Nosy Neighbor Or How To Get Out Of The Verbal Tennis Match

by admin on October 10, 2012

About a year ago we moved into our present house in an area that was totally new to us. We have settled in well, mainly because the people around us have been friendly and welcoming. Since our arrival my husband has struck up a burgeoning friendship with the husband of the couple who are our immediate neighbors, due in the most part to a shared hobby. They take turns to drive each other in pursuit of this hobby so over the last few months, this neighbor – I’ll call him J – has called by fairly regularly.

My problem is that he continually makes what I feel are rude and intrusive remarks. Just a few examples: I was hanging the washing out in my dressing gown (our garden is enclosed and not overlooked from the road or any of the neighbors and it is a long thick dressing gown) because I was about to go in the shower. True, it was late morning but it’s my life and I should be able to get dressed when I feel like it. J arrived (early, so unexpected) and asked me why I wasn’t dressed yet and did I always hang my washing out in my night clothes. Another time he pointed out that the grass needed cutting. Technically, it did because it was a little higher than normal but, as I said, our garden is overlooked only by our house. Yet another time he commented negatively on the smell of garlic in the food I was cooking. I had used one clove of garlic. The last time he came around, my daughter had come to stay and the first thing he said to her was to ask her why she hadn’t made her bed. (Because of the configuration of our house, a bungalow, this bedroom is visible to people walking down the path from the gate to the front door, if they look in the window!)

This all sounds so petty and I know we could have much, much worse neighbors but it’s very irritating and it’s getting that I don’t want to be around when he’s there. How should I respond to these remarks? I don’t see why I should have to explain myself to him but I find myself doing so and then mentally kicking myself afterwards. Is it just me? Am I being too sensitive? My husband laughs it off and says, that’s just J, but I know I wouldn’t dream of making comments like this to him or his wife or, at least, not until I knew them a lot better than I do now. 1008-12

You are right, you don’t owe him an explanation so stop giving him one.   Just because someone says something rude to you doesn’t mean you must dignify it with a reply.  I would have completely ignored him and continued to hang the laundry and once done, bid him good bye pleasantly.    By replying to him, you are engaging in the “game” where he lobs the first volley and you hit it right back.  He wants you to hit it  back to him.   It would be much more satisfying for you if you heard the ball coming towards you and then relished the sound of silence as it plops to a stop at your feet. Game over.  Score one for you.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

rgramma2 October 11, 2012 at 11:20 am

About this neighbor peeking in the daughter’s bedroom window and seeing what is being worn to hang up clothes is very disturbing. I agree that this is creepy behavior and needs to be nipped in the bud. I agree that he is probably difficult to live with and likes spreading his dominance around.

OR maybe he is the one being badgered at home. If that is the case, he will look for opportunities to badger someone outside his own home in order to claim his manlihood.

He sounds as though he is a person that would not make for a good neighbor or friend.


Ann October 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Bores/boors like this admittedly drive me nuts.

I usually just widen my eyes a bit, give a tight smile and return to what I’m doing.

Next, I will try to master not stewing about the annoyance!


Treeang October 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I read this whole story a bit differently. I didn’t see that the man was a peeping tom (OP said the bedroom was visible by those coming down the path) or as all that creepy. Socially inept, yes. It is hard to tell from the letter the exact tone of the comments made by the gentleman in question.

I know a few people like this (mostly men), who lack a social filter (often due to being on the autism spectrum, but not always). They just say whatever occurs to them to try and start a conversation. So the “Why aren’t you dressed?” and “Do you always hang out your laundry in your dressing gown?” could be an awkward way of trying to assess his world and have a conversation. The other comments, if said innocently could also be ways to try to connect in an awkward moment (when the husband isn’t around). In that case, where the tone isn’t one that seems to be mean-spirited, I have found the bean-dip technique to be very effective. It allows the conversation to go to a much better direction and allows the person in question to try and have a normal conversation.

Certainly, it could be that he is a creep and pervert. Hard to tell, really. It isn’t like he is constantly running over to tell the OP all of the horrible things she is doing. Some people just don’t filter what is polite and okay to tell someone correctly.

Just another thought.


