Am I overreacting to my neighbor's behavior?
May 7, 2012 4:31 PM   Subscribe

What to do about a weird neighbor?

We moved into our house in February, after our "short"sale offer was accepted in August. The house wasn't in bad shape, but wasn't quite move-in ready either. We've done tons of painting, cleaning, etc. The yard hasn't been at the forefront of our minds, but we did buy a lawn mower and regularly mow the front yard. The back yard is fully fenced and doesn't have a ton of grass.

There are some bushes/trees outside of our living room window, that I quite enjoy (they are not inside a fenced area--which I am now considering fixing!). Our a/c is busted and the trees provided shade. They also provided privacy, as we have some very high windows that allow our up-the-hill neighbor to see right into our living room.

The neighbor seemed friendly enough. Before we bought our lawn mower, he mowed part of our lawn. At the time I thought he was friendly, but we did rush out and buy a new mower soon afterwards and now mow regularly to show we are responsible homeowners. The neighbor's dog gets out of his fence sometimes, and always heads over here. He only does this when the neighbor is gone. Then the dog has to stay here for hours, or sometimes overnight. The last time this happened, when the guy came home he called me and said "Are you going to be there a while?" and I said I guessed I would. He said, "Good because I'm going to just fix the fence now," and he left his dog with me for 2 more hours. I am terrible at confrontation (which continues to be a problem, obviously) and rather than say, "Uh no, I'm not a dog boarding facility, come get your dog!" I just kept the damn thing.

So the neighbor called my boyfriend and left him a voicemail saying, "I really want to trim the privet between our houses, man. I haven't seen it this out of control in 6 years. I know you want your privacy in the living room, but it really has to lose some height."

First of all--it's not really between our houses. I mean technically it is, but it is CLEARLY on our property. The branches may hang over some of his property (which I'd have been fine with him trimming, if they were in his way), but the height is what keeps the room shady and private.

My boyfriend called the neighbor back and left a voicemail saying he would try again. My boyfriend called again and got no answer. He is a flight attendant, so Sunday morning he went out of town. When I went out to the living room on Sunday afternoon, the shrubs were down to about 5', from their former 12' height. Oh man, I was pissed!

My boyfriend texted the neighbor and said, "Thanks for doing that, but they're way too short and in the future we'll take care of it." The neighbor wrote back, "You are most welcome." I do not think my boyfriend was harsh enough, though I do understand the desire to be polite since the dude lives next door.

I also want to add, this guy invited us to a couple Mark groups at his house. I am not familiar with them, but from what the internet has told me, it's an intimate get together and can end in nudity. The neighbor's voicemail invitation said, "We can all get together and find each other perfect." I have to admit--I think this is really weird, and it makes me uncomfortable. I walk around the house topless a lot, and I am now afraid (I know I have a vivid imagination!) that since we turned down his love party invite, he decided to make our living room visible to him at all times.

My questions are:

How mad should I really be?

How rude should we get with this guy?

My name is not on the house at all; should that affect my willingness to get involved? Also I'm female and this dude is a male and I feel a little intimidated by him, but my boyfriend thinks he's harmless. Also I am home alone 3-5 days a week because of my boyfriend's job, so I get a little uneasy being alone regardless of who is next door.

What would you do in my position?

Do you agree that if the neighbor were really concerned with the shrubs that he could have trimmed them in the months the house sat vacant?

Do they make blinds that can be installed at an angle? Because the window that is uncovered is up near the ceiling, and is a big triangle.

Am I right to expect my boyfriend to say more than "thanks", basically, to this guy?

Thank you. Sorry for the length. And please be gentle on me if you think I am way overreacting.
posted by masquesoporfavor to Home & Garden (59 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I absolutely don't think you're overreacting in any way, the guy sounds like a pushy, passive aggressive and highly manipulative creep. If you are intimidated by this guy your boyfriend should respect that and back you up no matter how "harmless" he thinks the guy is.

I would say most/all of the communication between your house and this guy should go through your boyfriend. And from now on be very firm with this guy. You asked how rude you should get. Don't get rude at all. Being very firm is not being rude. Remember that.
posted by cairdeas at 4:37 PM on May 7, 2012 [26 favorites]

Quite frankly, I'd be very angry and uncomfortable about this too. But, you should not be blatantly rude with your neighbour this will only escalate things. Instead, the next time be very curt and set boundaries with your neighbour.

In the mean time, if your windows are very high up then get a professional to cover the windows so that you are ensured that you have privacy. Contact a company that deals with window coverings ASAP.

