Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Frustrated because neighbors are having “unmasked” parties? Best friend’s anxiety driving a wedge between you?

DEAR NATALIE: I know everyone is handling being isolated from each other because of the coronavirus in their own ways, but I am getting really fed up with my neighbors. They keep having these “unmasked” parties and it’s really frustrating to watch people being so irresponsible. What the problem really boils down to is that my daughter, who is nine, and their daughters who are 10 and 12, often played together. Now that this has all happened, we’ve told our daughter she isn’t allowed to go over to their house and my neighbors are somehow “offended.” Without causing a war, how do I get them to understand that what they are doing is wrong and potentially dangerous?— IGNORANT NEIGHBORS

DEAR IGNORANT NEIGHBORS: I couldn’t help but laugh at a meme I saw recently that remarked how we all have to miss recess because one kid couldn’t follow directions. Well, your neighbors are that kid. And while ignorance may be the road they choose to walk, you certainly don’t need to follow. Short of calling the cops to break up their parties, there really isn’t much else that you can do to get them to stop. So, instead of worrying about their poor choices, just focus on your own space. If you are able to stay at home, then do so. If you have to work outside the home but can come directly home, then do that. Limit your exposure to public spaces and remember to always wear a mask or face covering when you leave the house. I think some people are confusing “inconvenienced” with “oppressed.” When it comes to your daughter, I would just be honest with her. You don’t have to scare her or get too deep into the science, but make it clear that it isn’t safe for her to be around her friends right now. Explain to her that their parents aren’t being as responsible with their health as you would like.Until things improve, it’s better just to FaceTime or Zoom with them. This is really hard on kids. We are expecting a lot from them. Please be gentle with yourself and with your daughter. Your neighbors deserve some empathy, too. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I believe people lash out like this to cover up their own fears. They are projecting their anxieties by rebelling against directives that can save their lives and others’ lives, too. While it’s nonsensical, it isn’t surprising. Just do your part, be a good example for your daughter.

DEAR NATALIE: My best friend has been MIA during this whole lockdown because of the coronavirus. She doesn’t want to FaceTime or really talk much at all. She said everything is giving her “anxiety.”  I’ve tried to be sympathetic, but her lack of communication is really starting to drive a wedge between us. I know we are all very stressed out, but hiding from the world isn’t making it better. She works from home, so I don’t really understand what she is so anxious about. She needs to pull it together or I don’t know how she expects her friendships to stay intact. Any advice on how to help her “snap out of it?”— GET A GRIP

DEAR GET A GRIP: Instead of fixating so much on your friend, ask yourself why you are so frustrated with her. Is it because she isn’t reacting the way that you want her to? Is it because you feel as though she isn’t as “strong” as you? What is your frustration rooted in? My guess is that it is grounded in a lack of control. You can’t control this situation or this virus, so instead, you want to control everyone’s reaction to it. Well, you can’t. Your friend may also feel out of control, but she has turned it inward. If she doesn’t want to Zoom or FaceTime, it’s OK. Perhaps she isn’t feeling like herself. She might be depressed and isn’t up for interacting on social platforms. Maybe getting dressed is too much right now. People who already live with anxiety and depression may be feeling things extra hard, so be gentle. Instead, reach out to her via text and just ask her how she is. She may feel more comfortable texting but not talking. Meet her where she is, not where you expect her to be. Show a little more compassion towards yourself and towards her. You may be surprised how it changes the dynamic.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: This week, take the pressure off of (virtual!) networking and instead, focus on what brings you peace. Maybe it’s time to pick up a book, take a Zoom yoga class or practice meditation. Whatever makes you feel centered during this time will only energize and prepare you for the future.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to asknatalieadvice@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci