Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Parents Need to Know About Children's Prying Eyes

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Who are windows for? I think they are to look out to the world from, let in light without wasting electricity, and to keep an eye on one's property.

Our neighbors have children who constantly look in to all our windows. If I am simply facing my window, even from another room, they stare and put their hands on their hips as if I have no right to look outside when they are there, which is very frequent.

I find this very uncomfortable, yet I feel I am entitled to have my shades up. I think it is rude to look in to others' windows. How can I solve this problem?

GENTLE READER: The window undeniably belongs to you. But the real question is who owns the view -- or views, as what you are seeing is different than what your neighbor's children are looking at.

You are seeing the outside world, which Miss Manners, without benefit of a law degree, declares is public property. Your neighbor's children have no reasonable expectation that no one will ever look at them from inside the house.

The children, however, are looking in to your home. This is a private space, sometimes intensely so. But before some wag appropriates this reasoning to make a public display of himself from the comfort of his living room, it is important to remember that the act of opening the shades is also a tacit, if only partial, waiver of privacy. You are always entitled to look out; the child can sometimes be excused for a passing glance, but steady watching habits need to be reported to their parents.