Dear Someone: A Room of Her Own (if you’re not careful)

Dear Someone,

What to do? I just moved into a new neighborhood with my husband and new baby. The neighbors are all really nice and my next door neighbor especially, who helps me out a lot without me ever asking. I appreciate her help, and she gets along great with my daughter. She’s older and her husband died two years ago. I know she is lonely, and I would like to be able to be company for her. But there is a problem. She comes over to my house the same time every afternoon and before anything she says she just has to run to the bathroom. She spends 15 to 20 minutes in there, and afterwards I can’t go in for an hour. I feel bad thinking that she comes to my house mostly to use my bathroom. But since she lives next door, can’t she use hers and then visit me? It happens at the same time every day, and I feel like she must know that her body has a, um, schedule. It’s not like she has to go often so I don’t think it’s a health problem. I really don’t know if I can even bring it up it’s so embarrassing. I could let go of it if I didn’t have to plunge sometimes.

–Holding My Breath

Dear Holding,

First, let me offer my heartfelt sympathy. Nothing makes me want to put my house on the market like discovering unexpected bathmosphere. I gather from your letter that you’re pathologically diplomatic, which is wonderful for everyone who doesn’t happen to be you. The most important order of business is for you to become a person who can head off this sort of thing at the first instance. This can be achieved through therapy, membership to a firing range or ladies’ fight club, or a number of other ways. Cultivating the ability to deflect crap will enable you to avoid anything like this happening to you in the future. Meanwhile, however, you must address the odor of the day, but not necessarily directly.* You are dealing with a dangerous kind of neighbor: the coveter. My guess is that your house is the more attractive of the two, and she’s pretending to live in it for a while each day under the guise of friendship and help. She seeks out the only appropriate solitary space, and marks it as hers in the most offensive manner.

It strikes me that the easiest way to end your “friend’s” daily insult to your bathroom is to make the space as unappealing to occupy as possible. The most obvious route is to just stop cleaning it. There are, of course, more creative approaches; you could adopt the repulsive “if it’s yellow…” rule, for instance. Or you could start toilet training your baby impractically early and time sessions with your neighbor’s bodily clock. If you don’t care at all about seeing her again, you could do something unspeakably horrifying, such as emptying a can of wet cat food into the commode right before she shows up, or filling up the sink with water in which you soak dry beans. Beware, such tactics require complete mastery of the straight face. However passively and/or aggressively you choose to handle the situation, I beseech you to act now, as I can’t even bear to experience bathmosphere vicariously.


*Most male readers will find the impossibility of issuing a direct verbal request about this ridiculous, but any woman who’s worked in an office building has inevitably participated in or witnessed the anonymous bathroom stall waiting game. For the most part, we pretend that we do not use the bathroom. The more fortunate of us actually don’t.

Thank heavens I was drunk.

Chicken and Rice Beware

I was overjoyed to find that BJ’s stocks wine glasses this morning, saving me a separate trip with the Sisters Sledge. Two trips, actually, since the smallest quantity available was twelve, and half the box is now in my basement. It’s difficult to judge an item’s size in a warehouse club, and upon unpacking the first half dozen, I realized that I could fit both my fists in the cup area of a glass. Perhaps it should have been obvious that the majority of people who pick up twelve wine glasses with their pallet of paper towel would prefer them to hold as much as possible, but these come close to novelty scale. I’m not much of wine drinker myself, yet the chalices are so impressive that I’ve got one filled up right now with Riesling. It doesn’t seem that the meniscus has budged over the last half hour, though the children have become much more bearable and the overhead lights are really beginning to grate.

Braced with enough of a buzz to risk a failure in the kitchen, this evening I took on a recipe for Chicken and Rice Casserole that I’ve been considering for the past year, but that’s always struck me as a little too weird. Mrs. Peña becomes dangerously fearless, however, with a little of the grape coursing through her veins, so even as the aroma of garlic wafting from the oven carries a little too much char for my taste, I’m not worried. An entire large pizza is rather appetizing right now, anyway.

Oh, Simply Recipes. Although I knew this day would come, the smack across my face still brings tears to my eyes. Why would you subject rice to such treatment? If aiming for a consistency between aspic and tapioca, one usually turns to cornstarch instead. And why would you do that to garlic? Eating this is like kissing a man who just ate scampi and chased it with a shot of foot. And where, for the love of all things holy, is that cloying sweetness coming from? I re-sampled my sour cream to verify that it hadn’t gone off, but now I wish I just assumed it had, since the alternative is that this tastes good to someone.

My grandmother had a way of writing someone off that sent shivers down the spines of those who witnessed her ruling. While I’m not adequately furious with Simply Recipes to “leave them to God,” another culinary fiasco on their heads and I might have to become a Catholic.

The harsh light of this particular morning finds me doubtful that this casserole merits such scathing criticism as above. More likely, my gripe tank couldn’t withstand the pressure of one more minor disappointment and, as it burst, spewed forth the rantings of a tipsy perfectionist. Further, Mr. P enjoyed two servings as I withheld my commentary, having eaten earlier, and his verdict was an enthusiastic “delicious!” Keep in mind, though, that I married a smart man.

%d bloggers like this: