Dear Ms. Behavior:
My partner and I always have kept to ourselves, but now, we have this new neighbor who just moved in, and constantly shows up on the doorstep.
Yvonne is a nice older woman, but lonely. She’s a lesbian whose girlfriend died eons ago, and she never found another one.
It seems that Yvonne never gets to spend time with gay people, and now, she’s thrilled to have “gay boys” (that’s what she calls us) living near by.
Constantly, Yvonne talks about gay this and gay that. She clearly is stuck in the ’70s and ’80s. She still goes on about dancing at New York bars in the old days. She manages to fit the word “fabulous” into every sentence.
Yvonne finds little excuses to come over, and drop by to talk. She walks by our house several times a day, hoping to catch my partner or me at home.
We have had Yvonne to dinner, but she also tends to stop by when she sees us entertaining in the yard. Our friends find her off-putting, though benign.
We plan to have a few parties around the holidays. Of course, we will invite Yvonne to the small one we’re having for a few neighbors.
But how do we let Yvonne know that she’s not welcome at our other parties? How do we tell her that she needs to be invited to show up at our door?
—Jim And Albert
Dear Jim and Albert:
Talking to a lonely older person, especially a widow, is a mitzvah (a good deed)—plus, you never know when you might need a cup of sugar or some local gossip—but it must be balanced with your own need for peace and privacy.
Neglecting to deal directly with your neighbor’s lack of boundaries means she may take over your property like a weed. You’ll be held hostage by chatter about disco, mullets, and Stonewall, while trying to entertain visitors in your own yard.
Practice a few gentle phrases, like: “This isn’t a great time, but we’d love to see you later”; or, “Some old friends just dropped by. We’ll catch up with you when we have more time.”
If Yvonne does not respond to or even notice social cues, and continues to show up, you’ll have to be even more direct, perhaps using language she understands: “We’re happy to spend time discussing Harvey Milk with you, but we also need some alone time with our ‘gay boy’ friends, so we can impersonate Bette Midler and Judy Garland, and snort poppers and dance.”
Then, stop by briefly once in a while, or invite Yvonne to come over, but only after calling or e-mailing, and setting a precise time.
If you model the behavior of making appointments before showing up, let’s hope Yvonne will get the message that’s what’s expected of her, too.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
I stumbled on your site and your far-fetched advice.
Why do you make excuses for lesbians, when, in fact, most of them are hostile, especially to men. Are you yourself a lesbian? Are you speaking from experience?
I am a gay man who has a lesbian sister. Unfortunately, I’ve been around many lesbians, including my sister, who are hostile. You would think that’s what they live for. They don’t care about anything but other lesbians.
They act like men, dress like men, use strap-ons, and have serious penis envy! Yet, oddly enough, they hate men, and are so vicious toward most men. The men they do get along with are the really fem ones.
Please allow Ms. Behavior to come out to you as a lesbian, and to apologize on behalf of all lesbians who have at any time envied your penis, and threatened your masculinity. It would be best if you could see a shrink immediately to deal with your feelings of diminishment.
If this seems too far-fetched, Ms. Behavior would like to arrange a no-cost healing experience for you. If you just will provide your home address, she happily will send a gaggle of kind-hearted lesbians clad in camisoles and flowing skirts who will behave with the utmost femininity and respect in understanding your pain, and healing your psychic wounds.
They will bake you bread, and let you rest your head on their warm bosoms. Let’s hope these sweet, loving lesbians won’t wear any penile accessories beneath their lady clothes. They will make up for all you’ve suffered at the hands of mean lesbians who wear men’s suits and strap-ons! Meryl Cohen
© 2010 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.