Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Family Should Limit Exposure to Neighbor

DEAR HARRIETTE: My next-door neighbor is very chatty and used to come over all the time -- too much for my liking -- after work to chat. I shut that down after the lockdown started, which made her angry. She said that since we live next door to each other, we should be safe. But she doesn’t stay home -- she can’t. She works for the city and has to go to work every day. To me, that means she could be exposed to anything.

My family and I have been staying inside almost every day. We only go out to get groceries, and we are careful not to interact with anyone. I don’t want to hurt my neighbor’s feelings, but I do not want to let her in my house. How can I get her to back off? -- Boundaries

DEAR BOUNDARIES: Call your neighbor on the phone and tell her you need to talk. Point out how uncomfortable it is to have to socially distance even when you are living so close to each other, but make it clear that you do not want her to visit face-to-face right now. Thank her for her service as a front-line worker. Tell her how much you appreciate that she makes the choice to go out each day to do her job, which is beneficial for all of us. Add that her daily exposure to other people puts her at risk of being in contact with the coronavirus.

Since you and your family have been vigilant about staying home except as absolutely necessary, you do not feel comfortable exposing any of them to anyone, especially someone who has to be out in the thick of things every day. This disease is invisible, but we do know that it is spread from person to person when those people are in close proximity to each other.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Covid 19

DEAR HARRIETTE: Tongue Tied wrote to you about how to reach out to a neighbor during the COVID-19 outbreak. She wanted to tell him that she liked him a lot and thought it could be a good time to say something to him. Your advice was to invite him over for dinner and to talk, but not to disclose how much she liked him. While I agree that the conversation should not begin with her disclosure of how much she liked him, the dinner invitation is completely contrary to public health advice. Would you consider an amendment in your next column? -- Protect Yourself

DEAR PROTECT YOURSELF: Good catch! Even when I am working to be conscious of our new reality, I made a major faux pas. My apologies. Perhaps Tongue Tied can invite him for a virtual drink or dinner. She might even make a drink or dish that she can offer him -- takeout -- and then the two of them can use videoconferencing to consume whatever the goody is while talking. For sure, they should limit their exposure to each other. If they decide to share a dish or drink, they can organize it the way that delivery services do by leaving the package outside their door so that they maintain complete social distancing.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)