Make us your home page

Sometimes a stranger can say what mom can't

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

Sometimes a stranger's words can have more impact

B: On saying something to a pregnant woman who is smoking: I have this intuitive feeling that as a total stranger, I can have an impact on others that those close to them wouldn't have. I can hear the pregnant woman saying, "Geez, Mom, do you have to bring this up again?" But, for a stranger to say, "You're a beautiful woman, about to become a mother. I'm worried for you and your baby because smoking is so unhealthy"? Sometimes, people who have the greatest impact are ones who you will never see again. A grand epiphany.

I just hate the thought of cutting off spontaneity that could do good. Most people would probably say they can't help by speaking up. But I do think we can learn from strangers — like the woman I admired for her enthusiasm about a very hot elevator because the doctor's office had been so cold. Man, I was stifled, but it was another whammy about perspective, appreciating the small things in life, and not being such a (crab) all the time.

Since you can't move, protect yourself from nosy neighbor

Sharing the boat: On nosy and judgmental neighbors: Sorry, we were negligent, we should have warned you about her. We are your other neighbors, who have experienced her for a decade. I would love to say a funny comeback is the best answer, but unless you have a crack team of comedy writers in your spare room, you will not be able to keep up with the lovely social commentary she will lob at you. Her remarks will be so socially unacceptable, but so veiled, that you will never expect them, and so rarely be able to throw back a good one-liner. Don't beat yourself up about it.

We tried to figure out if she is mean or just socially ignorant, I suppose to make us feel better. Jury is still out; she does, strangely, have some good points.

It is hard not to simmer over her underhanded remarks about your children, parenting, home, husband and yourself. But here's what might help: First, it is not you and you are not alone. That is the best thing. She does this to everyone. And sometimes, although I hate to talk about people behind their backs, venting to a sympathetic ear is a must.

Second, avoid her. Don't call or let her catch you at the fence; it will be a long monologue. E-mail is best. If you do get "caught," don't share any information you consider in the least bit personal (children's grades, social activities, your weight or age, anything you may be proud of or disappointed in).

Third, it has nothing to do with your own self-confidence. Normal people discuss differences in choices, she disses them. If you are normal, this will sting.

Last, she has shown you who she is, don't be surprised when she acts this way.

J: On nosy neighbors, cont'd: Many years ago I had a "friend" who was very opinionated. One day, I prepared myself ahead of time when I thought (correctly) she may voice her opinion about something not any of her business.

I said, "If you keep your opinion to yourself, someday I will return the favor." We remained friends and the frequent opinions ceased.

Sometimes a stranger can say what mom can't 09/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours