DEAR AMY: I live in a condo building with my girlfriend (we are gay), in a large city. We’ve lived here for three years. Our neighbors (a married couple in their 60s or 70s) have been rude and standoffish ever since we moved in. They ignore us when we greet them and typically just glare at us. We’ve always been considerate neighbors, so they have no reason to dislike us — beyond the obvious. Recently, my girlfriend bought a rainbow-colored welcome mat for our front door. Within a few days, we were informed that our neighbors had filed a complaint with the homeowners association, saying that the mat was an “eyesore.” The president of the HOA told us that the complaint was petty, and not to worry about it. Since then, those neighbors have sent in over a dozen or so complaints — everything from false noise complaints, to (incorrectly) stating that we don’t dispose of our garbage correctly. The HOA president has told us to work out our differences. My girlfriend wrote our neighbors a letter asking to have a dialogue with them. They never responded. This has been dominating our lives. We refuse to move, and we love our place otherwise. How do we get these people to talk to us?
DEAR UPSET: It was very kind of you to react to this harassment by trying to talk it out, but why, oh why, do you want to force these people to talk to you? Their actions are speaking loudly enough.
You and your girlfriend should worry less about winning over your neighbors, and think more about the possible harassment suit coming down the pike if they don’t stop their campaign. (Ignoring you isn’t harassment; filing multiple false reports about you might be.)
The HOA should not encourage you to “work out your differences,” because, according to you, you don’t have any differences. Instead, the HOA should start actively discouraging these people from filing untrue and malicious reports about you.
Cordially ignore these neighbors, document everything, and — if things don’t die down, you should consider speaking to a lawyer.
DEAR AMY: I am an adult with a family, and I’m doing pretty well in life. I would like to help out my parents and other elder family members by replacing things that are broken or outdated as a gift or token of appreciation for all of the things they did for me as I was growing up. Being retired, they’re on a fixed income, so I know that replacing a washer or TV isn’t a high priority expense, but it’s something I can easily help them with. The problem is they seem to get mad at me for wanting to do this. They tell me I’m wasting my money, even though I know they’d enjoy the item if they purchased it themselves. Do I ignore their tantrum, or stop offering my generosity?
DEAR CONFUSED: People get attached to their appliances. Newer, computer-driven machines can seem difficult to operate. And never, ever, replace a person’s television set, unless you can persuade a relative to shop with you.
So basically, if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it. Tantrums are expressions of the need to control one’s environment. This is important for all of us as we age.
You might find other ways to assist. Consider acts of service, for instance. Gardening help, house painting, installing grab bars in their homes — these are all ways that you can show up for them. You could also ask if they would be willing to accept you direct-depositing a small amount into their bank accounts each month — for them to use however they want. They could save it all or use it, donate it to a favorite cause or hand it right back to you at the end of the year. I gave a family member the services of a professional gardener, who restored the household garden to its former glory. This was a fun project for us to work on together.
But no — don’t replace an appliance without direct permission. Ever.
DEAR AMY: While I agree with the thorough advice you gave to “Worried Gran,” about her grandchild’s safety and welfare, I was concerned when Gran reported periodically asking the child “if so-and-so is nice to you.” Asking such a leading question to a 3-year-old could lead to a false report.
DEAR WORRIED: You are right. But given the circumstances described, I thought it best to err on the side of the child’s safety.