Living in close proximity with neighbors
March 1, 2005 9:45 PM   Subscribe

How do you learn to live with your neighbors seeing you in your undies?

Backstory: I recently moved to a new apartment. Every one of the major windows in my place look directly into my neighbors' apartments. I can't close my window shades because it stops the nice ocean breeze that I adore. I also like to walk around in little besides my undies to fully enjoy said breeze.

So how do you apartment dwellers get used to being observed by your neighbors? Do I just get over it and become the neighborhood scantily clad chick? Is there some sort of one way, air permeable window treatment that I can get? How do you cope, experienced citydwellers? What are my options?
posted by tinamonster to Society & Culture (25 answers total)
Mostly, we just deal.

And, to keep occupied, we look at you.
posted by Caviar at 9:49 PM on March 1, 2005

How about those hippie bead curtains?
posted by yodelingisfun at 9:59 PM on March 1, 2005

You know, chances are your neighbors are familiar with the breeze and may enjoy its gentle caress of their bared skin, themselves. Look around, and if that's the case, enjoy the party.

If your undies are no more immodest than a bikini, what have you got to worry about? If you're showing more than that, you might want to think about being more considerate.

Don't get me wrong, I love nakedness. I love to be naked and I love to see others enjoying their nakedness. But that's me. I wouldn't want to push my lifestyle on anyone else who doesn't dig it, so if I'm living in a fairly close urban area, I bring the nude-o-meter back a few notches.

Hope this helps.
posted by squirrel at 10:07 PM on March 1, 2005

Whether or not you are visible depends on whether the light level in your apartment is as high as outside. Dark apartments are harder to see into.

If dimming the lights isn't an option, consider wearing something as scanty as undies but more socially acceptable. For example a bathing suit or lightweight, skimpy nightgown. Maybe not as much fun as prancing in undies, but it solves the problem.

Or you could just stop worrying about it.

I am incredibly jealous of your ocean breeze.
posted by mai at 10:09 PM on March 1, 2005

I'm not much for clothing in my own home, and I live in a fishbowl, myself. I've always tried to live in gay neighborhoods because... well... it's fun... but since you're already in your place, embrace the new status you'll find among those who care. I too have restrained myself a bit now that I live across from (okay, across a seven-lane road from) what appear to be children's rooms.

Three things:
1. Since you are so close to your neighbors, you must immediately stake your claim as the open-window person. Those who don't break (much like in a staring contest) are likely those who want the air and the privacy as much as you do, clearly establishing them as non-threats.
2. Ask around and see who is convinced they are "that girl" or "that guy" in their neighborhood (I'm one of 'em). We can't all be right.
3. For your own safety, just keep an eye out for who is keeping an eye on you.
posted by mireille at 10:14 PM on March 1, 2005

I asked a coastal california interior designer friend. He does the interiors of people's beach houses for a living.

He said to make a set of very light linen curtains, Basically, hang some curtain rods. Get some very light linen, and double the width of the window and make two curtains that are that wide. (How do you make curtains, you may ask? It's easy.
1. go to fabric store
2. buy light linen, and have them cut each yard into a piece that's about the height of your window plus six inches.
3. Measure 3 inches from one end. fold that three inches back over. Sew the seam. This is what you'll put the curtain rod through; you want the curtain rod hole to be 3 inches tall so that the curtains are easy to move.
4. Hem the other ends, so that they don't run, by folding maybe a half inch over and then sewing it in a straight line. )

When you want to traipse around naked in the ocean breeze, just open the windows and let the curtains billow and sway in the breeze. This lets the light and the air in and is kind of entertaining to watch in and of itself. It keeps the 14 year old neighbor's binoculars out, except for the occasional tantalizing glimpse.

For extra credit, you can make three or four curtains of about 1/4 the width of your window on each rod. This provides more tantalizing glimpsage, but it also lets more light and breeze in.
posted by SpecialK at 10:16 PM on March 1, 2005

If you're lucky, someone will buy you some nice undies.

Of course, that might aggravate the squick factor to unbearable levels, but then again, it might not.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:23 PM on March 1, 2005

Would wearing shorts instead of underwear help?
posted by interrobang at 10:26 PM on March 1, 2005

Another vote for modest undies -- boyshorts and camis or tanktops, for example? -- and sheer curtains. You get to experience the breeze, be considerate of your neighbors (who probably occupy a wide variety of places on the "comfortable with seeing scantily-clad chicks without asking" spectrum), and preserve your safety/privacy.
posted by scody at 11:18 PM on March 1, 2005

I have vertical blinds that I can open enough to let the breeze in, and I can see outside a bit, but it's difficult to look inside. I've tested them. Occasionally the wind will blow them open quite a bit, but I just figure that anyone walking by gets a nice story to tell.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:19 PM on March 1, 2005

How do you learn to live with your neighbors seeing you in your undies?

By being sexier in my undies than my pathetic neighbors could ever hope to buy five minutes with, let alone become themselves.

In other words: love whatcha got and there ain't no problem.
posted by scarabic at 11:30 PM on March 1, 2005

tinamonster hasn't followed-up, so I don't know if we're addressing her particular problem. That is, maybe she's asking how to overcome her shyness/modesty and just not care if others are watching.

scarabic has good advice in that case, but it may be easier said than done.
And everybody loves what scarabic gots!
posted by squirrel at 12:49 AM on March 2, 2005

how to overcome her shyness/modesty

If that's the core of the question I suggest spending time in some setting where nudity is okay. Go to a nude beach in Spain. Go to a nudist gathering somewhere. Go to Burning Man. This kind of thing is easy to pick up by cultural osmosis, you've just got to spend time with other people who are already okay with it. Once you get to know some people who are comfortable enough with their bodies to go naked, everyone else starts to look incredibly uptight and even irrational (I mean - how can you hide the fact that you have a body??).

If you're concerned about more than showing your body - like pictures, showing up on the internet, etc, then you might have a problem. I'd suggest gauzy, loose curtains that won't inhibit the breeze but will flap around and interrupt the view and/or block cameras just enough. Really, though, you just have to remember what the place looks like from the outside. Unless it's nighttime and all your lights are on, there's not much visibility into a window.
posted by scarabic at 1:31 AM on March 2, 2005

Tell yourself what you would want to tell some unattractive guy always parading around in his Y-fronts in the next apartment: get some curtains or put some pants on, for Christ's sake.
posted by pracowity at 2:26 AM on March 2, 2005

Another fan of very lightweight curtains. Let's all the light and breeze in, but adds a bit of cover from the looky-loos.
posted by safetyfork at 6:18 AM on March 2, 2005

Anybody who bothers to peek in my windows gets exactly what they deserve -- my fat pasty white ass looking back at them. Ain't nobody wants to see me naked, including myself, and one look is probably enough to deter future peeping.
posted by briank at 6:20 AM on March 2, 2005

one look is probably enough to deter future peeping.

Unless your place is in a normal line of sight and people can't (or shouldn't have to) avoid looking in that direction when they look out the window. Then you become a blot on the landscape.
posted by pracowity at 6:34 AM on March 2, 2005

My wife is a nakedness-loving hippie-chick type, and she likes sarongs. Breezy and loose, a few glimpses here and there, but modest enough to wear in front of open windows.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:18 AM on March 2, 2005

I am not a city dweller, but I am a country dweller where having closed shades is looked upon somewhat suspiciously. The place we live has some sheer curtains that are pretty much transparent at night when the indoor lights are on and at least semi-opaque when the lights are off. So, if I need total privacy for some reason I'll turn off the lights. Usually though, I just change, walk around in underwear/pj's, whatever. This is a combination of scarabic's "love what you got" approach and also an understanding of the code of no window shades: anyone who says anything about what they see when they look through your windows is way more of a creep than someone who walks around in their own house in whatever they want. We all see in each other's windows [except for our creepy neighbor with the drawn shades] and we all shut up about it, always. The mroe you realize that no one is ever going to mention that they saw you, the more it's like they never did see you, even if maybe they did. This is always how I deal with it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:48 AM on March 2, 2005

Wow! So much helpful advice. Thanks so much, everyone.

