes. You're way over-thinking this. However, you are free to ignore his notes if you feel uncomfortable in any way.
posted by patheral at 9:40 AM on September 4, 2012


But it could be that he's only seen my husband, and thinks he's hot and wants a crack at some o' that manly goodness!

I get that you're kidding here, but I think your past experiences are making you read way more into this note than intended. To go from the note as you transcribed it to assuming he's interested in either of you is, frankly, bizarre. He saw your cat in the window, he made a neighborly offer, end of story. You certainly aren't obligated to respond in any way, but I also can't see the slightest hint of anything creepy in this note, or the other one. If anything, I see this note as a friendly attempt to make sure you don't think he's just a complain-y jerk because of the previous note.
posted by MsMolly at 9:40 AM on September 4, 2012 [26 favorites]


Barth's note said "Hi neighbor," leading me to believe he's only aware of me. But it could be that he's only seen my husband, and thinks he's hot and wants a crack at some o' that manly goodness! Which is possible of course...

Or, he isn't aware of any humans, only the cat, and he said "hi neighbor" because he has no idea who he's actually writing to, because he's not stalking or perving you or your husband.

(And it is just as unfair to speculate that he is perving on your husband as it is to assume he is perving on you, even if you're just joking about it, which is also weirdly double-standardy given your followup.)
posted by headnsouth at 9:45 AM on September 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


The kind interpretation: Barth is home a lot. Barth sees kitty in window. Barth thinks, "Nice kitty! I have spare food, perhaps you can eat it instead of me throwing it away." Barth leaves note. Barth does not specify neighbor or neighbors because Barth only knows about the kitty, and has logically assumed that a cat does not rent an apartment by itself.

.. this sounds like a demented childrens' book. Barth and the Kitty In The Window.

I'd take it at face value and send a funny note back: Kitty can only eat its specific food but appreciates the thought and is gratified to know that someone has acknowledged it as Ruler Of The Apartment Window And All It Surveys. Kitty will, however, take tithes in the form of sending spare food to shelters so that other kitties do not go hungry.

And then Barth would be writing an Ask post about my crazy ass note.
posted by cmyk at 9:54 AM on September 4, 2012 [24 favorites]


With respect, I think you're not reacting to something that's happening now. I think you are greatly overinterpreting these messages, even in jest.
posted by tel3path at 9:56 AM on September 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


Or, he isn't aware of any humans, only the cat, and he said "hi neighbor" because he has no idea who he's actually writing to, because he's not stalking or perving you or your husband.

Yes! When I have no idea to whom I am addressing a note, "Hey Neighbor" is a good way to start. I understand that you've been stalked in the past, but your immediate assumption that your neighbor is a perv is not nice. Just ignore the note, and if he leaves you more notes, ask the landlord about him.

And then you should definitely watch Rear Window.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Following up on my earlier answer, I will note that I don't think you need to interact with Barth at all. I do think you are overreacting to the situation (though, now that you've provided more information, I understand why), but that doesn't mean you don't get to feel how you feel and it doesn't mean that you need to have any interactions with this guy at all.
posted by asnider at 10:04 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: how is there not a picture of the cat in question yet? You know the rules, cartoonella, cough one up.
posted by cmyk at 10:05 AM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


If it makes you feel any better there are lots of good reasons Barth may have cat food he doesn't need. I've recently given away cat food, because my cat is seriously fussy, and received it, because the friends cat had passed away.

I do think however you don't owe him any response at all and that while he might be a creep its much more likely that, as others have said, your cat was sitting on the windowsill outside the blinds and he saw it and is just trying to be kind and not wasteful.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first note was before you even moved in, it wasn't aimed at you or anything to do with you so can be totally discounted.

I'm at home in the morning, in the early afternoon, and in the evening, and I'm right across the way from you.

This guy appears to have no idea when you're actually at home or know anything about your schedule, so he's giving as wide a time spread as possible. There is no evidence at all that he's keeping track of you in any way. If he was then he'd say something like "come over when you get home from work in the evening" or whatever. As for "Hi neighbour", that's so generic it's clearly not directed at any specific person.

You're jumping to so many conclusions here based on absolutely nothing, it's pretty clear your reaction is all about you and has nothing to do with this guy at all. I see no reason to interact with him at all, there's no rule that you need to talk to your neighbours or whatever. Keep the note in case of any future interactions if you feel it's necessary but otherwise just let it go and continue to live your life.

