Mind your own damn business!
June 26, 2007 8:58 AM   Subscribe

MeFites:Help me figure out the best way to deal with my ridiculously rude, yelling neighbor.

Setting the scene, details listed are important, I think:
Me: 30 yr slender athletic female, currently training for a marathon...I don't wear spandex/short shorts when I run. Standard tank top and shorts.

Neighborhood: I live in the South End of Boston. Very quaint, NE type street. Anyone who lives or visits in this area will know....it's a mix of young professionals, gay/lesbian community, mixed in with subsidized housing projects. Expensive are to live in, but open-minded overall, very artsy-fartsy.

What happened:
After finishing my evening run at about 9pm, I decided to cool off outside before going in, it was pretty hot out and I have no AC. As most runners do, I began stretching my quads, arms, neck, etc as a cooldown. I hear this from one house down, across the street:

"You should go inside! You can do that inside!"
Confused, I yell back: "Excuse me?"
She: "Look at the NEIGHBORHOOD!!!" GO INSIDE TO DO THAT!!!!"
Me: "Uh, I live here."
She:"Look at the NEIGHBORHOOD your in!!!"
Me: "What are you talking about. Explain yourself"
She: "You shouldn't be doing that out here....GO INSIDE!"
Me: "NO"
She: "It's your choice!"
Me: "Why, yes it is."

So, of course my plan is to stretch my legs/neck/arms/fingers and any other body part out on my front porch from now until christmas. However, I have a feeling this will not be the last encounter with her. Thought this would be an interesting situation to pose this to the MeFi community; as I might need a few good quips/retaliaiton methods in my bag of tricks if ignoring her doesn't seem to work.
posted by engling to Society & Culture (54 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A water balloon full of piss aimed at her front door. Either that or ignore her.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 9:00 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are you sure she doesn't have some sort of disability or mental illness or something? If I'm reading the exchange correctly her yelling and problem with you is so illogical and weird that that'd be my first guess.
posted by gramcracker at 9:03 AM on June 26, 2007

You could:

- Pretend you don't speak English
- Respond with a hearty "Fuck off!"
- Respond with total nonsense and scare her off
- Tell her you will call the police if she continues to harrass you
- Find something about her you don't like (ugly clothes, bad hair, etc) and yell at her about taking *that* inside
- Challenge her to a streetfighting match

Honestly, I would just ignore it and continue to take pleasure in taking as long as possible to do my stretches in full view from her house.
posted by tastybrains at 9:08 AM on June 26, 2007

Is your neighbor looking out for your personal safety? Perhaps she feels it's not safe for you to be outside so late at night?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:08 AM on June 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: gramcracker: I have seen her around, and it doesn't appear that way. But, I could be wrong. That would explain the absurdity of the exchange for sure.
I really think that she said it because she believed that the act of stretching was a bit too risque' for the Neighborhood! At least when I did it..
posted by engling at 9:11 AM on June 26, 2007

Do the thing that you just told us about in your story there, since you've already discovered it worked. Or ignore her.

Are there some complicating factors we're missing?
posted by mendel at 9:12 AM on June 26, 2007

No matter what she yells, respond with a pleasantry.

Yellina: Go inside to do that!

You: Hello there!

Yellina: I said go inside-- look where you are!

You: I agree, very nice weather!

Yellina: GO INSIDE

You: That *is* a lovely hat you have on

...And so on.
posted by oflinkey at 9:13 AM on June 26, 2007 [14 favorites]

my plan is to stretch ... out on my front porch from now until christmas
I'm sure I'd do exactly that if I were you, but it may be a better idea to just take it inside even if it is a ludicrous suggestion. The less you have to fight with your neighbors over the better off you are, IMO. Go even further and make her and the rest of your (nearest) neighbors some cookies, etc., and they'll feel too guilty to complain about your doing something so normal as stretching after a run. Maybe they'll just say "Hi" instead. Mrs. Madness baked everyone in our 'hood banana bread and the nastiest seeming neighbors turned nice overnight.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:15 AM on June 26, 2007

