When one lives in an apartment building, one comes across a weird mix of the human species and my building is certainly no exception. In an earlier post I mentioned some of the different types of neighbours that co-inhabit my building. One of them is a woman I shall refer to just as ‘the woman’, and in this post I am going to explore the different ways that I CAN’T STAND her.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as friendly and affable as the next Sagittarian, a trait that the woman and I strangely have in common. Then why is it that the sight of her just makes my heart beat faster in a not-so-pleasant way? Methinks it’s the ol fight-or-flight hormone kicking in…
She is in her late twenties, and she is pretty, in a petite pointy way. She has an easy laugh, and bursts out laughing quite frequently during conversations. Every time I used to see her (in the early days before I officially declared hating her guts) I found myself envying her figure, her elegance and the fact that she always looked so well-groomed. She never seemed to have a bad hair day, or to repeat an outfit. Her eyebrows were always perfectly shaped, and her makeup always impeccable. I inwardly groaned every time I ran into her. It’s a girl thing I suppose, but I always found myself failing miserably in a mental comparison between herself and I.
Enough reason to hate her? Read on.
We moved into this building before she did, and we could see that she put in a lot of effort into doing up her house. She seemed to be a perfectionist and wanted everything to be just so. Predisposed as Huz and I are to being friendly, we didn’t mind if the woman dropped in sometimes to say hello or chat about some problem regarding a mason or a carpenter or a plumber. Often, she would want to use the loo, or have a drink of water.
Am I the only one or does anyone else have a problem with strangers walking into their bedroom to use the adjoining bathroom? I may think that I don’t have issues with it, but come to think of it I do. I didn’t feel exactly comfortable with this violation of my privacy at all. For one, we’re pretty messy people. I hear people get judged by these kind of things. It didn’t help that the woman appraised EVERYthing in our house in a way that I felt was a tad nosy. We’re supposed to be a hospitable lot, but some of us have an acute sense of personal space. Point is, it made me uncomfortable.
It didn’t help when she would emerge from my room, venture into the sitting room, plonk herself onto a sofa and ask me to fetch her a glass of water. Of course I don’t mind fetching someone a glass of water, in fact I would go the extra mile and make her a cold glass of lemonade seeing as she had come in from the afternoon heat. Perhaps it was the way she would ask, perhaps it was my insecurity at being caught IN MY OWN HOUSE wearing my pajamas and a grubby t shirt, probably while I had been busy sweating in the kitchen cooking lunch, maybe because my hair was a tangled mess, but I felt a twinge of resentment. It also didn’t help to find Huz chatting agreeably with the woman in the living room, laughing at something she was saying, as I brought her her glass of whatever. I sat down diagonally across from both of them and put in my two-bit during the course of the conversation, and watched as she put down the sweating glass, ignoring the stack of coasters, right on the wood part of the wood and glass coffee table. I also realised, with a mounting sense of confusion, that I was being royally ignored! She had no interest in anything I had to say, and even though I have never witnessed my husband being flirted with, that in fact was my perception of what was happening in front of my very eyes! Was I being insecure? I think I mostly felt amused. But I didn’t quite enjoy the feeling of being invisible. And the only way I could communicate this to Huz was by rolling my eyes at him and pretending to barf when he glanced my way.
Once again, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt, and I wasn’t really miffed at the perceived flirting. Perhaps being more comfortable talking to men is another trait that the woman and I share. After all, women can be scary. Men in contrast are not quite as judgmental as we are.
But there have been many other instances that I have been forced to acknowledge the fact that there is something about this woman that gets under my skin. It’s like ‘There’s Something about Mary’ only with the opposite effect. Instead of being drawn to her, I actually feel the urge to put as much distance between us as I can, a sentiment not shared by the woman it seems.
Ever had the weird feeling that someone calls you a ‘friend’ just so that they could merrily proceed to abuse that friendship? It’s a very toxic feeling. She would often call or message with some request or other. Sometimes she would want to borrow our garden chairs for a party on her rooftop, or the barbecue grill, even before we’d had a chance to use it ourselves. Then there was the time when she was training to become a hair stylist and wanted to bring a friend over to blowdry her hair using our generator during a power cut. I was appalled at this request because I would never even think of imposing on a neighbours space like that. At one time, when most of Karachi had been without electricity for 72 hours during a massive breakdown, she requested to keep some of her things in our fridge so they wouldn’t spoil (we switched on a generator for a few hours every couple of hours) and dropped off her emergency light and her cell phone to charge for her. Often she’d drop in along with her kids to have a chat, on or around dinner time, and of course we would ask her to join us. And I don’t recall a single time being invited over for even a cup of tea. Not that I was dying to hang out with her anyway. Bleh.
Does it sound like reciprocity is important to me? Well, perhaps it is. It just seemed to me there was too much give and not enough take going on around here.
The thing with people like her is, you know you’re being used by them but there’s nothing much you can do about it. It’s like being in a bad movie where situations just aren’t in your control. Despite the fact that I found her increasingly annoying. I couldn’t bring myself to offend her, though I thought my body language and facial expressions should have effectively conveyed my reserve. She was either sublimely thick-skinned or just incapable of getting the message. But I still tried to overcome my misgivings and played the good neighbour, and even helped her out with putting up frames in her house, and continued to allow her to stash a huge sack of ice cubes in my tiny freezer for a couple of days when she was busy throwing parties and had limited space in her own fridge. And I gritted my teeth and bore it when she came over to discuss building affairs with Huz, unfailingly making me feel like a fifth wheel, and ALWAYS taking the call if her phone rang to have a long-ish chat with a friend, while Huz and I twiddled our thumbs.
Perhaps she sensed that I saw through her fakeness and recognised the artifice behind her syrupy sweet phone voice. I don’t know! I just couldn’t stand the way she would call and ask for Huz (to discuss important building issues) in this simpering, nauseatingly condescending tone of voice….like I was an imbecile child or something. Did I mention I am way older than her?
Anyway, we finally did end up having a showdown, as a culmination of a series of unfortunate events that occurred in our building. There was the matter of yet another troublesome neighbour (someone I fondly call ‘the witch’) the police were involved, Huz and I were being made into scapegoats over actions taken collectively by all the residents of the building, and at a time when we actually needed the woman’s support, she had the gall to back off. Later, she decided to change her mind, but it was too late by then. The damage had been done, and now even Huz began to have doubts (yayy!!)
Does this sound like a dramatic turn of events? Trust me, it was. Long story short, I was furious, and in no mood to be conciliatory. The woman’s husband had behaved like a jerk at the police station and I let her know this. She in turn sent an indignant message to all the residents of the building that I was a very rude person and instead of being grateful for her husband’s support I had the audacity to criticise him. That for me was the final straw because, obviously, now I ended up looking like the bad guy when in fact SHE was the bad guy all along!
I privately swore never to have anything to do with her ever again, after sending her a politely worded, perfunctorily apologetic email.
So you can imagine my astonishment when a few months after that uneasy truce, the woman was having problems with her internet,had a dinner party at her house in the evening, yet was so worried that her crops would die on Farmville that she absolutely HAD to come use my computer to harvest them.
If ever there was a jaw-drop moment, this was it. I think I felt so numb with shock that I couldn’t respond appropriately. So I let her come over, and I allowed her to play her Farmville.
What has been the point of this whole rant, you ask? So I have an insufferable neighbour who gets my hackles up every time I see her. Big deal.
I guess it just makes me wonder if it was just me, or if most sane people would react to her the way I did.
(Oh please tell me it isn’t just me!)