Dear Ann Cannon • Our neighbors don’t pick up their dog poop! They have two large dogs, two small children and one large yard. We like them and have mentioned the dog poop before (last year), which sparked a huge fight between the two parents. The smell is atrocious. I would like to just leave them a note.
What do you think?
— Avenues Neighbor (P.S. I probably just need to bite the bullet and go tell them...)
Dear Avenues Neighbor • Your letter made me walk outside to see if I needed to pick up the dog poop in my backyard. I did! So, I picked it up. IMMEDIATELY! Thank you! (My Avenues neighbors send their thanks, too.)
Dog owners should always pick up after their dogs, especially in an urban neighborhood like the Aves where we are all living cheek to jowl. Also, I totally want to hear the rest of the story. Like, what were your neighbors fighting about when it came to the poop thing? Did one vote for picking up the poop while the other one didn’t? Not that it’s any of my business, but still.
OK. Here is my general rule for dealing with other people when it comes to stuff that doesn’t really matter in this life. I call it “My General Rule for Dealing with Other People When It Comes to Stuff That Doesn’t Really Matter in This Life.” If you can live with something, then live with it and don’t say anything. We all do stupid, annoying things and if we’re tolerant of the people we deal with, perhaps they (and the universe!) will be tolerant of our little foibles in return. If, however, you can’t live with a thing (and sometimes you just can’t), then say something. Say it kindly, but yeah. Use your words so that you don’t store up petty resentments that can come burbling out like hot lava when you’re arguing about an issue that’s much more important.
Does that make sense?
Finally, I loved your postscript. You do realize that you’ve already answered your own question, don’t you? Well done! I would just say I think it’s usually better to say a thing in person. However, if you do leave a note for your neighbor, sign it. Anonymous comments, in my opinion, show a lack of both courtesy and courage.
Dear Ann Cannon • I have a mother-in-law who hates me. To be honest, I don’t like her very much either. She keeps begging for a grandchild and I don’t know how to tell her to stop. I’ve tried to tell her to stop asking, and she will then email, text and only talk to my husband. What she doesn’t know is that we are infertile and trying to figure out what our next steps are. Constantly hearing her beg for a grandchild does not make the situation better.
— Ugh! My MIL!
Dear Ugh • Oh gosh. You’re dealing with more than your fair share of tough stuff right now, aren’t you? I’m sorry. Your mother-in-law might stop haranguing you if she knew you’re struggling with infertility issues, although I understand why you wouldn’t want to share that kind of sensitive information with a person you don’t like. Besides, even knowing that infertility is an issue might not stop her from offering unwanted advice and suggestions — SADLY.
I assume your husband, like you, has asked his mother to back off, right? If she’s still at it, I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do beyond investing in a pair of ear plugs. I’m sorry. Meanwhile, best of luck to both you and your husband.