Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: I hope you or your readers can give me some suggestions on how to deal with this issue.  My neighbors (who just so happen to also be relatives) still have their outside Christmas lights up. Now I know some people leave their lights up year round but...my neighbors still turn their lights on! I have to stare at the lights around their house that flicker different colors. How can I tastefully, without hurting feelings as again they are relatives, tell them to shut them off. They don't have to take them down. Just turn them off. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks! -- SANTA DOESN’T COME FOR EIGHT MONTHS

DEAR SANTA DOESN’T COME FOR EIGHT MONTHS: I think we all drive past that one house that leaves the holiday lights up all year round and scratch our heads. I understand it can be a big pain to untangle them from the roof, or maybe it’s an elderly couple that doesn’t want to bother anyone to help. But to leave them on is one thing, but to have them flickering all year long is kind of annoying. What can be just as annoying is to have someone come over to your home and tell you what to do with your lights. So, you are stuck. Sort of. Unless you do this carefully. Since they are relatives, you could show up with a pie or cookies or whatever they like and visit for a bit. Then casually bring it up. “I noticed that your holiday lights are still up?” They might say something like “Oh, yes, we love them so much.” At which you could say, “Doesn’t it take the fun out of the holiday magic to have them up all year round?” To which they might respond, “No, we just love the way they look.” Then it gets even trickier. You could follow up with, “Well, I can appreciate that, but we’ve just been noticing them flickering all night long directly in our home and it’s hard to sleep.” At this point, they either have to say, “Sorry, too bad for you” (or something to that effect!) or “Oh my gosh! We didn’t realize!” If they really don’t care that it bothers you, there’s nothing really much else you can do. It’s their home and their property. I would suggest curtains. Or blinds. Or both. But, maybe they will turn them off after 10pm as a fair compromise, and then it’s a win-win. You get some flicker-free shut eye and they get to celebrate all year round.

DEAR NATALIE: I know weddings make people crazy but my one relative is really causing a lot of unnecessary drama. At the last wedding she attended, she was a nightmare. Without getting into the details (because she reads your column) I was horrified at how she acted towards both the bride and other guests. She’s selfish and rude and my son is getting married soon. I was wondering if it is okay to leave her off the guest list or do you think that will cause a war? I don’t want to create drama for my son, but his fiance is sensitive and on the shy side. I worry this holy terror or a relative will make her life miserable on her special day. Any thoughts? --DRAMA QUEEN 

DEAR DRAMA QUEEN: Just say no to drama. Walk away from this dysfunctional person. We don’t get to pick our family, but you do get to pick your guest list to the wedding. After how she acted at this event, why would you even consider her?  I would just leave it up to your son and future daughter-in-law but tell them that they are under no obligation to invite anyone who is going to cause problems. Weddings are stressful enough. Who needs the extra madness?

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Not sure how to approach people at a social event? Compliments always go a long way. You can also try “I couldn’t help but hearing you talk about …” and join in. Cocktail parties are meant for mixing and mingling, so don’t be afraid to mix right in.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga at nbencivenga@post-gazette.com, or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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

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