You might also want to consider that the accusations that you've posted here are the kinds of thing that can literally destroy someone's life. When you called him a peeping tom and perv you were accusing him of being a type of sex offender, which may even be actionable on his part given how little evidence you have of any kind of wrong doing. So please think carefully about how you talk about this and deal with this in the future.
posted by shelleycat at 10:10 AM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Okay, I held my tongue during the OP pile-on, but this is too much:

You might also want to consider that the accusations that you've posted here are the kinds of thing that can literally destroy someone's life. When you called him a peeping tom and perv you were accusing him of being a type of sex offender, which may even be actionable on his part given how little evidence you have of any kind of wrong doing. So please think carefully about how you talk about this and deal with this in the future.

OP is not filing a police report, making allegations, pressing charges or anything of the sort, she is semi-anonymously wondering about this guy's intentions, given a traumatic incident in her past and no guarantee that it can't happen again. Sheesh. Incidentally, when women do attempt to report crimes, this is exactly the sort of thing that is said to discourage them.

I agree with muddgirl that his notes are boundary-pushing, but as always the problem is that one can never know for certain whether boundary-pushing comes from cluelessness or malice. We do indeed live in a rape culture where predators start out by testing boundaries. They don't write or say things like "Welcome to the neighborhood, I'm a rapist! Please come over and be alone with me so I can rape you." Instead they operate by subtly testing one boundary after another, in ways that can be rationalized away ("Well, maybe it is weird that he is offering cat food to a stranger who's never spoken to him and has never told him he has a cat, but maybe he's just socially awkward!")

OP, I would either ignore the notes (or keep them as a paper trail if they don't stop) and/or send the husband over in person to thank the guy but refuse the food, and hopefully hint or state out loud that future notes and unsolicited gifts aren't welcome.

In the book The Gift of Fear that is mentioned so often on AskMeFi, the very first anecdote is about a rapist who gains access to a woman's apartment by picking up the cans of food she's dropped and saying "We'd better hurry, we've got a hungry cat up there." Just saying. And one of the predatory tactics discussed in the book is--you guessed it--unwanted gifting, to create a sense of obligation in the target.
posted by ziggly at 10:29 AM on September 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've had stalkers. Their notes never gave me their name, address or hours to reach them. Their notes were generally along the lines of what they saw me doing and what they wanted to do to me.

As a cat owner I have occasionally ended up with unwanted perfectly good cat food because my cats wouldn't eat it for some reason. I'm always very happy when I find someone to pass it on to because I hate waste and it is nice to receive and offer helpful gestures.

You and hubby can accept this as a neighborly offer or ignore it. Each apartment community has its own culture or lack of. His action may be the norm for your building. Either way, get curtains. There is no indication that this is an issue from the information you have given.
posted by cat_link at 10:30 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I tend to think that the first note, received the day you moved in, was not intended for you. At that point the note-leaver probably was not aware that anyone had moved in; he was simply leaving a terse note to whomever it was that was showing the apartment and carelessly leaving the lights on. That might explain the difference in tone between the first and second notes.
posted by messica at 10:34 AM on September 4, 2012


Hi Shelleycat, no, I have no intention of telling my landlord that Barth is a sex offender. WTF? I just don't want to be contacted by people I don't want to be contacted by. My home ("apartment home" in the optimistic lingo of the property manager's advertising) is a place where I hope to feel safe, not under surveillance, and not open to a lot of unwanted interaction. I do realize some of that is inevitable in a communal situation.

Someone mentioned a pic...Here's Kitty Catticus (we named her during an I, Claudius DVD marathon one night), looking perfectly innocent of all the fuss.

cat

Thanks again to all who responded, I appreciate the reality check :)
posted by cartoonella at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2012


Hi Shelleycat, no, I have no intention of telling my landlord that Barth is a sex offender.

OK, good. As long as you realise the gravity of what you've accused him of here and think the situation through when talking about it publicly in the future then I don't see the problem.

You don't really get to stop people trying to communicate with to you unfortunately, that's just part of living in society. So just continue ignoring him unless he actually does escalate this somehow.
posted by shelleycat at 11:02 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also I may not have been clear enough about what I meant by actionable. When you call someone a peeping tom when they have done nothing to make anyone think they are actually a peeping tom sometimes they can sue you. That's why I'm telling you to be careful. Obviously if you're reporting a potential crime to the police that's a different matter and that should be encouraged. But it would suck for this to blow up in a way you didn't predict based on a careless comment.
posted by shelleycat at 11:05 AM on September 4, 2012


...not open to a lot of unwanted interaction. I do realize some of that is inevitable in a communal situation.