In the South End? unbelievable. Just ignore her, or bring a bunch of girlfriends and all stretch. And ignore her.
posted by sweetkid at 9:16 AM on June 26, 2007

I wondered the same thing as ThePinkSuperhero above... From the way the conversation went, with the neighbor saying "Look at the neighborhood you're in," it sounds like she was trying to warn you that doing your stretches outside (even though it is your right) might "attract" the wrong kind of attention... It's sad and frustrating to think that we, as women, are not always safe on our own front porches, but it's the truth in many areas... The fact that the neighbor then said "It's your choice" when you argued back seems to indicate that she didn't have a personal problem with what you were doing, she really might have been worried for your safety.
posted by amyms at 9:16 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would just keep up the "I don't know what you're talking about, ma'am" (said in a conversation-ending tone, not as a query for more info) until she gives up.

Which is pretty much what you did, and, as mendel pointed out, it worked. So keep doing that.
posted by occhiblu at 9:17 AM on June 26, 2007

Unless the South End has radically changed since I moved away a few years ago, we're talking yuppie/upper-class gay haven. It's not Southie, it's not Roxbury (unless you're in the part of the "South End" that actually *is* Roxbury), it's not dangerous.
posted by occhiblu at 9:19 AM on June 26, 2007

Response by poster: mendel: i have never spoken to this woman before..so no other factors involved, that was pretty much the exchange, verbatim.

monkey: i really like stretching outside. it calms me before re-entering my life "inside"..very peaceful. So I have no plans to stop. It's my house and my front porch, I have every right to be there. Thanks for the suggestion though.
posted by engling at 9:19 AM on June 26, 2007

Well, you could ask her what the problem is. Sincerely. And she's either bizarrely conservative, or crazy. If bizarrely conservative, you can simply let her know that you have your own set of standards, and shrug it off. If she's crazy, you'll know to avoid her. Many crazy people seem to end up in subsidized housing, as craziness tends to make you poor.

Crazy neighbors are not so much fun.
posted by theora55 at 9:21 AM on June 26, 2007

Turn on your ipod before you go outside and stretch.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:23 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with ThePinkSuperhero. It sounds to me like she is worried about your safety and thinks that your neighborhood is more dangerous than you think it is. Once she knows that you aren't interested in her advice I bet she will pipe down.
posted by ND¢ at 9:28 AM on June 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

From what you say, I think it's impossible to know what made her fly off the handle like that. If I had to guess however, I'd say mental illness is a very real possibilty. To be quite honest I feel a little sorry for her. Her life must be really difficult and confusing if she is so easily upset. So, if I were you I'd hold off the plans for sweet sweet revenge until you know more.

To be honest, I'd probably ignore it, and if it happens again, I'd try to talk to her and ask her to explain what her problem is. I'd also try to make it clear that I don't agree with her and that I find her behaviour completely unacceptable.
posted by Friday at 9:36 AM on June 26, 2007

Response by poster: Pink/ND: by the tone of her voice, there wasn't an ounce of caring. also, I was on my front steps, on a street that people stroll down in the evening. so, there's really no reason she would be. in fact, lots of people were on their front steps, drinking wine and chatting that evening.

maybe she is just crazy.
posted by engling at 9:38 AM on June 26, 2007

Maybe she caught her husband ogling you through the window and got angry?
posted by Durin's Bane at 9:41 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are you sure she wasn't inviting you in her house?

Maybe you should try to enter her house the next time it happens? I think she's just being neighborly.
posted by tcv at 9:47 AM on June 26, 2007

I agree with other here - she doesnt sound malicious at all, it sounds like she's looking out for you. It also sounds like she shut up as soon as it was apparent that you werent listening to her.
She may have a very different opinion of the neighbourhood than you do - perhaps its the subsidized housing projects that have her concerned, or maybe she's speaking from experience. Either way I think you're blowing it all out of proportion.
From what you say the conversation was I dont see that she was rediculously rude and she was probably yelling because of the distance not out of anger.
If anything, based on the transcript, you're coming off as the defensive and slightly rude one. It seems to me like you've gone into the conversation with an attitude of 'who the hell are you to tell me what to do', rather than considering that she might just be trying to be neighbourly.

