Gay cou­ple won­ders how to re­spond to neigh­bors’ petty ha­rass­ment

The Expositor (Brantford) - - LIFE - AMY DICK­IN­SON Email: askamy@tri­bune.com Twit­ter: @ask­ingamyt

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 neigh­bours (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 neigh­bours, so they have no rea­son to dis­like us — beyond the ob­vi­ous.

Re­cently, my girl­friend bought a rain­bow-coloured wel­come mat for our front door.

Within a few days, we were in­formed that our neigh­bours 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 neigh­bours 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 neigh­bours 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? — UP­SET 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 neigh­bours, 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 neigh­bours, 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? — CON­FUSED CHILD Dear Con­fused: Peo­ple get at­tached to their ap­pli­ances. Newer, com­puter-driven ma­chines can seem dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate. And never, ever, re­place a per­son’s TV 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 favourite 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 three-yearold could lead to a false re­port. — WOR­RIED Dear Wor­ried: You are right. But given the cir­cum­stances de­scribed, I thought it best to err on the side of the child’s safety.

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