If you are uncomfortable then do not speak to this man. Go with your instinct.
posted by livinglearning at 4:40 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Saying "don't touch my shrubs" isn't rude, it's being clear. The guy sounds like a creep, and your boyfriend needs to back this guy down. I suggest that you sit your BF down and explain what you've explained here, including the feeling of intimidation.
posted by ellF at 4:40 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I went out to the living room on Sunday afternoon, the shrubs were down to about 5', from their former 12' height. Oh man, I was pissed!

I also want to add, this guy invited us to a couple Mark groups at his house.

Creepy Voyeur + Creepy Voyeur = 2(Creepy Voyeur)

You need good window treatments on your house.

Your boyfriend needs to instruct this guy that he is not to set foot on your property in the future without explicit permission. This is especially so because you admit to feeling intimidated by this guy.

Life's too short to please everybody.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:44 PM on May 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

You are not overreacting, you are reacting the wrong way. Install a fence and get some curtains and take a course in assertiveness (your boyfriend should come along.) Maybe also get a security system if you're actually scared at all.

He will continue to be creepy at least until you make it clear that it's not OK. So make it clear. It doesn't really matter if it's you, your boyfriend, or the two of you together, except that your health, well-being, and feelings of competence in stressful situations will be greatly enhanced if you participate (I totally feel your pain on this issue, I was in a desperately-needed assertiveness class myself two weeks ago.)

You may feel less intimidated if you make the place, in particular the outside spaces, distinctively "yours," BTW. Have some friends over, paint things, install fencing, plant flowers, etc. Make friends with people who work odd hours or stay at home with their kids to alleviate the "home alone" issue. Also, get out of the house - go to the library and stuff.

Oh, and your neighbor's territorial interests are, as you may have noticed, being projected in part through his dog. Standing firm on the "this dog doesn't come over here anymore" issue is actually partially a way of standing firm on "this is not your space, creepy neighbor guy."

(Expressing and enforcing boundaries is not rude.)
posted by SMPA at 4:47 PM on May 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

Does your city or county have a height ordinance for hedges--some places do.

So, buy some curtains or shades and keep them closed. I don't think you need to be all intimidated by him--he sounds strange but then, so does everyone.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:47 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh! What a creep! I wonder if he wanted the shrubs trimmed so he could watch you more easily -- otherwise why not trim them while the house was vacant?

You are not over-reacting. You can be firm without being rude. Hopefully he'll get the point.

You could even get one of those small, decorative fences that you just sort of push into the ground to mark the boundary of the lot, just so there's no confusion.
posted by Ostara at 4:47 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

He vandalized your property.

Don't worry about being rude. You could press charges.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:48 PM on May 7, 2012 [11 favorites]

Also --

I am terrible at confrontation (which continues to be a problem, obviously)

Really work on this if you can, because with people like this it's much easier if you show them from the get-go that their manipulations to push your boundaries won't be working with you. I think all of the things this guy has done have been boundary tests, and he will just keep pushing them until he has you zoned into a tiny square, where you "can't" say no to all the things he previously tested you on.

When you start working on this you don't have to be super aggro. This is one of the classic MeFi lines that you can start with: "I'm afraid that just won't be possible." You can build from there.
posted by cairdeas at 4:49 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

And call animal control if the dog escapes his yard.
posted by SMPA at 4:49 PM on May 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

Seconding all the folks saying get curtains NOW, plus put in a fence. If the damn dog comes over, ignore it --- it sounds like you're actually taking the dog inside?!? Cease and desist, it's his dog and his problem if it's running loose. And no need to be polite turning down the Mark invitation: be firm and clear that that's not your thing.

By the way, does this weirdo know your boyfriend is often gone? (The visible lack of a car in the driveway, or even just spying to watch your comings and goings.) Maybe it's going overboard, but a self-defense course might be in order.....
posted by easily confused at 4:56 PM on May 7, 2012

Also, with people like this, they have all sorts of methods to try to get their way and they just kind of throw them out to see what will stick with each individual.

I see him here using the method of preying on your sense of politeness/conscientiousness/good neighbor-ness, and invoking your guilt/shame. I'm talking about when he said "I really want to trim the privet between our houses, man. I haven't seen it this out of control in 6 years."

That comment is designed to make you feel like you are these rude, irresponsible neighbors, who create eyesores, and make HIM improperly inconvenienced and diminish HIS quality of life. Invoking your guilt and shame.

Did you feel it working maybe a little bit? Was there a part of you that thought to yourself, "maybe he does have a point, maybe it doesn't really look that tidy, maybe it is a bothersome nuisance for him, etc."

I'm pointing this out because since he already used it on you guys once and saw that it worked (your bf actually THANKED him for his ostensible effort in chopping it down, poor neighbor dude, he must have been so put out that he "had" do do that), I predict that he will try the same thing on you guys again and again.

So just be aware of it when it is trying to use this particular tool in his toolbox and trying to invoke your shame and guilt and make you feel like YOU are being the bad and rude one. Stay very mindful of the fact that it's totally a made up fake manipulation.
posted by cairdeas at 4:58 PM on May 7, 2012 [23 favorites]

Go to the hardware store and get privacy film for your awkward window, tomorrow. (Here's the first link I found, but there are a lot of different options.) You can cut it to size and stick it to the window, and remove it later when you can get custom window blinds fitted (yes, they make various types of blinds for ceiling and slanted windows). I have this sort of film in one of my bathrooms, and we left it up even though we also have blinds; they let in a lot of light so we can leave the blinds up and people can't see in. It's held up very well to time and cleaning. It's not expensive so you can put it up in all the windows on that side of the house until you can get blinds installed that you like, and you can leave it up if you don't need the views out those windows.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:59 PM on May 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

Initial instincts about neighbors are nearly always correct. If you think he is creepy, pushy, deliberately intimidating, trying to control his own access to your privacy, and inappropriate, then he is.

You are under zero obligation to be polite. Zero. Your property, your boundaries, your rules. If there are property concerns that violate homeowner covenants or city/county rules those agencies can tell you.

He knew you preferred a high hedge for privacy. He cut it down without your express permission; accessing your property to do so. He violated clear boundaries making it clear he does not respect boundaries. And yes, if hedge height was an issue previous to his opportunity to make it an issue with his neighbors, he would have cut it previous to your moving in.

People who are familiar with respect, trust, and safety do not invite brand-new neighbors with whom they have not built up some kind of level of trust to the kind of event you described. This invite is extended in order to establish intimacy with you that does not exist; which gives him permission to exploit that false intimacy and disrespect or even harm you.

He's had his chance to be a good neighbor, and now he is done. Nthing what everyone else has said, especially SMPA. The dog thing, the hedge thing, the invite, the violation of privacy--all power plays. Everyone else has suggested the right things to do to redraw your property and personal boundaries.

Since your domestic life with your partner means that you are most vulnerable to your neighbor's behavior, I do think it is reasonable to ask your partner to stand beside you and reinforce the boundaries that are going to make you feel comfortable and safe. Whatever your partner's impression, you do not feel he is 'harmless' and that impression is equally valid (if not more valid because you are home more). In any event, this neighbor will exploit where he senses there is permission--whether it's from you or you partner.
posted by rumposinc at 5:06 PM on May 7, 2012 [22 favorites]

Madness and rudeness are unnecessary, but gruffness and curtness may help you squelch down any people-pleasing impulses. Do not smile. Wear a mustache, literally if need be.

The faulty border structure is not your poor lovely privet hedge (may it quickly regenerate!); it's your neighbor's fence & dog. If the problem persists, make it his problem; or if you prefer to avoid such conflict, install your own dog-proof fence.

I would actually communicate with Creepy Neighbor yourself, in order to convey exactly what you feel needs to be conveyed. Which was, in this case, not "We should talk", but "Do not shorten our hedge, kthxbai". In fact, maybe text messaging (or email) would be a suitable medium for your newfound gruffness.
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:12 PM on May 7, 2012

Seconding SMPA's advice. Make it your place - inside and out. If your window has a weird shape, there is adhesive film for windows that makes a stained glass effect and gives you privacy.

I don't think the guy is a creep per se, I mean you walk around topless in your house and there are people in this world who would find that weird. We all have some quirks.
Maybe you moving in gave him a kick to finally get to all the stuff he was meaning to fix for a long time?
I do think you need to stand your ground, not just your boyfriend. Being the shy, little, quiet girlfriend is not something you want to project. Particularly not if this guy is indeed a creep. You don't want to look more vulnerable than you are. 'Sorry man, the dog can't stay here.' 'Actually it's our shrubs and the city allows a height of 10', so please don't cut them anymore, thanks.' Be firm and clear. Check the facts.
Please don't be mean to the dog, don't call animal control. It's not the dogs fault.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:12 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

By the way, start logging these events -- the times the dog gets out, the times he accesses your property without permission, the mowing and cutting of bushes -- and mark the dates, times, and a brief narrative of what happened. If at some point you have to escalate (to the police, to a restraining order, to small claims over property damage), you will have a nice log of his aggressive, trespassing behavior.

