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The Neighbor Lady

A Lesson in Boundaries

When I was 28, I decided it was time to purchase my own home. Up to that point, I had been hopping from apartment building to apartment building. I was dealing with neighbors who wouldn't leash their dogs or pick up after them. This can be an issue when you have your own dogs that you look after properly. There were random fire alarms that went off at 1 AM in the middle of winter, people stealing assigned parking spaces and of course, the occasional creepy neighbor.

It didn't take me long to find the perfect home for me and my three pets. It is small, open and has a big yard for my garden. It was a clean slate that allowed my imagination to run rampant with ideas of flowers, veggies and whatever I wanted. It's mine, I thought. I can do whatever I want. The dogs loved their yard immediately and I thought I had really found my little haven, my nirvana.

Then I met Mindy.

Our yards are right next to each other with only a makeshift fence separating us. The first night I was out in the yard when I heard someone call out, "Hey, new neighbor!" 

I was a little excited to meet her, she seemed friendly. I started walking over and she tells me, "Oh, don't come over here, we are naked." 

So, the husband and wife duo likes to take to the hot tub naked. Okay. I just hollered something polite and scurried back inside.

In the following weeks, I came home to find Mindy and her husband raking my yard. It was late October when I moved in and the previous owners hadn't done yard work. I was still getting situated and not focusing on that yet. I was really grateful, but in the back of my mind, it was hard to shake the feeling that a boundary may have been crossed. There is a very fine line between being helpful and being overbearing.

Mindy bought me plants. Again, I don't want to seem ungrateful, but a new yard with endless opportunities was one of my reasons for purchasing this home. How does one not plant these plants that her new neighbor graciously brings her? Politely, I planted them.

The next summer while doing yard work, I could sense I was being watched. I look up, and I most certainly am. Mindy is sitting comfortably in her chair, staring. 

"Oh, I just wanted to watch you work," she says, like it's a normal occurrence. She proceeds to tell me how I should be doing my task and how she would be doing it. A better idea, she says. When this would happen, I would cease to work and just engage her. Then I would become irritated for not getting everything done that I needed to.

One Sunday I have a visitor. I open the door and a man introduces himself as a someone who owns a tree removal business. He goes on to say that Mindy told him I was wanting the tree that hangs over onto their property cut down. In my mind, I am wondering how someone has the audacity to inquire about a tree removal for me, but I politely told him that I wouldn't be cutting that tree down for quite some time. Later, when I asked Mindy about it her response was, "I don't want to get into the middle of that." How infuriating.

I was out working in the yard one day when she climbs over the makeshift fence to see what I am working on. She asks me why I don't have a boyfriend and if I am a lesbian. I proceeded to explain to her that being a single woman does not automatically mean I am a lesbian. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a lesbian, obviously, but it is unfair to assume. I then told her I only keep a man in my life if he adds value to it, not simply to have one. I think for someone like Mindy, who has been married three times, that the thought of a woman being independent is lost on her. I don't have to ask for grocery money, I don't have to rely on a husband to pay bills. I can do that on my own and will continue to do so until I find someone who inspires me and wants the same things out of life that I do.

One night, Mindy invited me over for a drink around her fire. I didn't want to be impolite so I went over. During the course of the evening, Mindy pointed out my cankles. Cankles are not something that need pointing out. We know we have them. When someone is on the shorter side, a result can sometimes be cankles. I do not need to be told I have them.

After several more incidents like these, I decided a fence was in order. Presently, my backyard is sealed shut with a six-foot privacy fence which allows me to actually enjoy my backyard. I can work without being watched or judged, I can have people over without Mindy peeping at them, which was also common for her to do. I love it. 

Mindy does not love it and I have not heard from her since it went up. When the installation was taking place the man in charge called me and said Mindy was telling him which way to install the fence. It would never end had I not put the fence up.

I know now that it was up to me to create a boundary. I know that I am the one teaching people how to treat me. Even though I am baffled when things like this happen and I could wonder for the next one hundred years as to what would possess someone to do things like this, it doesn't matter. 

People are going to be people and I should have set it up that way from the beginning. It is very hard to do when you plan to be next to someone for the next 30 years. I always want to be polite, but you can still be a nice person and put people in their place when you need to.

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The Neighbor Lady
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