Instead of spending your energy thinking up rude comebacks for her, why not go over to her house and explain the situation, tell her you appreciate her concern but you feel perfectly safe to do your stretches outside your house in that neighbourhood.
posted by missmagenta at 9:47 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

just because it is a safe neighborhood now i would not automatically assume that this lady thinks of it that way. it was not that long ago that the south end was a "bad" part of town. if she lived there during that period of time it is not unreasonable for her to still perceives the neighborhood that way.
posted by mailbox125 at 9:50 AM on June 26, 2007

Just ignore her and do not acknowledge or make eye contact with her.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:10 AM on June 26, 2007

I don't buy the "caring for OP's personal safety" thing. As OP has stated, it's a *nice* neighborhood..."a quaint New England street".

I'm 99% sure this lady had her grannypanties in a wad because she thought stretching while wearing shorts & a tank top was too inappropriate for the good people of OP's street to look at.
posted by tastybrains at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tastybrains read my mind. This sounds like a "How indecent!" complaint and not a concern for safety thing.
posted by agregoli at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2007

"Thanks for the tip!"

Then ignore her.

Do this once, no more, per incident. She'll eventually get frustrated and give up.
posted by mkultra at 10:25 AM on June 26, 2007

Unless she's suggesting you shouldn't stretch outside in the neighborhood because she will do something to you, I don't see why it'd be necessary to do anything but ignore her.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2007

Response by poster: I wear regular length shorts, not the super short runner ones where your butt hangs out...and a tank top.

Thanks for the comments everyone...Different perspectives are useful, this is why I posted!
posted by engling at 10:47 AM on June 26, 2007

This sounds like a "How indecent!" complaint and not a concern for safety thing.
I disagree - she says "Its your choice" - that's not something you say if someone's behaviour is causing you personal distress or discomfort. It's what you say when someone is doing something you think is ill-advised for their own personal well-being. Its like saying 'ok, but don't say I didn't warn you'.

If this stretching was bothering her personally, for conservative, 'grannypants' or mental illness issues - it wouldn't make any sense for her to say "it's your choice" and then just leave it at that. She would be more persistent.

She advised you to go inside, she tried to explain her reasons, you refused, she let it go.

Whether or not you live in a good neighbourhood is irrelevant - what matters is how she perceives the neighbourhood to be.

You don't know her and you wont unless you talk to her. You might find out that she is a very nice and reasonable woman and this whole situation is just a misunderstanding - my boyfriend often accuses me of shouting at him - when really I'm just shouting to him - there is a difference.
posted by missmagenta at 10:48 AM on June 26, 2007

Cross the street and talk to her.
posted by spec80 at 10:49 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that she is concerned that your actions might attract the attention of some of the local lesbian population? (Look at the neighborhood?)

It does sound like she's trying to 'save you from yourself,' and that your mindset is just so far from hers you wouldn't see a common 'problem.' And people do get angry when they see someone doing something they think is against their best interests.

Smile and wave if you see her, call the fire department if her house is burning down, but otherwise, I would be happy to ignore her.
posted by sageleaf at 11:19 AM on June 26, 2007

Are you 100% she was even yelling at you?

I once had a neighbor with severe mental illness. Telling my young sons (5 and 2 at the time) that she was going to "shoot them in the head" if they somehow, magically got sandbox sand into her 2nd story apartment was the last straw for the police, who began fining the property owner $1,000 for every time they had to return and deal with this unfortunate soul. Needless to say she was evicted shortly after she began throwing her furniture down the stairs at 5 AM one morning. Just my anecdote.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:20 AM on June 26, 2007

I say ignore her and carry on.

