Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Time to Mend Fences (or Build a Taller One)?

DEAR NATALIE: My husband and I built our home 15 years ago. I became friendly with a neighbor because we both had puppies at the same time, and they played together. The neighbor took complete advantage of me. She would dump off her puppy and go out and drink with her flight attendant friends, especially when her husband was business traveling. I would tell her I have to get up at 5 a.m., so please be home by 10 p.m. She would arrive at my house at midnight, drunk, lie on my kitchen floor, and we had to take her home. 

I agreed to watch her puppy while she went on a vacation for five days, and she was to watch mine when I went away a few weeks later. First of all, she never returned home when she said she would, and she never called. When I called her a few days later, she got really angry. So, then it was my turn to go away. She told me the day before that she had a flight and couldn't watch my puppy. What a mess. 

This is only one incident that she pulled. Another is that she bad-mouthed me to a neighbor who repeated it to a woman I work with and tried to get me fired! There are lots more. Eventually, we didn't bother, and our friendship fell apart. A couple of years later she moved to North Carolina, and I thought she was gone. Since then, every time there is a get-together in the neighborhood, even with new people who moved in after she left, we never get invited. My strong feeling is that she bad-mouthed us to everyone before she left. 

Should I confront one of the women who had a neighborhood Christmas party and ask her outright why we were not invited or just ignore it and don't bother with my neighbors? It really is unfair what she did. I bent over backward to be nice and did so many favors for her, and now I have this on my hands. -- SICK OF NEIGHBOR’S EVIL MOUTH

DEAR SICK OF NEIGHBOR’S EVIL MOUTH: Of course there are two sides to every story, but it looks as though she used and abused you and then blackballed you in the community. What is really upsetting is that you are still dealing with the repercussions of her nastiness long after she's left. 

So the question remains: Do you care if your neighbors like you? It is awful to feel left out, especially in a tight-knit community. If you want to clear your name, call the neighbor who did not invite you to the Christmas party and politely ask if you can have her over for tea or coffee. Then, just be honest. Tell her your feelings were hurt and that you think that the neighbors have the wrong impression about you and your family. If she seems receptive to hearing you out, explain what happened between you and this woman. (Don't become catty or insult her. Rise above it and just tell the CliffsNotes version.) It will feel good to at least get the opportunity to clear your name. 

Then, throw a little cocktail party at your home a few weeks later and invite all your neighbors so that they can meet the "real" you. The good thing is, people have short memories, so the newest impression you make will stick with them.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)