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.

Dear Someone: Schrödinger’s Dachshund

Dear Someone,

I’m at my wits end. I was shopping a large supermarket 5 days ago, and as I was loading groceries a good friend, who has a darling dachshund, called to me. The dog was on a leash, but it loves me and my friend unleashed it to run and greet me. We chatted for about 5 minutes and then I finished loading and drove home.

Today I opened the van door and was overwhelmed by a stench. It was the dog, which had climbed into the van and probably gone to sleep. I think it starved to death. My friend had called me that day asking if I knew where the dog was, but I had no clue it was in the van and didn’t look. Should I let her know what happened, or just get the dog buried and let her think it ran away?

–Guilty Mom

Dear Guilty,

After weighing various considerations, including the emotional well-being of your friend, the possibility of canine depression, your reputation, and the potential repercussions of telling the truth, I must advise you to come clean immediately and confess to your unintentional dogslaughter. The deciding factor is this; you cannot keep a secret. A secret is a burden you accept to carry to your grave. Having typed out your account and sent it into the public sphere, this situation no longer qualifies as such. After all, my wildly successful blog has been known to receive as high as one hundred hits per day, at least twice, so you’re playing fast and loose with discretion. Additionally, I’m betting the dachshund community is a rather tight one. Finally, I foresee a counterproductive sense of guilt (not about the dog itself, who’s further insulted by the omission of “its” gender in your missive) tempting you to unburden yourself on close friends or subway passengers, so you’re clearly someone who personally benefits from closure, even if it further wounds the offended party.

I, myself, can keep a secret, but only if it’s a really big one. Luckily, my friends and family understand that they would need to practically hide a body to be allowed admittance into my Seinfeldian vault, so for the most part they wisely exclude me from their state secrets. If I was the owner of the malodorous van, I would have called my friend as soon as I opened the door, but I have to say that if the dog was a larger breed, perhaps a mastiff or retriever, I might have experienced a moment of hesitation. That, however, is just my own bigotry talking. So bite the bullet, suit up with Kevlar if you hail from the Lone Star State, and make the call. On the off chance that your friend becomes unhinged upon identifying the body, necessitating your hasty departure, you’ll want to have already transferred the remains to a (here it comes) doggie bag.


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