I would also record incidents of creepiness, like inviting you to the "Mark parties."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:13 PM on May 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

The Morehouse philosophy is supposed to be about communal living and consenting hedonism, but this guy has repeatedly disregarded, and in the case of the hedges, literally attacked, your geographic boundaries. Not cool. Clearly (but politely) tell him that you and your boyfriend are not interested in participating in his Mark group (not just "so sorry, we're busy Saturday").

You need to start saving the money to fence your property. This guy doesn't believe in boundaries (whether his motives are benign or not), but that makes it even more important that you enforce them. (You're not overreacting, but relying on your boyfriend is clearly not getting it done - you're the one living there full-time, so you deal with the window, you get the bids for the fence, you say an unmistakable no to the Mark Group, you make it clear to the neighbor that he doesn't get to negotiate with your boyfriend for your comfort.)
posted by gingerest at 5:27 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Creepy! Home Depot has peel and stick stain glass vinyl that you can cut to any shape and cover any window with and is removable. It's around $25.00 a role. Get that now. It will give you a little more time to find the perfect window treatment.

Next time the dog is out, call animal control for a pick up. Do not have any more contact with the neighbor. Be very clear to boyfriend that if you don't feel safe and protected then you will have to live elsewhere. He needs to man up on this one.
posted by myselfasme at 5:31 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I know you want your privacy in the living room, but it really has to lose some height."

What the F does he think "but" means here? Why does it "has to?" Insane.

If you want to get some boundaries drawn right quick, call animal control the next time his dog comes over.
posted by rhizome at 5:32 PM on May 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Get windows and a fence asap. Tell him not to trim your shrubs again. If he does, file a police report for trespass. What a weirdo and you are not overreacting.
posted by mibo at 5:37 PM on May 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

I worked in Boston as an EMT. The city provided us a lot of training on dealing with dangerous, unpredictable, and violent people (a major ambulance-using constituency). The first and foremost rule: trust your fear. Don't let politeness keep you from feeling safe in your own home.
posted by Ausamor at 5:38 PM on May 7, 2012 [14 favorites]

I think you should consider filing a police report about the hedges. And, maybe I'm just a hermit, but I'm surprised y'all even have one another's phone numbers and stuff. I've never had that kind of contact info with any of my neighbors.
posted by Occula at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

First of all, he's a creep and a weirdo, full stop.

As to how to deal with people like this without escalating? It's tricky. What I have tried to do in the past several years is to make them bear some of the social awkwardness of being an ass. They get away with it because they put a reasonable tone on a totally unreasonable request, forcing you to compromise with unreason in order to not seem like the bad guy.

But guess what! This person ALREADY IS UNREASONABLE. You don't have to compromise with shit. If his dog gets out and gets into your yard, just. . . don't do anything. If you're worried about the dog, call animal control and let them handle it. If he says "Some of that height on that hedge has got to go," just say "What? No it doesn't, I like them like that." If he invites you to a creepy sex party, just don't respond. Basically, imagine what you think a reasonable neighbor would say to or think of you if YOU made this request. . . and then do that.

It's hard, at first, particularly for women who have been socialized to be nice and accommodating and helpful, but remember: this is your house. You don't owe this guy shit. Put up privacy film and don't accommodate him any more.
posted by KathrynT at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2012 [17 favorites]

Calmly tell him that you're not happy with the trimming and he can't touch the hedges again. If he starts to argue or make excuses, cut in and say, "I'm not looking to have a conversation about it, I'm telling you I'm not happy. Don't ever touch anything in my yard again". Head inside and let him stew.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:53 PM on May 7, 2012 [24 favorites]

Sorry to spam your thread masqueso, I just have one more thought.

"I know you want your privacy in the living room, but it really has to lose some height."

In the video of the Milgram experiment, there's a part that's really interesting to me. (The backstory of the experiment was that the experiment subjects were instructed to deliver what they thought was an electrical shock to someone in the next room, and to keep increasing the voltage of the shock even as the other person screamed and sounded like they were dying.)

One of the subjects came off to me as a working class, blue collar guy. When he wanted to stop and the experiment told him he had "no choice" but to continue, he reacted by kind of pleading, and negotiating as if he considered the experimenter to be an authority figure.

Another one of the subjects came off as a total blue-blood, wealthy guy. When the experimenter told him he had no choice but to continue, he kind of scoffed and said "I have a lot of choices."

So I think it's another example of being very aware of when your neighbor is trying to set the terms of each of your interactions, and to set the assumptions that both of you will be operating from. Make sure you are questioning his terms and assumptions when he tries to set them. Because it's very natural to just kind of unconsciously go along with it when someone does that. Especially if you might be someone who either by nature or by past conditioning instinctively defers to authority figures. Someone might be able to get what they want from you more easily by assuming the tone and behavior of an authority figure.
posted by cairdeas at 6:11 PM on May 7, 2012 [22 favorites]

Women in particular are generally socialized to not trust their instincts, to devalue them, and to consider them irrational. People with predatory instincts know this and it only serves one purpose, to make women more vulnerable and manipulate-able.

You don't owe this guy shit.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:18 PM on May 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

You're suggesting he could have trimmed the shrubs in winter? Who does that? It's spring time, this is when you trim hedges. It was still unreasonable of him to trim your hedges, and your boyfriend has probably failed completely at communicating that.

Has the dog gotten out since he fixed the fence?
posted by jacalata at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

agree with everyone who has pointed out this guy seems manipulative & creepy. i only comment to mention that it would be really, really really good if you and your partner can get on exactly the same page about how you're going to deal with this situation. if i'm the manipulator, there is no way i will pass up an opportunity to play you two off each other. if you set a boundary, but your partner acts like the neighbor is doing you guys a favor by violating that boundary, you're going to be in a pickle.
posted by facetious at 6:37 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

The problem is mostly your neighbour, but it's partly your boyfriend.

Am I right to expect my boyfriend to say more than "thanks", basically, to this guy?

Yup! You don't feel safe in your home, and he's not taking it seriously. He's being a patronising git to you.

He's dismissing your better-informed fears, and placing his desire to look 'polite' and smooth things over, over your need for security. I wouldn't feel safe, in a whole raft of situations, with a partner like that. Learning to assert yourself more would be awesome, but since he's the one currently having 'official' interactions with the neighbour, he needs to step up.
posted by pickingupsticks at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay a lot to answer here!

-I think it's bizarre that it's suggested I go to the library or something. Why should I have to leave the house my boyfriend purchased? I work full time and I like being at home when I'm not at work.

-Even if my city has an ordinance for hedges, I am not clear on if this particular plant is actually a hedge or a tree.. It looked like a tree and was not overgrown or anything, and it is not visible from the street. Also it's not really my neighbor's job to make sure I don't get ticketed, and if it IS a tickerable offense, it strikes me as yet another way this guy is trying to be in charge of the situation.

-I forgot to mention another incident. The dog had gotten out (we have three of our own so we did take him in; I'd never forgive myself if he got hit by a car or something), and the neighbor eventually came to fetch him. I was on the couch wearing clothes, but no bra, and I don't really feel comfortable having company without a bra on. I told my boyfriend to please just hand over the dog and if the neighbor wanted to talk (there was a hole in the fence we share), we could do it the next day. A couple minutes later, in he waltzes, straight out to the yard like he owns the place! I know he was friends with the previous owners, and I think that is clouding his judgment here.

-We park in the garage but I do think he knows my boyfriend travels, because at first we didn't know he was a creep.

-Regarding having contact numbers--I had his from finding his dog, but to be honest I'm not sure how he and my boyfriend exchanged info. I think we really just thought he was a friendly neighbor, until the mark groups and spirit quest (where he was when the dog got out).

-Regarding being topless at home--not to get all TMI on y'all but I have k-cup boobs and wear a bra all day at work, and I live in Atlanta where it's already 90 degrees, and my a/c is broken at home. Hell yes I go topless.

-And yes, it's feasible that someone would trim the hedges/whatever in winter. We're in Atlanta, and there was no winter to speak of.

Thanks for all the advice about window coverings. I have to admit I'm feeling resentful, because before yesterday we had a nice view of some greenery, and now it's just this dude's two upstairs windows.

I have tried to impress upon my boyfriend that this guy hasn't really given a shit about coming across as rude to us, so at this point I don't think it matters if he thinks WE are rude by reinforcing that we do not want him on our property. I just can't decide if we/I/he should march over there for a face-to-face, or if that will turn into some weird control game. We are quite a bit younger than he is (and look even younger than that, apparently), so I think age is a factor as well. Ugh, this is why I don't leave the house. Human interaction, man.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:47 PM on May 7, 2012

And a cursory check for my county reveals nothing about hedge height ordinances, though weeds cannot grow higher than 12". I wish I had before pictures, because it was really not unruly or ugly.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:56 PM on May 7, 2012

Wait, why the hell couldn't he keep his dog in his own house while he fixed the fence? Why is he inviting you to intimate gatherings? Why is daring to cross onto your property and vandalize your verge, after your boyfriend tried calling him, twice, and after your boyfriend was out of town?

He's systematically steamrolling your boundaries, forcing himself and his dog into your lives. You are not overreacting. You can't "thanks, but..." with people like him. You (and your boyfriend) are going to have to stop this guy in his tracks. His behavior is not polite; you need not be. You don't have to be shrill or aggressive, just unequivocally firm.