So, I will be putting on some clothes and heading out to the fabric store this weekend to get some linen curtains. I will get used to wearing a little more clothing. It sounds like people walking around only partially clothed in their apartments is a fairly mundane city thing so I will not worry quite so much about it.

To the question of whether I am just trying to overcome shyness: I have no problems being nude when the situation is appropriate. I am very happy with my body and have NO issues in the uptight department. The issue is that I am used to wearing little in my own home and now that I've moved from a small town to the city the situation is a little tricky.

I just worry about forcing my neighbors to look at me while they are eating their dinner, opening x-mas presents, having their mother-in-law over and generally trying to enjoy their houses in a clothes-wearing way. I don't NEED people to look at my body to know it's good to me and I've always thought that exhibitionism is rooted a bit in insecurity.

I guess what I really wanted from this thread (which I got, in spades) was reassurance that this is a common thing in the city and suggestions to minimize or at least make an effort to minimize being a disruption to my neighbors. That, and the opportunity to say "undies" a bunch of times.
posted by tinamonster at 8:11 AM on March 2, 2005

not sure if it's obvious from the above, but light linen curtains will be completely transparent at night when you have the lights on. if you'd rather they weren't, light the curtains directly with a fairly bright light (ie brighter than the rest of the room). that will probably make them appear more or less opaque from outside (and, of course, you can check by going outside and looking in).

(is that clear? the light can be inside, but should shine on the curtains - a spot from the ceiling, say, or a wall light mounted above)
posted by andrew cooke at 8:55 AM on March 2, 2005

You could buy those curtains for your neighbors...
posted by hellbient at 9:00 AM on March 2, 2005

they also sell screens/panels/shades that you pull up from the bottom of the window instead of the top--you can raise those halfway to cut some if not all of the view you're giving your neighbors.
posted by amberglow at 9:41 AM on March 2, 2005

Oh, yes, amberglow--in fact, the aforementioned wife is in the process of painting all of the lower-window panels in our house with faux-stained-glass motifs. No one can see in, we get plenty of light, and we can drop the upper window for ventilation.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:08 AM on March 2, 2005

tina - Glad you liked the curtains suggestion. One of my favorite weekends EVER with a girlfriend is when I borrowed said interior designer's Long Beach, WA house (He has multiple houses, at least one in each state ... guy is LOADED). He had the long, sheer linen drapes in the bay 'view' window that was the focal point of the whole house ... there was about a 20' vaulted ceiling in the room, and the windows went floor to ceiling. The curtains were cut in about two-foot-wide strips, and there was just enough fabric to mask the interior and let light and air in but not enough to be a bother when the breeze picked up a while.

The whole surface right inside the window was a window seat the size of a bed. My girlfriend and I spent pretty much the whole weekend on that window seat, most of the time with little (or no) clothing. As the sun moved from overhead down into the ocean we were caressed by the breezes, the linen, the smell and sound of the ocean, and the sunlight coming through the windows.

I much prefer curtains like this to blinds ... either vertical or horizontal (although making an exception for shutters with wooden, hinged louvers) because they can blow all over the place without making noise... when the curtains blow all over, it's charming rather than offensive. When you're not using them, you can tie them out of the way. If you want complete darnkess or privacy, just make some drapes out of heavier fabric (and line them on the backside with drapery backer) that are normally tied up out of the way, but can be let down when you want it to be dark or want more privacy.
posted by SpecialK at 1:48 PM on March 2, 2005

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