My neighbor is a social-distancing enforcer. Is this a problem?

A three-story apartment complex with widows on every floor showing a glimpse of the tenants lives. Illustration.

Curbed’s advice columnist wants you to get along with the
people next door

Welcome to House Rules, Curbed’s advice column; today, our
columnist answers questions about our relationships with our
neighbors. (The last column explored
solo living and isolation
.) Other house-related dilemmas? Fill
out the
question form
. My neighbors have really loud s*x at 1:30 a.m.,
and it makes me feel weird when my partner and I are awake at 1:30
a.m. and feeling randy, because we can’t (or maybe just won’t)
put in earplugs. Is it weird to have s*x when somebodies next door
are doing it at the same time AND YOU KNOW IT? —Sexually Synced
in Brooklyn

One of the unavoidable aspects of apartment living is knowing a
lot about your neighbors’ s*x lives, and probably having them
know a lot about yours. For example, I know that my neighbors enjoy
Saturday morning s*x with a soundtrack of Pink Floyd. I am happy
for them. (I will let them be the ones to share what they know
about my s*x life.)

Neighbor s*x, like s*x in general, can be arousing, depressing,
ambiguous, aspirational. Luckily, it seems like this particular
1:30 a.m. s*x is at least pleasant enough not to kill the mood. My
advice is to go ahead and have synchronized s*x if you feel like
it. If it turns you on to embrace the virtual-orgy feeling of
s****l surround sound, feel free to let yourself listen to your
neighbors—your eavesdropping is not hurting anyone. If you prefer
a more private experience, try to tune them out, whether through
ear plugs, music, or the sheer power of your own erotic focus.
Either way, remember that though overhearing others’ s*x lives
may be weird, it is also an extremely common human experience. And
in a time of social distancing, it might even be comforting to
remember that we are united not just by the fact that many of us
have s*x, but that we can overhear each other doing it. We are all
in this together.

A neighbor in the building next door sometimes just decides to be
the neighborhood DJ, puts a large speaker on the windowsill, and
blasts music for hours. There’s no set schedule or anything.
Sometimes it’s a few afternoons in a row. Should I file a
complaint or learn to embrace it? —Can’t Stop the Music

I hear you! I often love the mix of music I hear in the spring
and summer: Songs in Spanish float through my living room windows,
Rihanna warbles through my bedroom windows, and my upstairs
neighbor plays jazz saxophone. A lot of the time, I enjoy the
feeling of living in an urban jukebox that I don’t control. But
there can definitely be too much of a good thing, even music, and
it sounds like your neighbor’s DJing might be starting to feel
that way.

First, and most importantly, don’t call the cops. Filing an
official complaint should be an absolute last resort, given that
noise complaints can be
damaging for neighborhoods
and that getting police involved can
escalate rather than solve a problem. If you think there might be a
way for you to embrace the music, whether by singing along with it,
doing some housework to the rhythm of the beat, or indulging in an
impromptu solo dance party, you should give it a try! If it turns
out there’s no way to learn to enjoy it, you can experiment with
various options on your end to give yourself a break from
it—whether by shutting the window, wearing noise-canceling
headphones, or playing music of your own. If you do decide to say
something about the sound, I would suggest giving the other person
the benefit of the doubt. Write them a note that starts with
appreciation for their music and lets them know why you’re asking
for a noise reduction. Maybe you’re working from home. Maybe
you’re homeschooling your kids. Ask if they can turn down the
volume or try shorter music sessions.

Staying home during the pandemic is stressful for everyone, and
it’s essential to look for solutions that allow people to
maintain their self-care practices without interfering with their
neighbors’ productivity and peace of mind.

I’m lucky enough to live in a suburban neighborhood where it is
possible to get outside and get exercise while maintaining social
distance. I enjoy taking a long walk every day, and luckily most
people in the neighborhood are respectful of each other’s space.
But one of my neighbors has taken it upon herself to be the
social-distancing enforcer, shouting at passersby from windows if
she feels like they are walking too close together. Is this helpful
or is it a problem? —Socially Distant in Massachusetts

Between all the messaging constantly telling us how important
social distancing is, and all the examples of people ignoring and
even protesting social-distancing protocol, a lot of people are
feeling especially vigilant these days. Maybe enforcing social
distancing from her window is your neighbor’s way of coping.

That said, this does not give your neighbor the right to project
her hypervigilance onto strangers who for all she knows are from
the same household and doing their best to live together safely.
Even if the passersby are in fact taking risks, yelling at them
will probably only make them more likely to rebel against social
distancing.

How late is too late to introduce yourself to new neighbors? How
late is too late to bring a “welcome to the neighborhood” gift?
What if these new neighbors moved in shortly before the whole
stay-home-wear-masks thing? Is it too late to get to know them now?
—Belated in Connecticut

It’s never too late to welcome new neighbors! And in times
like these, neighborliness is especially appreciated. I’m
currently in my seventh week of self-isolation, and I find myself
depending more and more on neighborliness to get me through. I love
waving enthusiastically at my neighbors through the windows, or
chatting with them through my mask from 10 feet away when I run
into them while taking out the trash. I’ve even started a meal
exchange with a couple of neighbors on the next block: They make a
main course and I make dessert, and we meet in the middle to swap
bags of shakshuka and strawberry cake or veggie burgers and flan.
It’s amazing how much this simple exchange can lift my
spirits.

The good news is that there is
no documented instance of someone catching COVID-19 from food
anywhere in the world
, so a traditional welcome gift of baked
goods is both doable and safe. If you want to be topical, you can
even throw in some masks if you have extra, or give them a gift
certificate to a local restaurant that is offering delivery or
takeout.

Obviously, you’ll have to take social distancing into account
when delivering your gift. Don’t make your neighbor worry they
will have to get close and chat with you. Now is the perfect time
for contact-free delivery, or for waving and talking from the
sidewalk or across the street. But physically distant doesn’t
have to mean socially distant. It’s likely that your neighbors
will feel more grateful for your gift and more open to connecting
than they would have if you’d reached out to them in a
pre-pandemic world.

Briallen Hopper is the author of Hard to Love:
Essays and Confessions
and the co-editor of the online magazine
Killing the Buddha. Her
writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, New York
magazine/the Cut, the Paris Review Daily, the Seattle Star, the
Washington Post, and elsewhere. She teaches creative nonfiction at
Queens College, CUNY, and lives in Elmhurst, Queens.

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
My neighbor is a social-distancing enforcer. Is this a
problem?