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Dear John: Hey Neighbor, Stop Leaving Nasty Notes on My Car!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

 
What’s your problem? Write to John at dearjohn@golocalprov.com.
 

Dear John,
 
Something happened this morning I am still really upset about. I live in a city area with a lot of apartments and a lot of cars parked on the street all the time. This morning my car had a note on it. Apparently, I had parked in a way that someone thought was too close to the driveway of their apartment building and the note they left was really nasty. Like, crazy nasty. And not that it matters, but my car wasn’t even blocking anything. It was close, but nothing like how the evil note-leaver made it out to be.
 
Why this is especially upsetting is that I know literally everyone who lives around here, and I’m on friendly terms with all of them. I must know the person who wrote this hateful message, but it’s actually a little scary that someone I exchange pleasantries with harbors so much rage. I have gone over all my neighbors in my head and I keep thinking, “Him? Nope. Her? Nope.” I feel like I really want to get to the bottom of this. But where to start? I am thinking of showing the note around and seeing if anyone has any idea. But maybe I should just drop it? It has really ruined my day. I wish people would stop and think how hurtful something like this can be. What do you think?
 
Sincerely,
Bad Way To Start The Day


Dear Bad Way To Start The Day,
 
I know how you feel. I recently had an unpleasant encounter with an inexplicably rude cab driver that bugged me quite a bit for the remainder of the day. But after some time had passed, I no longer found myself fantasizing about punching him in the face through the window of his smelly cab.
 
Your situation sounds much the same, and you just need a little time. In fact, it’s several days later, and I bet you’ve been over it for a while, right? These things hurt when they happen, usually because we’re caught off guard or, as in your case, someone’s reaction is out of all proportion to the perceived offense. Unless the note threatened your safety somehow (in which case I would call the police), I’d just let this go. Besides, you’re not completely sure it was a neighbor – maybe it was someone visiting who was annoyed he or she had to actually pay attention while they pulled out of the lot. Doesn’t really matter, though. Forget about it, if you haven’t already.

 

Dear John,

Okay, I’ll come right out with it. I’m having an affair with my boss. I am a divorced professional woman in my 40s, so I’m not naïve. I know how that sounds, and I know all the typical responses. I’m not defensive about it because I don’t feel at this point in my life I have to justify my choices to anyone. Suffice it to say that my boss is in a miserable marriage, he and his wife will be getting a divorce, and our working relationship in this tiny office is as peers, not as boss/subordinate. I’m perfectly content with this situation.
 
My problem has to do with my friends. Since I revealed this to them a couple of months ago, they have been politely scornful about it and, when they say anything at all, their comments indicate that they see this as a cynical career move on my part and an exploitative lapse in judgment on his. They couldn’t be more wrong on both counts.
 
I recently learned of a couple of times that I have been excluded from social gatherings and I believe these to be the opening maneuvers in completely shutting me out. I’m hurt and angry. I want to clear the air with them, but what can I say without sounding like I’m trying to convince them of something?
 
Signed,
Not That Other Woman


Dear Not That Other Woman,
 
Well, you do want to convince them of something, don’t you? You want to convince them not to judge you based on a personal situation you maintain is none of their business.
 
Fact is, you have some judgmental friends. Maybe this is something you knew about them before, but it didn’t bother you because you hadn’t been on the receiving end of it. (Just to be clear, it’s understandable, I think, for friends to react to your news with a bit of concern that this might not be a good situation for you. But having heard your explanation, a worthy friend would then trust your judgment and hope for the best, not shun you.) Unfortunately, some people feel better about their own lives when they feel like they’re in a position to look down on others’.
 
Were there other signs these friendships were so brittle? I wouldn’t expect too much to come of it, but if you want to try, see if you can get your little group together and lay it all out there: recap your situation; emphasize that despite what they think, it’s fine; and you were very hurt to be excluded from their get-togethers. Then see what they have to say.
 
Be aware, though, that this will give them one more opportunity to shake their heads at how badly you’ve strayed. And I expect they’ll take it.
 
 
Dear John,
 
Hi. I am a high school student (guy) and I have a lot of friends, both girls and guys. I get along with pretty much everyone, and that’s the problem. Being in high school, there’s always a lot of drama. And I get caught in the middle. All my friends tell me what’s going on and expect me to take sides, which I don’t want to do. In fact, when you really know what’s going on, it’s impossible to take sides. I can see everyone’s opinion usually. But I feel like I’m being pressured to take sides when my friends talk to me about these things. How can I let them know that I’m happy to listen and I’m happy to tell them what I think, but I don’t want to get INVOLVED? I don’t want to pass along messages, I don’t want to be forced to agree that someone’s a jerk when they’re not, I don’t want to do any of that stuff. Any advice for me? Thanks.
 
Signed,
Stuck In The Middle


Dear Stuck In The Middle,
 
It doesn’t sound like you need much advice. You’re doing great.
 
I assume your friends are coming to you because they trust you. Of course, any of us who are participants in “drama,” as you so aptly put it, wants someone to tell us we’re right, no one has ever been treated as shabbily as we’re being treated, and the other side couldn’t be more wrong. But life is rarely (okay, never) so cut and dried.
 
So be frank with them. Tell them what you said in your letter: you’re happy to listen and they can trust you not to blab (that wasn’t in your letter but I hope it’s true), but you don’t want to take sides, act as a go-between, or do anything else that drags you into whatever’s going on. Some people may take an “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” attitude, but I think most of your friends will understand where you’re coming from and appreciate your perspective. Throughout life, it’s difficult to remain on good terms with both sides of a conflict. (Wait until you know a couple getting divorced!) But no one can make you choose sides, and if they try to force you to, that’s their problem, not yours.

 

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at dearjohn@golocalprov.com.

 

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RiRa:: 50 Exchange Terrace, Providence, RI, 02903 

 
 

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