This Man Has Got to Stop Looking in My Window

I am a single woman who bought a house next to a small apartment building. The owner of the building visits several times a week. Every time he comes, he knocks on my door to chat or request needless access to my yard (to cut tree limbs that could easily be cut from his side, for example). If I don’t answer, he peers in my window. Worse, his body language is salacious, and he makes me uncomfortable. I’m afraid that eventually he will ask to come inside my house. How can I be assertive about being left alone without causing hostility?


Trust your instincts! (And don’t let that man into your home.) Many of us are taught that being friendly and deferential to others trumps our own interests. Now, I’m all for politeness, but not at the expense of safety.

While I think you should trust your instincts, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are spot on. The building owner may just be lonely or odd. So, be clear with him. The next time he comes over, say: “I don’t have time for so many visits. Please email me if you need to discuss our properties.” And don’t be shy about refusing access when his requests seem frivolous.

I know that fiercely attentive men can sometimes turn furious on a dime when women assert themselves. So, I don’t minimize your concern for his ill will here. Trouble is, staying in his good graces comes at a steep price: your sense of security. If his visits (and your discomfort) continue after you ask him to stop dropping by, call the police.

Hey, That’s My Baby You’re Talking About

Whenever I’m with my son and daughter-in-law in social situations, she never fails to make a nasty remark about him. My son doesn’t respond, but I can tell he’s upset. Yesterday, when I was with them, she made five or six cracks. My daughter used to do the same thing to her husband. (What is it with these young wives?) I addressed it with her, and she stopped. Should I do the same with my daughter-in-law?


Breaking: There’s usually a vast difference between a daughter and a daughter-in-law. I’m glad your intervention with your child went well. It’s rarely fun to watch one spouse sniping at another, whether as attempted humor or suppressed rage. (Obviously, I’m setting aside good productions of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”)

But you and your daughter have had decades to work out your routine. You’ve probably learned when to hold your fire. And she probably knows that even when you annoy her tremendously, you love her and mean well. I bet the same cannot be said of your daughter-in-law.

You call her a young wife. So, you may not have had time to build up much intimacy. (And shocker: Some people hate their in-laws!) Unless the two of you are BFFs, leave your daughter-in-law alone. I hope your son stands up to his wife soon. But you’re not the best catalyst for making that happen. I have a mailbox full of estranged mothers-in-law to prove it.

The Hunt

I live in Boston. But I’m interviewing for jobs in New York and (fingers crossed!) expect an offer soon. One of my best friends from high school lives in Manhattan, and we’ve talked about living together. (She doesn’t get along with her roommate, and their lease ends in September.) The problem: She tends to be flaky. Since agreeing to live with me, she hasn’t told her roommate or responded to me about our apartment search. Is there a tactful way to prod her without making her change her mind?


If you’re already frustrated with your pal’s behavior at the outset of this process, what makes you think it will improve over time? Some people work better as friends than as roommates.

Ask her directly: “Any ideas for the apartment search?” If she comes up empty or doesn’t act on your suggestions, consider looking for a single spot in an apartment. As a practical matter, you probably won’t find an (economical) apartment to rent in New York more than 30 to 45 days before moving in.

Ever Heard of Spell Check?

A friend with a writing-and-editing business sends me his e-newsletter, whose purpose is to garner new clients. A recent edition about careful editing contained a glaring typo. He’s a mediocre writer, at best. I don’t wish to embarrass him (though the error was really embarrassing). Occasionally he asks for my advice about his work, but he didn’t this time. Should I say something?


I wouldn’t. As you say, he didn’t ask for your opinion. And unless you plan on hanging around to fix all his glaring typos and mediocre writing, isn’t it better for prospective clients to see an honest representation of his work? Creating a rosy picture of his skills may not serve your friend in the long run, either. Clients who care will probably fire him when the typo bombs begin to fall.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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