I have a neighbor who is an older woman (70s-ish) and perfectly fits the stereotype of grumpy old lady who yells at the kids to get off her lawn. She lives across the street and about three doors down. I've had one conversation with her; when we first moved in, she came over to make sure we were not drug addicts and wouldn't be creating or selling any drugs or having any "hoodlums or rascals" hanging out on our curb that she'd have to look at or worry about breaking into her house. Now, I am very clean cut looking, my wardrobe involves a lot of cardigans and khakis and I own 7 different strands of pearls, so most people don't exactly jump to that conclusion when they meet me. My DF can look a little scruffy if he's just hanging around the house (which is his right) and physically looks a little intimidating, but also dresses himself well, and we are very interested in getting along with all of our neighbors and keeping the peace, and aside from an occasional afternoon of watching football, we are pretty quiet people. Aside from that one assumptive conversation, we have not spoken but if I happen to see her, I try to smile at her.
This morning, I was going out to get our newspaper when Mrs. Fussybutt was outside. She started calling out "Young lady! Young lady!" so I looked up at her and around and pointed to myself to see if she meant me. She made a face and said yes with a rude tone and came over to my yard. Then she told me that I needed to be aware that my planter boxes on my porch are almost dead and I need to keep up with my gardening better or else not keep one because it's unsightly and will make people think that this is a neighborhood that accepts delinquents and irresponsible college students. She said she knows who my landlord is and will let him know that I am letting his property fall apart because I'm "too busy partying and doing drugs or whatever you people do."
First of all, my planters are not dead at all, I've taken them in when it's too cold out, and she has no way of knowing their state unless she's been coming up on my porch, which I find creepy and meddlesome. Second, my yard and garden are well maintained and kept up because we enjoy using the yard and my attached next door neighbors enjoy gardening and I've told them that they are free to consider my actual garden space theirs because I don't have time to keep up with anything more than the small boxes on my porch. Also, my landlord hires a landscaper who comes bi-monthly to handle things like tree/hedge trimming and leaf clean up and lawn mowing, and this is included in my lease, so my landlord is well aware of the state of the yard. There is no HOA here and I really just don't think my yard is her business, unless maybe it posed a hazard to people. Third, it bothers me that she made the comments about a potentially dead planter box attracting the wrong sort, which basically amounts to young people. However I decided not to say anything about this to her because it would only lead to a fight. But probably at least half of these houses are occupied by college students since we live very close to a university and this is a neighborhood that is affordable and relatively safe. Fourth, the comments about me partying and doing drugs need to come to an end, like yesterday. Fifth, it took everything that I had not to address her as "Old Lady" when I went inside after all of the things that she said, but she did start the conversation off with me irritated at being addressed angrily as "Young Lady". What I ended up saying was "How kind of you to take an interest" and used an Icy Glare and went inside. I was too surprised to come up with anything else and it was 6am and freezing and dark outside, so I just wasn't in the mood to start anything with her.
I'm not sure how to deal with this woman, as being a pleasant (if silent and distant) neighbor and showing her that we are not delinquents or hoodlums has not had any effect. However, I will not be continually referred to as a drug addict/user/dealer when I and my DF are so vehemently against such things and live a completely opposite lifestyle. If she said this publicly, it would cost me my job because I work with children. If that happened and word of it ended up on the internet, it would very likely have a severe negative effect on my ability to pursue the career path I intend to (to become a barn manager and eventually build my own barn where people can board and take lessons). It would affect DF similarly as the field he is in grad school for is one involving government security clearances and having a sketchy past would prevent him from ever obtaining a high level position and current allegations of drug use would get him immediately kicked out of his program, no questions asked. And as for short term consequences, I have no idea if she is sharing these thoughts with other neighbors, but I'd hate for someone to get the wrong idea about us because some bitter old woman hates young people.
Also, I feel like the "young lady" thing is a separate issue. Unless I am a child and you are an adult and I'm in Big Trouble, I feel this is a very inappropriate way to address someone. However, in this case, we are both adults, and I do not appreciate being scolded like a little kid. I can't think of any situation where this doesn't come off in a very scolding manner or one that suggest the person being spoken to is inferior or a child. I'm not sure if those negative connotations are all my own or if others might feel the same way. Is it inherently rude to address someone this way, or are there times when it might be ok?
edit: left out a word