Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Real Talk With Rachel: A Downstairs Drag; New Friends with Old Issues

by Rachel Kurzius

Hello all,

Thanks for all of the emails and questions, as well as the comments on blog posts. Last week, a reader posted a thoughtful comment regarding advice over whether a mother should force her teenage sons to visit their grandmother in an assisted-living home. Check out last week’s blog for the full version, but here’s a snippet:

“My mother-in-law developed Parkinson's when my daughters were still very young. The disease is a very scary one, especially for little ones. And my mother-in-law was not always easy to be around. But they both loved the trips up to see her because she told them stories, let them watch TV with her, and there were always outings for ice cream or dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant... When things got really bad, both girls were anxious to be with her at the end, which they were. To this day they still tell 'do you remember the time grandma...' stories.”

What a fantastic story! I appreciate your sharing with us.

Hope everyone has a great week and has little need for an advice columnist to deal with their everyday goings-on. But if you do, you know where to reach one...

And now, on to the advice!


Dear Rachel,

My husband and I rent a row house. There is a small English Basement with a separate tenant below. The entire house is hooked up to the same utilities, which are split three ways between us. When we moved in, the landlord told us that the upstairs took care of the bills and worked it out with the neighbor below.

The neighbor is perfectly nice and respectful in every way, but he doesn’t pay the utilities in a timely manner. I generally have to hassle him and he is usually a month behind. I would feel like a tattletale telling the landlord, but I do not want to pay his electric bill, even if I can afford it. What should I do?

Sick of Subsidizing

Dear Sick of Subsidizing:

Hate to break it to you, but your downstairs neighbor is far from perfectly nice and respectful. Yes, he doesn’t throw all-night ragers on Tuesdays or find a new species of bedbug to explore your walls, but that’s not enough.

He needs to buck up and pay his bills.

Think about it this way: would he be so late to pay your landlord? Probably not, because there’d be consequences. Unlike your landlord, you can’t threaten eviction or do much beyond loud stomping. In an ideal world, Mr. Downstairs would pay his bills on time because he’s a grown man and you wouldn’t have to resort to threats or stomping. Unfortunately, that world continues to elude us.

Do you generally correspond with him via email? I recommend that you do, so you have a documented history of your communiques. Tell him you can’t keep reminding him to pay his bills, and you would appreciate his paying on time. You can warn him that continued tardiness will result in your contacting the landlord. If he does not respond, or responds with platitudes instead of checks, then you can forward your correspondence to your landlord.

Tattletales try to get people in trouble for their own gain. You are not a tattletale. But unless you deal with this situation, you’ll be a pushover.



Dear Rachel,

I am a girl in her mid-twenties. When my cousin came to visit me a few months ago I met some of her friends from high school, who live together here in DC. I really liked them, and hit it off with one in particular. We exchanged numbers and have spent some time together since, going to bars and concerts. Whenever I go over to her apartment though, I feel awkward because I can sense her friend feels left out. She seems resentful of time we’ve spent without her around. I think she’s a cool person too, but I just don’t click with her as well.

I don’t want to cause any fights between the two of them, or create any drama for my cousin. At the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with two adults hanging out without having to make it a group activity.

New Friends Are Creating Blue Friends

Dear New Friends,

For the most part, this isn’t your problem. You might be the catalyst of tension, but it’s a symptom of a larger problem among your cousin’s friends. They are renegotiating their relationship as they grow. Sometimes branching out can be tough, especially when one person wants to branch alone and the other wants to tag along.

You’ll note that you don’t fit the description of either of the two people in the previous sentence. These are issues your new friends need to work out with one another. Try to avoid getting sucked into the circle of drama.

However, there are some things you can do to avoid exacerbating these
tensions. First, stop talking about all the great times you had with Sally when Janie is there too. That kind of behavior is rude. Even if Sally wants to discuss your amazing adventures (and she might, if she’s trying to make a point about how she does all sorts of fun stuff without her roommate), try to steer the subject so you’re not being exclusive.

Also, don’t dwell on seeing the friend you like less as a victim. She can probably pick up on your pitying attitude, and it might account for her strange behavior.

Look -- you don’t have to be best friends with everyone. But you do have to make sure you treat all with respect and kindness. And watch how your new best friend behaves towards her roommate, because that’s how she'll treat you when the honeymoon's over.



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at advice @ fastmail dot net.

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