Make It Stop: “My Neighbor Just Wants To Gab All The Time”

Make It Stop is a new weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? [email protected] the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.

First up, how to deal with an overly-friendly neighbor who just won’t shut up:

How do I politely get out of chatting with people? I have a neighbor/friend in my building who always stops me in the hallway right as I get home from work or errands and wants to come into my apartment to sit on the couch and gab. Roommates have done the same thing before, too, and bombarded me with stories about their day the second I walk in the door. But I like my space when I’m at home! Sometimes I’m trying to unwind and other times I just plain have shit to do. It’s made it hard to live with people I’m good friends with because I need alone time and the only way out is to walk away and shut myself in my bedroom with some lame excuse. I swear I’m nice and don’t hate people!

Many moons ago, when I lived with my best friend, I was the chatty roommate who’d pounce on her as soon as she walked in the door. I had a million things to tell her about my zany day at work, like what a nasty jerk my boss was, or how the boy I had a crush on posted an adorable comment on my MySpace profile (I told you this was many moons ago!).

I’d follow her around like a puppy, so absorbed in the story I was telling that I didn’t even notice that she wasn’t as engaged as she normally would be. After a few weeks, she finally sat me down and told me, “When I come home from work, I need a half hour of quiet time, minimum. I’m not ignoring you. I just need some ‘me; time to unwind.”

I thanked her for letting me know and I immediately adjusted my behavior. After that, I knew not to approach her once she came home from work until she initiated the conversation. Only then, once she had enough unwinding time, when she shed her work attire and emerged from her bedroom in her kick-around clothes like a butterfly from a cocoon, would I know that it was okay to approach her. Then I’d launch into my silly updates about funny MySpace bulletins or whatever gossip I was dishing in 2006.

The time has now come for you to do what my awesome friend did, which is to articulate your needs. Just me honest with your friends. They aren’t mind readers; tell them what you need when you come home from work.

As for your chatty neighbor, you’re going to need to gently break it to her that no, she can not flop on your couch and run her mouth before you’ve had a chance to take off your work khakis. You’re gonna need to be a like a block of tofu: both vague and firm. Next time she tries to strong-arm her way into your apartment, just say, “You know, I’d love to invite you in but now’s not a good time. We’ll catch up soon, I promise!” See? Vague and firm. That’s the key.

Tofu it up, honey. You can do it.

I got married over the summer and my husband and I hyphenated our last names. It was a choice we made together (rather than pick one name or the other). The new name is not hard to remember, as we both have very common last names. We even made it really clear  on our wedding web site  what our new name and address would be. But in the past few months as wedding gifts and cards have come in, a lot of them are coming addressed to “Mr And Mrs. His Last Name.” Some of it is coming from grandparents and my parents’ friends, whom I figured might not understand our new name change, but some of it is from people who should know better, like my cousin. The whole thing is frustrating and annoying, because I feel like both of us made a BIG effort to tell everyone. What else can I do to make them get the point?

Congrats on Meredith Baxter-Barney-ing it up, but are you really surprised that the Greatest Generation assumes you took your husband’s last name? It’s possible that your idea of a BIG effort — like announcing your name change in a sparkly font on your wedding web site — didn’t flicker over the screens of the very people you’re kvetching about. I don’t know many grandparent-age people that know how to navigate their email, much less navigate your wedding web site which they probably clicked on once, if at all.

Clearly, with the results you’re complaining about, your BIG effort meant nothing to pretty much everyone. A BIG effort is Kentucky Fried Chicken changing its name to KFC. That’s a BIG effort to re-brand, with millions of dollars of marketing and advertising to get the word out. Marrying some dude with a common name and hooking your name to his and being pissy that three months later people haven’t incorporated your new identity into their consciousness, is bonkers.

A part of me feels like you should be grateful that you’re getting presents at all, as most people have had to cut back on expenses, especially at weddings. Does it really matter who your waffle maker is addressed to? You can still make bomb-ass waffles. Stop whinging.

The more I think about it, the more I’m annoyed by your question. You have people who love you and took the time to send you cards and gifts and you’re miffed about who it’s addressed to? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the wrapping on your standing mixer the first thing that gets tossed out? Who cares who’s name’s on the box? As a single woman, I wouldn’t care if people addressed my presents to Saddam Hussein. I’d still be stoked to get anything just for marrying a cool person!

As for your cousin, I hate to break this to you, but your cousin doesn’t give a shit about your wedding. You can’t expect your cousin to care about your new last name. It’s like watching an episode of “Rachel vs. Guy: Kids Cook Off” or bragging that you know all the words to “Ice Ice Baby;” no one cares.

Ah, that’s the real problem, isn’t it? No one cares about what you want. Just a few short months ago, you were the blushing bride. You were the focus of a series of events; a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, and the wedding itself. Now that the dress is back in the closet and the attention’s gone away, you’re no longer the bride — you’re just a whiny newlywed getting on people’s dick about your fussy new last name.

Why don’t you put all the energy you have from seething about the confusion over your new name and invest it into something more productive, like learning how to use your brand new stand-up mixer. Make some cupcakes for neighbors, co-workers or friends. It sounds like you’re ultimately craving attention and validation. Walking in with some free cupcakes is just the way to get it.

Anna Goldfarb is the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and the author of Clearly I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story Of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived And Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions. (She is, however, thinking through the responses to these questions very seriously.) Follow her on Twitter!