Exceptions: do you have any pets that stay in or around the apartment? The only thing that would give me pause, before I decided to really get into it with a crazy neighbor, would be that they'd break into my place when I wasn't around and do something horrific to one of my pets.

I can live with some nutball breaking into my house -- I'll call the police, I have insurance, they'll get arrested. I can even live with some nutball trying to come after me -- I'm not going to live in fear, and I'm reasonably confident in my ability to deal with them, and in the end they also go to jail. However, I wouldn't provoke someone who could potentially go after one of my pets, because that's something that I can easily defend against, and it's not something that the police go after very aggressively, sadly.

Anyway, either this woman is a total douche, or she's mentally disturbed (or both; being crazy doesn't automatically make you a nice person), and I'd definitely give her no quarter. Just make sure you take a close look at your vulnerabilities first. I just used pets as a personal example, but you might have something else. You need to weigh the satisfaction that not backing down will give you, against what a possible psychopath might do to retailate.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:33 AM on June 26, 2007

Uh, when did we go from a neighbor who was being either inconsiderate or well-intentioned-but-lacking-grace to a pet-butchering psychopathic burglar?

Get a grip, man.
posted by mkultra at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I disagree - she says "Its your choice" - that's not something you say if someone's behaviour is causing you personal distress or discomfort. It's what you say when someone is doing something you think is ill-advised for their own personal well-being. Its like saying 'ok, but don't say I didn't warn you'.

That's something you say if you're a nasty person with an inflated sense of moral superiority. It has nothing to do with concern and everything to do with thinking you are right and the other person is wrong - which is a rude idea to express, especially about something that doesn't concern you. From the described angry tone, I can easily see this kind of thing being said.

Regardless of her intention, her comments were extremely rude and uncalled for. I agree that she should be ignored or toyed with in that fun happy manner - "Hello!" and "Have a nice day" in reply is always great! You get to shrug off her nastiness and it's the polite way to respond because you're only giving friendliness back.
posted by agregoli at 11:59 AM on June 26, 2007

"You should go inside! You can do that inside!"

Suggested response: WHY?

If that does not produce some sort of reasonable explanation, ignore.

This is not like the random weirdos that yell at you while running (based on personal experience I suspect this is the case, especially for a "slender athletic female"). You are sure to see this woman again and she knows where you live.

Good luck with your training.
posted by probablysteve at 12:00 PM on June 26, 2007

Nth-ing the "she's just trying to help", however misguided. It could be she's concerned for your safety, it could be she's concerned for your, um, "modesty". Sounds like she comes from another era, which would explain either (or both!) concerns.

No need to get offended. Answer with an "Oh, Mrs. Smith, I'll be fine!" (I'm a big girl now...), and an appreciative smile that says "But thanks for lookin out for me!"

Or the water balloon full of piss. That's good, too.
posted by LordSludge at 12:08 PM on June 26, 2007

God, am I fucking glad I don't have most of you as neighbors.

I was immediately and firmly convinced upon reading your narrative that she is an older woman, a "townie" who's probably lived there for 45 years and has seen the hood in its good and bad, is nosy, has time on her hands, and was trying to tell you something "for your own good", not because she's a psycho.

She's old and old fashioned and thinks it's wicked inappropriate for a cute girl with a good figure to be showing her ass to the street at 9 o'clock at night.

I know you didn't invite her opinion, but you can just ignore it or acknowledge it in some lame way. There's no reason on earth to be an asshole to this woman unless and until she actually does something asshole-worthy.
posted by tristeza at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

"You should go inside! You can do that inside!"

'I can do it outside too'

'I can't. It will wake the gerbils'

'Are you sure? Because my doctor told me that if I go inside without stretching, I'll get ulnar nerve entrapment, and that can be deadly.'

'I can't hear you. Can you shout a little louder?'