"Mark parties aren't our thing."

"We'll take care of our hedges. Next time you feel they're getting unsightly, drop us a note, but do not cut them again."

"You need to come get your dog." Or better, because that relies on him cooperating, just walk the dog over, drop him off, say "Your boy got out again." Then nod, turn, and walk away. You've been kind enough to bring the dog back and left no wiggle room to foist dogsitting on you.

Get some privacy film for your windows, and stress to your boyfriend to that he needs to take your concerns seriously (especially since he is often gone and the neighbor is apparently aware of that). Now neighbor has a view of your home and you have a view into his? Sounds like he's going to start crossing boundaries visually, too.

Just, no. Stop this guy now. No more Ms. Nice Queso.
posted by OompaLoompa at 7:05 PM on May 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

My parents had a house on the side a hill, the people that owned the house above and behind it arranged for someone to come in and trim the tops of of 2 ancient Norfolk pines they had in their front yard because they blocked their view. They waited while my parents were out at work, and it wasn't a little job apparently it included a crane lift of some sort to get the pruners up there. The trees being evergreens where ruined as their main growth point was cut out.

My parents sued and won. If the guy is trespassing and damaging your property you can fight back, heck call the police and let them handle it. If nothing else the cops knocking at his door and asking questions about the hedge will make him think twice about it next time.

Fix the fence or get a privacy fence would be great, though can get expensive, it would help keep him and his dog on his property and out of your business, if you want keep tension down say you are doing it for your dogs. Don't answer the door to him. Don't return his calls. Call animal control when his dog gets out.

If it makes you feel better I have decided that neighbours are weird by default, my current neighbours like to throw random rubbish over our 7 foot tall privacy fence, today it was a half full box of Captain Crunch.
Put a sign in your window telling him to Fuck off or more tactfully stop him trying to perve on you you could put up some sort of reflective tinting, then if the lights are off he can't see in and all he can see is himself so you still get light during the day.
posted by wwax at 7:06 PM on May 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

OP: The only reason I said go to the library is that you make it sound a little bit like you feel trapped by this guy when you're home alone and he's there, too. As long as you're feeling uncomfortable, recognize that leaving for a while is a healthy way of dealing with that tension.
posted by SMPA at 7:12 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

We had a similar experience with a neighbor and our trees that are 6 feet from the fence that borders the two lots. He limbed the side that faces his property. These trees are about 75 years old and 50-60 feet tall. They create a lot of shade on both sides. We found out about it because he tried to leave all of the cut limbs on our side of the fence, which means he was in our yard without our permission, which scared the hell out of me when I found him out there in the middle of the night. When asked about it, he and his wife became very defensive about . What assholes. We are the kind of neighbors that would have tried to worked something out if asked in advance.

So we called the police and filled a report. They got a visit from the police and warning about trespassing. The insurance company and the police told us we could take them to small claims court for possibly lowering the value of our property. They were given this information in a letter sent from a lawyer provided by homeowners insurance company. They do not talk to us and I have stopped telling the dog what fucking assholes they are when I am in that part of the yard and they are in their yard ( I didn't handle this in a mature and polite way).

Like someone else said, you and your partner need to be on the same page and this neighbor needs to be put in his rightful place, on his property and off of yours. He is much worse than our neighbors.
posted by cairnoflore at 7:20 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

This guy sounds like more than a creep. In just a few months he's done wildly inappropriate things and I'm sure he'll try again. You should file a police report to start a paper trail and to let him know you don't fuck around. I'm actually concerned for your safety since your boyfriend is out of town so much. Please protect yourself and file a report.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:59 PM on May 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Did you know the vast majority of rapes are committed by persons known to the victim? All the indicators this guy is giving suggest that he does not respect boundaries or other people's wishes. Short of an actual criminal record, that is probably the biggest indicator of a potential rapist.

You need to make it clear that he is not welcome on your property anymore, and document it with police. Worrying about escalation seems moot - he's escalating already. And when you factor in that he's already expressed a sexual interest in you, and now he can perfectly see when you're in the property by yourself, and people are accustomed to seeing him on your property and think it's normal... well, that's a HORRIBLE confluence of events.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:29 PM on May 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

You have a creepy neighbor. But I'm chiming in to add that I don't think you should lay off the responsibility of dealing with him on your boyfriend, since your boyfriend isn't there all the time, and he's your neighbor, too, and rather than just learn to be dependent on your boyfriend to handle the neighbor, you should deal with that unpleasant task yourself.

