Q Dear Miss Abigail:
You rock my web-world! Right on about the annoying marriage question ~ what a drag to be denied respect just because one’s status is single. My problem is that I live in small apartment building in close proximity to my neighbors. I don’t find any of them personally repugnant; however, I just don’t want to hear all of their business every day. How can I get out of long discussions of their personal problems without making them angry?
Another Independent Person
A Dear Another:
Dealing with annoying neighbors can be difficult. I found a few bits of advice for those living in apartment buildings with little room to breathe.
As for dealing with unwanted conversations, most of my books offer advice for those actually doing the talking. It is not you, my friend; It is the impolite neighbor who must learn some manners. Therefore, we must all remember to respect our neighbors’ privacy. If someone is backing away from you as you try to talk to them, for heaven’s sake, let them go!
1945: Life in Crowded Cities
Even more important than the need for consideration of others on beaches and in parks is that of the dwellers in city flats so closely packed that every sound made by one family is likely to be heard by several others. In fact, sound can appear to be intensified by distance. In the room with children, their play does not seem over-loud; a radio program ~ even a jazz band ~ sounds scarcely loud enough to bother anyone not close to it. But to the family living on the floor below, the patter of little feet sounds like a stable full of percherons. The toys they drop seem all of iron! The jazz band crashes through each separate convolution of a neighbor’s brain. As for young musicians’ “practicing” ~ there is no manager of an apartment house who is not at his wits’ end to solve this chief cause of complaint ~ approached only by slamming doors or a banging shutter.
There are certain annoyances to others that can’t be helped; babies must sometimes cry, children scream, dogs bark, or someone gets a hacking cough. The best one can do is to try to soften such sounds as much as possible by shutting a window temporarily, muffling one’s mouth and little by little training children and dogs.
An angle that is evidently difficult to understand is that in nearly all communal buildings in close neighborhoods, there are always those few who seemingly show no feelings for others because their own insensitiveness is, as it were, on another wave length. It is very hard to remember ~ or even to understand ~ that things which greatly annoy us ~ such as the unceasing sound of music ~ may not disturb others at all, whereas things to which we don’t object quite easily torture our neighbors.
Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1945.
~ p. 54 ~
1963: Personal Questions
We are under no obligation to answer the personal questions directed at us. Yet we do not want to discipline another to the point to embarrassment. This we will not do if we become a little vague about the information they seek, or if we have a suggestion of amusement in our voice when we say: “Mary, I don’t think you meant to ask me that question?”
Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~ p. 177 ~