'I am inside.'
posted by happyturtle at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2007

"So, of course my plan is to stretch my legs/neck/arms/fingers and any other body part out on my front porch from now until christmas."

followed by: "she should be ignored or toyed with" and "take pleasure in taking as long as possible to do my stretches in full view from her house" and "I'd definitely give her no quarter"

Seems like there is a lot of emotional intensity and spite here. Perhaps everyone means these comments a lot more lightheartedly than I am taking them. But if not, is it really that important to prove to an old woman that she won't affect your behavior? I think it's pretty juvenile to persist in doing something just so no one can get the idea that you may have submitted to a rudely phrased request of theirs. It doesn't matter if she's shocked, or nervous, or mentally ill, a little compassion is OK here.

And I'm not saying do the stretches inside. It makes sense to do them outside and more importantly, you said you enjoyed it. Just ratchet down the personal investment. I'm sure you have other, better priorities than spiting a neighbor. You don't need any comebacks to make her look stupid. And you definitely don't need to "retaliate" - whatever that might mean.

Maybe you can talk to her some time and let her know in a polite tone that you'll be continuing to stretch on your front porch. Or you can just yell back similar sentiments like the first time. Treat it casually and it will likely have the least impact on your life and hers. You don't appear to be in any danger, if there is going to be an escalation, let it come from her.
posted by BigSky at 12:42 PM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've always found that the balance between personal assertiveness and courtesy is best maintained by engaging at the most personal level feasible. I won't have a "discussion" with someone that is mediated by shouting over a distance, for example. If I were you, I would go about my business, and if this individual engaged me again, I would go directly up to them and talk to them in a conversational tone about my feelings that there was nothing inappropriate in what I was doing and my preference that people not express their differences of opinion with me by yelling at me. I find people have a lot harder time being shitty in that context: I do too.

If the individual persisted my last encounter with them would be to tell them that because they refuse to be reasonable, I'd be ignoring them from then on. Then I'd do so. Unless this person is genuinely crazy they're unlikely to have much persistence about it, particularly without ongoing feedback to validate their actions, and if they are genuinely crazy there isn't a hell of a lot you can do about it, they'll do whatever their crazy tells them to. There is almost never any real value in retaliation or snappy comebacks. And a surprising number of people will start behaving like relatively rational human beings if you insist on treating them as such.
posted by nanojath at 1:05 PM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with the "personal safety" crowd, I think.

So your neighborhood is comfortably gentrified and safe. To you. But look around -- is there anyone "of color"?

A lot of people, not just older people, would see the difference between 100 white people, on the one hand, and 99 white people and 1 black person, on the other, as decreasing their personal safety much more than by 1%. Maybe more like 10%. Or even 50%.

If your neighbor lady is racist, this may be the simple case. The neighborhood isn't exclusively white, it has actual live black men walking around in it, therefore you are at immediate and high risk of rape.

I'm just throwing this out there because nobody else has mentioned it yet.
posted by dhartung at 1:11 PM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why not ask her what she means? We can argue until the cows come home about whether propriety or concern for your safety motivated her little speech. Neither of us actually knows the facts; the yelling lady neighbor, however, does.
posted by WCityMike at 1:51 PM on June 26, 2007

Also, I'm not familiar with Boston - has the South End undergone rapid gentrification over the past couple decades?

The South End has been one of the most racially, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods in Boston. In the early-1980s many gay men moved in and started a process of regentrification that continues today. Once neglected streets and parks (e.g. Union Park) were renovated and spruced-up. It's a beautiful part of town. Recently, a number gays/lesbians have been selling their homes and moving to other neighborhoods, regentrifying them (e.g. Dorchester). Some pioneering gays are distressed with the loss of many of their friends and many upper-middle and upper class folks moving in (e.g. check out the blog -- 'The South End is Over'). Today the South End is a balanced mix, as per engling's description.