Leaving notes is basically the lowest-impact way of communicating with one's neighbors in an apartment building. At least every apartment building I've ever lived in, the super isn't about to relay messages between neighbors, and the mailboxes are locked off in a way that you can't actually stick anything in them unless you've got the master key the letter carrier uses. So, it's either leave a note or or he's ringing your bell and then you have to interact with him (or sit there still and silent and hope he goes away even though the lights are on and whatever.)
posted by griphus at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Er, leaving signed notes. Leaving anonymous notes is hella passive-aggressive.
posted by griphus at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only thin that strikes me as odd is how specific he was about when he's home, rather than saying he works from home/is retired/unemployed/on disability/whatever so is usually home.

How big is the building? I live in an E-shaped building and definitely know when the people opposite have a cat. If I had spare cat food, I'd put a notice up by the mailboxes or in the laundry room because I know lots of people have cats. But in a small building, I might just offer it to the people opposite.

In short, I don't think you have to actually do anything about Barth specifically, just put the curtains up (and shut the door-- for me that's weird behavior for an apartment building).
posted by hoyland at 12:25 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is what I'm seeing, although I may be the only one:

1. Guy drops the first note out of frustration, and from his perspective (since he didn't know you just moved in the same day and don't leave your lights on all night) he dropped you a note and you responded to it -- he hasn't seen you leaving the lights on all night since leaving the note. So he thinks of you as a good neighbor.

2. Guy has seen your cat in the window, and now thinks of you as a good neighbor, so he's offering free cat food cans.

OR

1. same as before

2. He can see you through your blinds (and your cat, naturally) and he wants to let you know that he can, in case you don't realize it, without embarrassing you. So he drops the detail about the small black cat (hey, look, I can see your cat) but says "neighbor" because he doesn't want you to worry that he's seen the two of you together in bed, and he's hoping you'll think "oh, gee, if he can see the cat he can probably see us, we'd better do something about that before he sees us in bed."

That's my take, anyway.
posted by davejay at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


oh, and the specifics of time are either a sincere way of saying "you can pretty much come by whenever" or a way of assuaging his own fear of you knowing exactly when he's home, and so breaking in when he's not.
posted by davejay at 12:50 PM on September 4, 2012


Accept the kindness, joined by your husband, and get a fan or two for your house to circulate the air.

Not for nothing, but it doesn't hurt to have these sort of "nosy" home-all-day neighbors who see the coming and goings of your home. We had a rash of burglaries some years back and the Observant Ones were able to give the most details.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:54 PM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seconding jerseygirl, so very much. I have some awesome neighbors after years of bad ones. There have been a rash of break-ins and robberies in the neighborhood, and at one point (when I was home!) some guy tried to case my house out.

The Awesome Neighbors intercepted the guy, listened to his idiotic cover story without believing it, watched him leave, and then let me know what had happened. We haven't seen any trouble since, though Awesome Neighbor Guy has mowed my lawn and I helped him fix his air conditioner.

It's good to have people looking out for each other.
posted by cmyk at 2:34 PM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


+1 for team mildly-squicked-out-and-you-should-not-engage. At the very least, you've got a busybody on your hands, which is bad enough.

(Plus, that first note is such BS. Why doesn't he just close his blinds?)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:28 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just curious - if Barth were a female, would you have the same reaction?

Also, I am the most reclusive neighbor ever but I recently bought a case of cat food that my cat won't eat and had my boyfriend ask our neighbors if they wanted it. We know they have cats because they hang out in the windows. I just didn't want to waste all the food.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:36 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I popped in here to tell you that you're not overreacting. Then I read about your past. I definitely don't think you're overreacting. Your reaction is your reaction and it's your mind/body telling you how to keep yourself safe.

That being said, I suspect Barth is a boundary-pushing neighbour who thought maybe he creeped you out with the first note and is now trying to make amends. I like the funny Ruler of the Apartment note and think that sort of thing is worth a try.

Given your background and the anonymity and security issues linked to apartment living, I don't think you are overreacting in feeling like maybe you need curtains and to keep the door closed. I mean, the guy might show up to put another note under your door and instead knock on your open door or call, "Yoohoo!" That would freak me out and I bet it would freak you out. It doesn't mean he's going to do anything more than that, but your Spider Senses are tingling and it's okay to listen to them.

If this guy has lived in the building a while, he might feel like he's the guy who creates community. Some people live in apartments and enjoy community. I've lived in buildings where everyone knows everyone and where you get bottles of wine on your doorstep when you move in. Some people like knowing there's somebody who will feed their cat when they're away or even just notice if they don't show up at the laundry or mail room for two weeks.

But he could also be somewhat boundary-pushing creepy guy. I don't think there's anything to indicate that he's super scary, but something is setting off your internal defense mechanisms and I think you should listen to it.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:01 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really think the only food that can be shared between strangers, including strangers' cats, is fresh garden produce because more people expect it and know the protocol ("oh, no thanks, we get tons of tomatoes from my dad.") Even then, saying hello first in person helps to make it less awkward.

Also, while I personally would introduce myself, one thing that's nice about notes vs talking in-person is they can so easily be lost or end up in the to-do pile indefinitely.
posted by michaelh at 11:23 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Plus, that first note is such BS. Why doesn't he just close his blinds?)

I have a new neighbor who typically leaves a torchiere light on all night, right up against the blinds. This light is directly across from a window in my kids' bedroom. Even if I pull their curtains fully closed, this light means that good, solid darkness is replaced by a constant glow through the curtains shining directly on both kids (bunkbeds), enough to keep the kids awake noticeably longer, and make their sleep much more restless (enough to wake me up from the other room.)

I tried mitigating it with light-locking curtains, but the kids had a much harder time waking up in the morning if the sun didn't start coming in the room at sunrise, so ultimately I went back to the normal curtains and a total rearrangement of the room so that the light shines next to their beds rather than on it. So keep an open mind that their might be a good reason to want your neighbor's lights off if the bedroom windows are close together.
posted by davejay at 12:43 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: "being neighborly no longer means being acquainted."

Unfortunately.

I agree that there's no obligation here, and understand that especially in the case of targeting single women sending notes might be boundary pushing (I assume it is preferable just to go up to the door and knock?).

Still, it seems unfortunate that just the presence of rape culture has made it that much more difficult for people to interact. It seriously sucks.

In my mind, ignoring the note entirely would be rude. I suppose since the neighbor left the note, it would be okay for you to leave a note in kind? Just saying, "Sorry, my husband and I appreciate the gesture but maybe you could donate the cat food to a shelter." Don't add on any additional overtures that suggest you want to meet up; if you receive another note with an invitation just respond with, "Sorry, that won't be possible."

I do have to say, I take issue with you calling him a creep. Is there something you're not sharing here? Have you seen him through the window acting like a creep? It's not my place to question your gut feeling, but it sounds like you decided this person was a creep based on their first note about the lights, which seems odd to me.

If this is out of our comfort zone, maybe you could ask your husband to handle it?
posted by Deathalicious at 1:16 AM on September 5, 2012


Thanks, Deathalicious, for your response. Yes, I'll tell you why I find this guy's behavior creepy: he's breaching a social norm, and it freaks me out. Let's use the crowded elevator analogy to illustrate.

Strangers who have to ride up a few floors pushed right up against one another will avert their eyes. This is because we have a human tendency, in an uncomfortable situation, to do what we can to alleviate the tensions. You avert your eyes in order to preserve an illusion that you're NOT really uncomfortably close to someone you don't actually know, and also to prevent them from taking your closeness the wrong way. Your intention is to signal that you're not an aggressor, even though you are physically proximate. It saves everyone's sanity, and it's a sign of courtesy and respect.

Think of the windows of the apartments as being like the eyes of the people on a crowded elevator. I keep mine averted out of respect for others, and I expect the same behavior from them. If they're going to insist on knowing who I am anyway, they'd better have a damn good reason!

So the guy's lonely, so who the fuck am I, Florence Nightingale? Let him figure out how to find some friends! I work in radio, I've already got plenty of crazies in my life!
posted by cartoonella at 9:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Deathalicious, for your response. Yes, I'll tell you why I find this guy's behavior creepy: he's breaching a social norm, and it freaks me out. Let's use the crowded elevator analogy to illustrate.

This sort of thing is highly personal. I would be happy to have a friendly neighbor take an interest in my cat. Who knows? Someday one might get some free cat sitting out of it. My mom is friends with the old man who lives on her street. They made friends a bit after she moved in; he knocked on her door and asked if she wanted some old silverware he was getting rid of (random, but he's a nice enough guy.) Last Christmas he gave us a fruitcake.

I understand why you might be used to having your guard up, and there are definitely creeps out there, but a neighbor who will reach out in a friendly way is actually generally a good thing to have around. We've had neighbors point out burglaries (when my husband's bike was stolen from our front railing; when someone punched out my car window in front of my sister's house, one of her neighbors buzzed us immediately to let us know) and water our plants and all sorts of stuff. Neighbors who are engaged and fairly settled in the neighborhood are, in my experience, far more likely to reach out. Whereas transient people who don't care about the community often keep to themselves.

That's not to say that you need to be this guy's bestie, but offering extra cat food is within the bounds of polite society and not actually "breaching a social norm." Yeah, sure, it's a little old-fashioned. But "old-fashioned" does not equal "creepy."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


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