OP October 12, 2012 at 1:38 am

Op here.
Many thanks for the suggestions. I think my daughter had the right idea when she just looked at him as if he had grown a second head when he made that remark about the unmade bed (which was creepy, I agree, although it didn’t strike me as such at the time – I was too astonished by his nosiness).
I’d like to ignore him but I have the feeling that this would just make him think he was right and I can’t bear that so I may go with Cat’s suggestions which were hilarious. I do have a zany sense of humour so I won’t be short of material. I will also get my husband to limit the number of times J has to call round.
Thank you!


Sugaryfun October 12, 2012 at 3:32 am

My husband also has a friend who likes to make critical remarks about my home and sometimes my personal appearance whenever he visits. I have asked him outright in the past not to do this but he keeps needling me until I snap at him then my husband gets angry with me for being rude to him. I suggested that if he wants to avoid an argument he ask his friend politely to stop making comments like that but he says he doesn’t notice it. You might think I’m being paranoid but I do think that comments about how something is dusty (hello, full time job and uni!), or the dining chairs don’t match (we were halfway through having them restored), there are bugs on the windowsill, the kitchen or bathroom aren’t as tidy as he thinks they ought to be, he doesn’t like my hair colour etc. etc. etc. are unnecessary and NOT “just making conversation”.

My MIL is much the same way. If I ignore a comment, or try to bean dip she repeats it over and over. What do you do when someone does that? Again, so far the only thing I have found that gets them to stop is to snap and be rude to them, at which point I become the bad guy.


Jenn50 October 12, 2012 at 8:51 am

This guy doesn’t strike me as a creep or pervert, or even a hapless doofus with no filter. He seems like a control freak who believes that HIS way is the only right way, and anyone else requires correction. I am in total agreement with the posters who queried what his wife puts up with. I only suggested the “Wow, that’s creepy.” comeback to point out to him that he crossed boundaries and you won’t tolerate it.


barbarian October 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

As for looking in the daughter’s bedroom window, I would just say very casually, ” We filed a police report for the last person who looked in my daughter’s bedroom and they’re now on the registered sex offender list”.


Drawberry October 12, 2012 at 11:58 am

I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s a pervert or peeping Tom, but rather that he seems to feel entitled to the business of other people and is socially inept in realizing his inappropriateness.

Being not particularly subtle with things that bother me I know I’d be likely to blurt out “Why where you looking in Daughters bedroom window?”, not out of an accusation of inappropriateness towards minors but out of being genuinely surprised that he was doing so.

Seeing you in your night-wear may have made him feel awkward, night clothes are generally considered somewhat private and a little intimate so in his embarrassment he may have blurted out something to just fill the space in his head.

I do agree that not responding is the best answer, but it’s easier said than done. I too am the kind of person who if questioned will readily spill my life story because I feel obligated to do so. It may take a little prepping and silent practice in your head, but it seems like the best answer to your problem. There’s a few choice phrases that are popular retorts I’ve seen ’round these parts that are possible solutions as well.

Him:”Daughter, why did you clean your room?”

You:How kind of you to take an interest, how about that weather!

Him: “Do you always change your laundry in your pajamas?”

You:-silence until finishing your business- How kind of you to take an interest, have a good day.


GleanerGirl October 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm

This game is not tennis, where the ball must be returned. It is hot potato, where the “ball” must not be touched.

Either ignore the remarks, answering only other remarks that are more polite, or else answer with a cold silence, until he makes a more appropriate remark. Either way, if you don’t play his game of tennis, he’ll stop trying to pick up a game with you.


Katie October 13, 2012 at 10:57 am

I think that this is something that you firstly need to address with your husband. It’s possibly your neighbour’s friendship with him that is making your neighbour think that he is entitled to make these comments. I would be *very* uncomfortable if one of my partner’s friends was saying these sorts of things to me.

I think that you need to let your husband know exactly how much you dislike these comments, and address this as a couple. How does J act around your husband? Is he otherwise a decent guy? Is he a bit socially inept with other people in their hobby/club? Maybe your husband could have a discreet word with him, and see how he reacts. He may just be saying these things as a bungled attempt at friendship (some people just can’t gague what an appropriate level of banter is); maybe he’s just obnoxious. But I don’t think it’s completely right that your husband laughs it off- if you’re upset, then that’s enough reason to take it seriously.


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