Many of the newest luxury developments (e.g. Atelier 505 | condos priced from $625,000 to $3,200,000; Phillipe Starck's D4), finest restaurants, boutiques and galleries in the city are now in the South End.
posted by ericb at 2:00 PM on June 26, 2007

I think it's a decency thing. I dunno, she's an old lady, lived there a long time, set in her ways. Maybe she can see your bottom or up your shorts or something. Can't you duck behind a tree, give her a break?
posted by thinkpiece at 2:07 PM on June 26, 2007

...has the South End undergone rapid gentrification over the past couple decades?

Uh, yeah.
Boston's South End | 02118 Detailed Profile (2005)
Estimated median house/condo value in 2005: $715,540

Median resident age: 33.6 years

Average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) in 2004: $70,649
Boston Globe: Make Way for Millionaires.
posted by ericb at 2:15 PM on June 26, 2007

She's saying you're too hot or the block. Be flattered!
posted by anildash at 2:57 PM on June 26, 2007

If she's older -- if she's been there for thirty years or more -- she grew up in a very, very different South End. Please do go over there and talk to her just to find out what's up. She may have sounded curt just because she sees it as "What's the matter with her? Of course it's not safe to do that on the street!"

If the area really is squeaky-clean now, of course you don't have to take the stretches inside. But it'd be worth finding out (and if she has lived there for awhile, you might like hearing a firsthand account of Southie's history).
posted by booksandlibretti at 3:23 PM on June 26, 2007

you might like hearing a firsthand account of Southie's history

To be clear --"Southie" refers to South Boston -- a neighborhood distinct and different from the South End.
posted by ericb at 5:21 PM on June 26, 2007

According to this, there have been two murders in the last three months within a few blocks of Union Park.

Yeah -- Boston murder rates are at an 11-year high.

The South End is part of Boston Police D4 District. That district -- one of eleven -- encompasses the Back Bay, South End, Lower Roxbury and Fenway neighborhoods. It has seen 2 of the 29 homicides [PDF[ so far this year in the city. Hardly a harbinger for concern while stretching on your front stoop in the South End with neighbors sitting on theirs, sipping wine and chatting with each other.
posted by ericb at 5:46 PM on June 26, 2007

Just go have a chat with her to find out what's really going on. What is the point of living in a nice neighborhood if you're not even going to attempt to be a nice neighbor? Escalation is rarely worthwhile, especially if it's not even entirely clear where she's coming from.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:04 PM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

According to this, there have been two murders in the last three months within a few blocks of Union Park.

On further review the two murders you reference -- one was the shooting death of Angel Ortiz, (06/10/07) in 24 E. Brookline St. the parking lot just across from the Cathedral public housing complex; the other a stabbing death of John A. Austin (03/11/07) at 21 Castle Court ("This incident occurred following a personal dispute between the suspect and the victim. Police believe that the suspect and victim are known to one another."*).

Each incident is isolated ... and far from Union Square and on the fringes of the "New South End."
posted by ericb at 6:06 PM on June 26, 2007

The South End is loads better than it used to be, but don't assume that it is always safe.

I live in the Back Bay which is relatively safe and there have been numerous violent crimes (not involving shootings) here near Commonwealth Ave. With quiet a few vicious muggings of single women. Many of these have happened at times of the day you wouldn't expect, such as a 5'4 women clobbered over the head with a brick at 9pm midweek, or a 60+ lady violently mugged at Dartmouth street as she exited her building at 7pm. So be careful, you still live in a city.

Now about your neighbour, I don't think it's worth getting into a flamewar with her, I suggest trying to talk to her and see where she's coming from. If she's a whackjob ignore her.
posted by zaphod at 6:43 PM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Murder statistics and changing demographics notwithstanding, if she's not yelling at every young woman in a tank top sitting on a front stoop, I think it's safe to assume that this is not strictly a safety issue, and that she finds the stretching objectionable in some way.

No need to be nasty to her, though. Go with the cheerful "It's okay, I'm fine!" And then go about your business. (She'll shake her head and mutter "kids today" and eventually give up.)
posted by desuetude at 6:55 AM on June 27, 2007

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