i don't want to sleep with you, and i don't want to be friends. (please don't hurt me).
May 27, 2008 8:59 PM   Subscribe

I have this neighbor who is making me really uncomfortable, and I'm not sure how to make her stop. Background info: she's in her mid 30s, with a husband and two very very sweet little boys. She has a crush on me. Oh, and she's crazy.

[This is long, but only to show the extent of TheCrazy.]

I haven't ever really had an extended conversation with her until yesterday, when a bunch of the neighbors were grilling and playing cards outside. My partner and I (both women, as married as we can get - including rings) hung out with the group for a little while, during which time Neighbor declared that she had a girl crush on me and then a few minutes later asked if we wanted to "bump". We declined without hesitation - and although I've always thought "bump" meant to snort something, it was clear from the uncomfortableness afterwards that she meant sex. She kept saying things like "you're so beautiful" and "you're the sort of girl people write songs about" and "you know, I'm bisexual!". We made it clear that we were exclusive and not looking for action elsewhere, and shrugged it off to inebriation. She kept on a little bit (she was really inebriated). We left, went to a party, came back, and moments after we pulled into the parking lot she was outside begging to hang out. Tonight I was outside smoking and she came over, sat down, and started declaring her crushdom all over again.

Here's our conversation:
Her: "You're so pretty."
Me: "Thanks. My wife thinks so too."
Her: "I'm sorry if I was inappropriate yesterday. Can I recite you a poem?".
Me: "No, that would be weird."
Her: starts making up a poem about me.
Me: "I gotta go inside, Partner is cooking dinner."
Her: continues reciting poem.
Partner: opens door, says "babe, dinner is ready".
Me: "Gotta go." [puts out smoke and starts inside]
Her: "Oh do you want to borrow a movie? I have Bukowski."
Me: "No." [shuts door]

So, it's pretty clear that Neighbor is a little crazy and a little lonely (she cries a lot and yesterday made reference to killing herself). Combine that with Neighbor's severe short term memory loss (yesterday she introduced us to her friend four separate times within the span of about 30 minutes) and her overall instability and I've got the potential here for a rather large can of worms. I'm certain that she has a substance abuse problem and some mental imbalances on top of that, and to be quite honest, I don't care. I'd like to be on good terms with her because of the whole neighbor thing - but I don't want to be her BFF, and I'm not a therapist. I CERTAINLY don't want to sleep with her. (For the record, I don't even think I'm cute, but I'll save that for another time.)

Any tips on how to stop this before it gets ugly?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're probably handling it as best as possible. Polite and firm.

As you move forward you may have the chance to steer her toward some help, but certainly don't let her into your life any further than she is already. She want's to setup shop and unload all of her baggage on you. It will only get ugly if you let her in.

There is nothing wrong with saying, "Look, you're my neighbor, I want you to be safe and happy with your family, but I don't have time for this type of craziness. Get some help, okay? Until then stay away from me."
posted by wfrgms at 9:21 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eesh. Um.. probably just keep trying to make it clear for a while that you are not interested. Give her a little bit of time to get used to it. And do not do anything that could be construed as flirting or anything more than polite over-the-fence behaviour. Don't let her come over--just remember that you have the kettle on, or need to brush the curtains, or something.

If she's not getting the hint after a little bit longer, have a calm and quiet conversation with her, say "Thank you very much for the attention, but I am very happily and exclusively married, and that is not going to change."

If it gets worse? I don't know. Are you close enough with anyone else in the neighbourhood that you can have a conversation about this without it becoming gossip? Does anyone know anything about her family or other friends, support mechanisms of any kind?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:22 PM on May 27, 2008

So, it's pretty clear that Neighbor is a little crazy and a little lonely (she cries a lot and yesterday made reference to killing herself).

Any tips on how to stop this before it gets ugly?

No. When does a confrontation with a nutter ever go well? What you have here is plain old-fashioned, sexual harassment. All of your subtle and not-so-subtle rejections are being ignored. There aren't too many polite ways to put an end to it.