It might help to think in terms of having your communications with him be as clear as possible, so there is no room for him to misinterpret them. The clearer your communications with him, the easier he'll be to deal with.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:29 PM on May 7, 2012

I wonder if this guy would think twice if you got a rifle and did target practice in the yard on weekends.
posted by cairdeas at 10:33 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Read Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. It covers this very sort of thing.
posted by SillyShepherd at 2:09 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Hey dude. I guess you're out, so I'll just leave a message. Don't call here again. If I see your dog again, I'm calling Animal Control. Touch my fucking trees again, and I'll call the police, then sue. You're most welcome."

Change your number.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:19 AM on May 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

Jesus. Your neighbor is off his rocker. He had no right to trim the hedges that are on your property, and you should absolutely not go to his house for some love party (unless you're into that kind of thing, which it sounds like you're not). Change your cell phone number, invest in some blinds and a deadbolt. The creep factor of your neighbor is off the charts and you and your boyfriend HAVE GOT to set boundaries for your home. It doesn't matter that he used to mow part of the yard or trim the hedges when the house was vacant or whatever, but that's not his job any more. Document everything. Call the non-emergency number for your local police department and give them a heads up. Maybe consider getting a weapon.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:28 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Practice this phrase until it becomes automatic:

I can't help you with that.

That's all you have to say if YOU ever have to speak to him.

In the meantime, your boyfriend may need to get more stereotypically manly. In other words, send messages to this guy that you are within your boyfriend's domain and neighbor should not approach you for anything. If your boyfriend can't alpha this guy--just doesn't know how or can't pull it off, he can be the good guy and make you the bad guy.

"Man, when you cut our trees that short, you got in my girlfriends shit list. We can't help you with your dog anymore, and you can't come into our yard uninvited. Sorry man"

Good cop bad cop works. Decide which one of you is which.

(all of these strategies have worked for me whether I was in a lesbian couple or straight couple.)
posted by vitabellosi at 8:06 AM on May 8, 2012

This guy has MAD boundary issues re: an attached woman whose male companion is irregularly at home/travels for work, and people are saying he's not giving off creep-threat vibes?

This to me sets off all manner of red lights and sirens. Clipped YOUR greenery so he could get a better look? File this this guy under "Threat: Never Be Alone With".

This guy will push and push and push to see how much he can get away with. Because he's gotten no feedback other than he can walk all over you and your property. Just a matter of time before the creep gets hands-on, and then it's a WHOLE new kettle of worms.

My Opinion as a New Yorker raised resident of Oakland, CA: You're in the South. Your BF needs to look this neighbor straight in the eye, calmly and coolly, and inform him that neither he nor his dog are welcome in your yard uninvited. No, we are not cool. No, you can't just come over any time you like. No questions? Good, have a nice day.

No threats, just the firm re-assurance that there is an alpha-male on the scene and creepoid's behavior is unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and stops NOW.

Yeah, not enlightened, gender-roles, yadda-yadda. Wish the real-world was otherwise.

Seconding DeBecker's Gift of Fear. I also recommend Marc MacYoung's No Nonsense Self Defense: Problem Neighbors
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:52 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are absolutely right to feel annoyed and unnerved by your neighbor, but I think it's a little over the top to call him a creep, a manipulator, or a potential rapist, as some in this thread have done. I mean, anybody can be a creep or a potential rapist, and it's clear that he's a little off, but I don't see anything malicious here.

I hadn't heard of Mark group before, but after a little googling, it seems like it's one of those encounter groups where people meet to work on interpersonal relationships. There's a lot of talking and sharing of emotions and validating yourself and validating other people. This is likely where his ""We can all get together and find each other perfect" comment came from; he's echoing the language used in the group. Some groups use social nudity as part of the encounter sessions. I didn't find anything saying that Mark groups involved sexual activity; maybe other Mefites have more knowledge about this.

These encounter groups, and there are hundreds of them, are pretty harmless. My mom has done several. None that involve nudity, thank you, unless there's a lot more going on in the meeting rooms of the Unity Church than I realize. Some people get very enthusiastic about it, which gets annoying when they hoist the language and techniques on other people, or get hurt when other people aren't interested. You can treat it just as if he'd invited you to a prayer group for a religion you're not interested in. I'm sure he thought he was being friendly when he invited you.

Did he cut your shrubs so short because he wanted to look in your window? It's possible, but he could have just as likely been operating on the previous owners' preferences, what he thinks the neighborhood norms are, or his own aesthetics. He told you he was going to cut the shrubs, didn't receive clear instructions not to, and went ahead and did it. Again, he probably thought he was being neighborly, just like when he mowed your lawn.

