‘New’ neigh­bor is not the prob­lem of four-year rift

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CAROLYN HAX

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m won­der­ing how to make amends with a neigh­bor who’s aloof and dis­tant. She moved in four years ago. Soon af­ter­ward there was a mis­un­der­stand­ing about my friend park­ing in front of her drive­way and she was un­nec­es­sar­ily harsh about it, es­pe­cially since I was seven months’ preg­nant at the time. It re­ally up­set me, and my hus­band went over to tell her off, but it didn’t go well. He ended up re­port­ing her big vi­cious dog to a friend in an­i­mal con­trol. An­i­mal con­trol re­ported back that she and the dog were both ex-mil­i­tary and the dog was trained and un­der con­trol so no last­ing trou­ble came of it. Af­ter that most of the neigh­bors took my side and avoided her.

Even­tu­ally it all blew over since she is quiet, keeps her house in good shape and even takes care of the el­derly woman next door, mow­ing the lawn and shov­el­ing snow for her. Also the dog goes ev­ery­where with her and does seem very well-be­haved. But some­how we never re­ally started speak­ing again.

I have in­vited her to the block par­ties and the neigh­bor­hood Christ­mas party that I or­ga­nize, but she never shows up.

Last week I was work­ing in my gar­den and saw her come home from what was ob­vi­ously a fu­neral and she looked so sad I wanted to of­fer my con­do­lences but wasn’t sure it would be wel­come. I haven’t seen her boyfriend since then and I’m wor­ried he died and none of us neigh­bors even knew. We’re a close-knit, sup­port­ive group on this street but she’s miss­ing out. I want to fix this but don’t know how. What can I try that I haven’t al­ready done?

— Try­ing to Be­friend My

Neigh­bor DEAR READER: Oh you’ve done plenty.

You made her the bad guy when your friend blocked her drive­way, yes? You sicced your tem­per-chal­lenged spouse on her, who then re­ported her dog as “vi­cious” with zero facts and an abun­dance of spite; you turned the en­tire neigh­bor­hood against her; you made no at­tempts to apol­o­gize even as four years of ac­crued ev­i­dence of her fun­da­men­tal de­cency tow­ered over her orig­i­nal of­fense of be­ing “un­nec­es­sar­ily harsh” — about your friend’s screw-up; you did no 2-plus-2 on the pos­si­bil­ity that her past ser­vice and re­lo­ca­tion might = a re­cent sep­a­ra­tion from the mil­i­tary and the stress that en­tails, which might ex­plain a one­time “harsh” re­sponse to a care­less neigh­bor; you had the high nerve to de­scribe her as “aloof and dis­tant” and “miss­ing out” on your “close-knit, sup­port­ive” neigh­bor­hood when her be­ing thus traces di­rectly to the self-right­eous shun­ning you sub­jected her to.

In­vi­ta­tions to the block party? As any­one’s idea of a gosh-I’ve-tried-ev­ery­thing an­swer to four years of your neigh­bor­hood’s idea of in­clu­sion?

Nope.

The an­swer was to drop by four years ago, the mo­ment tem­pers cooled, to apol­o­gize for los­ing your mind over a drive­way spat and to in­vite her and her nice trained dog over for a pleased-to-meet-you do-over.

Now, the an­swer is gen­uine re­morse. And pump­kin bread. Bake some and leave it for her with a note apol­o­giz­ing, in full, for the shock­ing chain of un-neigh­borly events that you — you — set in mo­tion. Say you hope this is the year she joins you at the Christ­mas party.

Then don’t hold your breath.

Chat on­line with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Fri­day at wash­ing­ton­post.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email tellme@wash­post.com

Washington Post Writ­ers Group/NICK GALIFIANAKIS

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