To prevent it from being too ugly, Hamlet's advice "If it were done when 'tis done, then t'were well. It were done quickly," seems appropriate.
posted by three blind mice at 9:30 PM on May 27, 2008

Best answer: Just keep on the way you are. It's annoying, but if her focus is as scattered as you say, she'll be on to another point of obsession if you don't respond. You probably aren't the first or the last person she's latched onto like this. You never know - you might be the first lesbian couple she's met in the flesh, and it's fried some bit of her brain.

One thing I would recommend, though, particularly if she's really clingy and unstable, is that you limit your private conversations with her until this subsides. Meaning, if at all possible, try to only talk to her if someone else is there. Don't have any sort of private conversation or interaction with her if you can help it. Crazy people can do and say really crazy things when they eventually figure out they have been rejected. You never know what she might say to her partner or your neighbours about how she resisted your wild attempts to pull her away from her man. Not that sane people would listen to this crap, particularly if it's from someone I'll bet hard cash has serial crushes, but I've found goobers come two or three to the pod. ;) Her man is likely to be as loco as she is. Just a thought.
posted by Grrlscout at 11:50 PM on May 27, 2008

if this continues, i'd talk to the husband. there are kids in the picture--frame it out of concern for them, not just your annoyance. besides, if she has mental health problems, he may not realize the extent of them. document whenever possible. if she becomes dangerous or threatening, call the police.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:36 AM on May 28, 2008

I don't recommend talking with her husband; he might believe that you, the lesbian next door, are trying to seduce his wife. Speak with her only in public. Deflect all flirtation. Consider moving.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:39 AM on May 28, 2008

Best answer: I've had this happen a couple of times - straight woman completely disrespects my lesbian relationship and thinks that because suddenly she has a new obsession/whim that I should be grateful or immediately drop my girlfriend to get me some straight girl ass. So weird - but here's what worked for me:

With your wife, go over there or ask her over, sit at the kitchen table, and tell her to cut it out. Tell her you'd appreciate it if she showed the same respect to your partner that she'd expect someone to show her husband. Tell her her behavior is irritating, creepy, and disrespectful of your relationship. Tell her you're going to talk to her husband if she keeps it up, and if that doesn't work, you'll have to take other measures which will be really embarrassing to her, and may have severe repercussions to her marriage and family.
Then, and this is the important part, ask her if she understands - when she says yes or argues, go back and ask her again - do you understand? Then ask her to tell you what you've just said, so you all three know you're on the same page. (This will cause lots of wiggling, maybe some drama, most likely people don't hold her accountable much.) Clarify and ask her to repeat what she understands until she has the basics right.
Finally, tell her that you don't have anything against her, and you and wifey will be nice to her in public, but that she's to stay away. Period. If she doesn't, the very next step will be husband. Then follow through if needed.
posted by pomegranate at 5:40 AM on May 28, 2008

Sounds like she was drunk and/or high on both these occasions. Has she made these weird flirtations with you while sober? Logic really doesn't usually work with someone who is drunk or high. But a well-timed, semi-disgusted "are you drunk?" can really snap someone out of their own little world long enough to be embarrassed. Also, saying "I don't want to to talk to you while you're drunk or high" can have this effect. If the problem is not substance abuse but batshit insanity, then disregard this and good luck.
posted by Cranialtorque at 6:18 AM on May 28, 2008

Nthing that you're doing the right thing. Just keep being polite but firm.

I wouldn't recommend a big confrontation with the high/crazy/lonely person -- it'll give her an opportunity to argue with you on an issue that isn't really up for discussion.
posted by desuetude at 6:33 AM on May 28, 2008

A lot of what you're talking about here is your anxiety about future encounters. You are experiencing that anxiety from time to time. I suspect that such anxeity is worse than the short encounters with the difficult neighbor.

Looking over how you've dealt with things so far, I agree you've handled it about as good as you could have given the circumstances.