He also invites himself into your home and assumes you don't mind dealing with his dog. You now know that he's clueless, so you and your boyfriend need to to be clear and direct with him. He doesn't have a good sense of boundaries so it's up to you guys to set firm ones. I think your boyfriend's response to the trimming was fine (if late). "Thanks for your effort, but we don't like it and please don't do that again."

Other good phrases: "Now is not a good time," "We're busy right now," "That won't be possible." "We don't want to deal with your dog any more. Please lock him up when you're away." You don't need to apologize. You don't need to feel like it's a confrontation. You're giving a socially clueless guy instructions on how to better interact with you. Don't answer his questions, least of all "why." Just repeat what you want him to do. "You can take your dog now." "You can go now."
posted by hydrophonic at 9:36 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You now know that he's clueless, so you and your boyfriend need to to be clear and direct with him.

If the problem is that he's "socially clueless," those encounter groups either aren't doing their job or are intended for another purpose. It just doesn't add up for me that way.
posted by rhizome at 10:57 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

It just occurred to me that since he was close with the previous owners, he may have a key to my house and we never got the locks rekeyed. I feel like I'm going to vomit.

And to SMPA--You actually made me think about it and I do feel trapped. At our last house just down the street, we got robbed on Thanksgiving. Before we moved in here, someone stole the copper from under the house. I don't know if it's even being trapped, but more like I feel I have to guard my house!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:17 AM on May 8, 2012

You need to change your locks today. Right now.
posted by corn_bread at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I texted my boyfriend to say that and he said, "I don't think he'd come into our house." I said, "Why would you think that? He DID come in, and you couldn't even stop him when you answered the door. He invited us to a mark group before asking us to a regular cookout, so I don't think boundaries are his strong suit." UGHHH
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:28 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are doing a really good job about being firm and communicative with your fears. Keep it up! Call a locksmith and have the locks changed, today, now.
posted by KathrynT at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

As weird as your neighbor is(and he's plenty weird) I find your boyfriend's attitude even weirder. I don't really think that expecting him to be all 'me Tarzan, her Jane' is useful, but at a minimum he should be validating your concerns and trying to empathize with why this is a troubling situation.
posted by winna at 1:13 PM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

On the dog: "Hey, [name], I can't keep your dog at the house; I didn't realize that I was allergic until he started spending time over here. Thanks." When you can afford it, put up a fence that keeps the dog out.

On the shrubs: First, put up blinds or curtains on the windows, you'll get shade and privacy right away. Then have a gardener come out and plant 10' tall shrubs in front of the window (along with the existing ones, or as a replacement.) They don't have to be placed for privacy; they have to be present so that your boyfriend can walk over to the neighbor and say "after you cut our shrubs down, we realized how much we preferred them tall. So we're having new ones planted tomorrow, and I'm just stopping by to let you know not to trim them." Boundary set, and if he does it again, there's no question that he's being aggressive and you can call the cops.

On the boyfriend: "Hey, [boyfriend's name], I know you think he's harmless, but I'm telling you that I'm very uncomfortable with his behavior. You're my partner, and I expect you to support me and take my concerns seriously, not dismiss my concerns out-of-hand. He's already invited us to a creepy party and cut down our hedges while making it clear he was doing it to reduce our privacy. Work with me on this, or I can't live here."
posted by davejay at 3:20 PM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh yeah, change the locks, STAT.
posted by davejay at 3:21 PM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

For anyone curious:

We have privacy filmed the windows and put up curtains. I am thinking about sending him a certified letter that is moderately friendly but includes receipts for our purchases that he needs to reimburse us for. Weird, or okay?
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:01 PM on May 13, 2012

posted by Sys Rq at 4:08 PM on May 13, 2012

Agreed weird. Honestly, I think if you had wanted him to compensate you in some way for measures you have had to take to restore your privacy after he chopped down your hedge, that would have been perfectly legitimate. But sending him receipts after the fact isn't the way IMO.

If you really want to write him a pissed-off letter making it known to him there were financial consequences to you because of his act and it will be unacceptable going forward, I think it may be better to write something like,

"Dear Mark,

We were shocked when you cut down our hedge without our permission. Restoring the privacy in our our living room after the damage to our hedge has not been cheap. We want to make it clear that interfering with our property is unacceptable in the future. We will expect compensation if our property is damaged again."
posted by cairdeas at 4:57 PM on May 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

Pretty weird.

cairdeas has it.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:00 PM on May 13, 2012

Yeah, I would definitely not do that. I would either send what cairdeas has typed out exactly, or just leave the matter alone. Personally, I think you should cut your losses and keep your interactions with this guy to a minimum.
posted by corn_bread at 8:35 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

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