Skip to main content

The question

We have been living at our current location since 1995. The neighbours across the street moved in two years later. The housewife across the street has been snooping since they moved here. She sits by her front windows, folds laundry, watches TV and minds everyone's business, all our comings and goings. Lately, she's taken to peeping in my house through the small window in my front door. At first it was just her snooping, then her kids and husband joined in. Now that her kids are grown up, she goes to work a couple of days a week, but she will not leave her house until she is convinced that I am not near any door or window so that I do not see her leaving. We get along with all our other neighbours. I am sick of her and refuse to move. I am putting up cameras facing their house – should serve them right, and I can't wait for their reaction. I hope this wards her off as she is a certified bully.

The answer

Wow. Must be something in the water: We've been getting quite a few surreal, hallucinogenic, almost dream-like questions lately, here at Damage Control HQ – and this one is no exception.

It's like something out of a David Lynch movie, or perhaps the early scenes of a low-budget horror film: the whole family across the street tiptoeing onto your porch to peer through a window in the door? I can almost hear the cinematographer screwing on his fish-eye lens to film each family member in succession pressing his/her eye against the window.

And speaking of horror, I suppose my first bit of counsel should be to sound a note of caution. Maybe I'm influenced by the fact a friend of mine works on a reality-recreation TV show called Fear Thy Neighbor, and is always regaling me with appalling worst-case scenarios of neighbourly relations gone terribly, terribly wrong.

One example of a (true) storyline: Neighbour X's dog bites Neighbour Y's daughter. Dispute over medical bills leads to an acrimonious, long-running feud. Finally, Neighbour Y shoots X's dog. Neighbour X attempts to murder Neighbour Y, is shot in police standoff.

Another one: a dispute over 18-inch property line discrepancy leads man to hire a hit man on his neighbour.

Now, of course, the producers of Fear Thy Neighbor use the most hair-raising incidents they can dig up. And I think a lot of the stories are set in the U.S., where you can practically get a gun out of a vending machine.

But it happens here, too. "Neighbour rage" is similar to road rage, in my opinion, in that it can overtake people who are normally calm and collected, even when the original offence is somewhat minor.

(An aside vis-à-vis road rage: It always astonishes me that people fly into a murderous, psychotic fury over a driving interaction that might cause them to arrive, literally, two seconds later to their destination.)

And it can get out of hand. So while I like your idea of installing a camera, especially if they're actively trespassing, I would only point them at your own porch – not at their house (I'm not even sure that would be legal, but it would certainly be an egregious violation of their privacy). And you don't want to sink to their level, which is madness.

But what if you do install cameras and catch them in the act of peeping? What's the end game here? Sure, you could show the police some videotape: "Lookie! Proof positive she's trespassing!"

But realistically, will that result in an arrest and jail time for your neighbour? Or, more likely, a warning (and chuckles and head-shaking from the cops as they drive off), resulting in redoubled animus and acrimony on the part of your neighbour.

From there … dead rat on your front porch? Sudden unexplained infestation of roaches in your basement?

(Okay, maybe I've been spending too much time with my neighbour.)

Is there no way you could invite her in for a glass of chardonnay and some de-escalatory chit-chat? I know it would mean swallowing your pride.

But who knows? Maybe she's reasonable, underneath it all. And maybe spending a little time in your house will slake her curiosity. If not, well, I don't know the configuration of your house, but you know the saying: "Good fences make good neighbours." A fence around your front yard would at least prevent her (unless she's completely hell-bent) from setting foot on your property.

Apart from these measures, I would try to do some mental exercises to put it out of your mind. Don't let her madness send you around the twist.

I mean, sounds like now, in your state of outrage, you maybe spy on her a bit, too, hmm?

Hard as it may sound, try to ignore her and go about your business. Just pretend you're a celebrity (subjected to constant scrutiny, prying, peeping and other unwanted attentions) and live your life as if she weren't staring and ironing.

Write me back, though, if a drone starts hovering over your backyard.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.