Home Alone

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I live in a very desirable neighborhood. Because it’s near the
university, there are a surprising number of rentals, though no
fraternities or loud parties, because the neighborhood association
enforces such standards vigorously. The place next door is owned by
an older woman who has always consulted me on her choice of
renters. The previous family, charming and self-contained, returned to
Korea; the new tenant is a nurse whom I helped recruit. All I want is a
quiet, respectful neighbor. This woman appears at my door at least
three nights a week looking for company. Sometimes she brings dinner
and a DVD as though we’d made plans to spend the evening together.
I’m not looking for trouble but I’m also not looking for a new best
friend. My life is full enough. Is there a polite way to discourage
anything more than respectful neighborliness? PS I’m definitely not
looking to exchange keys, which she said she would like to do.

Home Alone

Dear Home Alone:

I’ve always been a fan of the flag system. It doesn’t have to be a
literal flag, though it could be, but identify some easily visible
ornament that she can see from her house with which to decorate your
front porch. When the ornament is out (or in, your choice), that means
she can call or text to see if you’re up for company. Note that’s not the
same as appearing at your door. If the ornament is not in the “maybe
I want visitors” position, she’s to assume you are happy on your own.
If she does text, you have the option of saying yes or no, or not
replying, though she sounds like the type to come knocking if there’s
not an explicit No. You might also tell her about your “big project” that
you need lots of peace and quiet to devote to finishing. If she asks
questions, say your publisher has told you not to discuss it with
anyone, but say you’ll give her a copy down the road as a thank you
for helping you focus your time.


As for the key, say you have that relationship with a different neighbor
but that she should hide one somewhere on her property so that in
case of an emergency she could tell someone where to find it. Say you
don’t want the responsibility of that kind of access to her home. As a
side note, pushy people are harder than sap to get off you. Not getting
close is a good preventive strategy.