This means that the solution to both problems is the same. You need to trust that you have the resources to deal with the problem properly as the situation comes up, taking advantage of the unique details of each encounter to put the proper amount of social distance between you and the neighbor without doing anything to make it worse. Every time you feel anxious about it, repeat to yourself that you'll be able to work it out when the time comes.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:13 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

it might be worth considering documenting encounters with her, on the extremely slim chance that a restraining order becomes necessary someday.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:19 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my experience, obsession - when rebuffed - quickly turns to anger. For a crazy person, that anger could get violent.

You have been very clear with her. You could be a little more clear by saying something like, "The way you have been coming on to me makes me really uncomfortable. I need space and I don't want to hang out with you when I'm outside smoking or bbqing." And then I would just try like crazy to avoid her. Don't make eye contact, don't say "hi" when you pass each other. Talk to some neighbors about what happened so they can keep an eye out for any stalking behavior on her part.
posted by serazin at 10:22 AM on May 28, 2008

If the suicide threats are tied up with her obsession with you. That is, she suggests that (or you worry whether) your response will push her closer to suicide, then you can call a suicide hotline for detailed advice on how to respond.
posted by winston at 11:34 AM on May 28, 2008

To be honest the best way to turn her off you is to subtly (or not) "dis" her parenting skills or her children. (to her, not to the kids obviously)

"Gosh, little Jenna is ..... X. has she always been like that?" " Little Johnny is really loud, have you tried to talk to him about appropriate.....etc., etc.,"

Nothing, but nothing, will put this woman off as fast as finding fault with her children.
posted by Wilder at 12:05 PM on May 28, 2008

If she threatens to kill herself, call the police. They'll drag her to get help and she'll get involuntarily committed and then permanent help, and she'll probably never talk to you again.
posted by onepapertiger at 12:17 PM on May 28, 2008

Best answer: I think the potential repercussions of a confrontation are much worse than what you'd endure from being consistently civil but cold and distant.

It sounds like she's not entirely rational, so she may not understand what you say, and she's also likely to forget. So, I don't see what you'd gain by laying it all out on the line. But I do see the risk. You'd now be associated with a negative experience, and she'd have more conversational material. Put those into the mental kaleidescope, and who knows what beliefs or attitudes towards you could come out. (I'm not trying to be flip or smirky, in case it sounds that way.)

From time to time on Mefi I write about this one ex- of mine. He was basically sane while we were going out, but a year after we broke up, he wanted to meet up, and he asked me a bunch of things that sounded basically delusional and slightly paranoid to me. I got advice from several people, including a psychologist, and the consensus was to try to have no further contact with him. Their logic was that, at the time, I was still within the circle of paranoid protectiveness. His questions had focused on some anonymous "dark-haired man" who theoretically wanted to hurt him and me. Various details from the past were being integrated into the delusions. What would it take for me to shift outside of that circle, for him to hold similarly unfounded beliefs about ways I had hurt or might hurt him? Rather than worrying about the dark-haired man taking me hostage, what would cause him to believe I was conspiring with the stranger? How would additional new details get added into the picture? Impossible to know. So, people's advice was to completely cut off contact.

That's why I agreed with Grrlscout and Ironmouth, and why I also don't think you should talk to the husband.

On the other hand, if she is fundamentally rational, and just pesky and oblivious to your social cues, then telling her clearly that you're not interested might really be the best approach. But if you've seen instances where her perception of reality or past events is significantly different from other people's, I'd definitely avoid it.
posted by salvia at 11:59 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

I do not believe that she or her husband are rational (which is the main reason for the question), and I think for now I am going to just lay low and keep being polite and firm and hope she moves on [outta here].

It does piss me off that she doesn't seem to be taking my lesbian relationship seriously - that she can just interrupt it on a whim and I'll jump into bed with her - which is why I love pomegranate's answer. But I agree that it isn't time for a confrontation yet.
posted by wearyaswater at 7:48 AM on May 29, 2008

salvia's correct. You cannot reason with an irrational person and it's not worth your while to try. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

It does piss me off that she doesn't seem to be taking my lesbian relationship seriously

We've already established that she's CRAZY! Homophobia (or whatever it is) is par for the course.
posted by desjardins at 1:55 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

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