Dear Ann Cannon • My middle-aged neighbor likes to hang out on his front porch in his underwear. Our houses are very close together, and there is no way to enter my own house without walking right next to him. I have been taking the approach of pretending he is wearing pants when he engages me in conversation. But it’s getting weird. Other options I have considered are (a) refusing to engage him in conversation when he is not wearing pants, (b) telling his wife he is making me uncomfortable by being in public not wearing pants, and (c) buying him some pants. What would you do?

Neighbor to the Pantless One

Dear Neighbor • Your question reminds me of this time a police officer pulled up alongside my walking group at 5:30 a.m. to ask if we’d just seen a naked man running around in the Avenues. Our response? “Not THIS morning. Yet.”

So yeah. Some neighborhoods are like that.

I think you’ve done an excellent job yourself of coming up with ideas for handling this problem. Well done! You might also think about buying him a pair of underwear that you can stand to look at. See? There’s a fourth option right there!

If it were me, I’d probably wave and say hello if he waved and said hello to me first, but I wouldn’t necessarily linger. Otherwise, I’d just ignore him, much as my friends and I ignore the men we see in various states of undress on our early morning walks.

Other readers may have very different solutions, however. I’d be truly interested in their responses.

Meanwhile, I heard from readers about the mother who resents the fact that her son always spends Christmas with his wife’s family. I share their suggestions here.

  1. Here’s another idea for the mom with only one son who spends Christmas with his wife’s family: Call up the other mom and ask if you can be invited to the party!
  2. My mother was the obnoxious holiday scorekeeper. My husband and I were “only” children of widowed mothers. Of course each wanted us to come to her house. The two lived far enough apart that we couldn’t do both on one day. My career was in a hospital. I finally started working every Christmas in order to not choose. I said they could come to our house, but we weren’t playing the game. No one wins when scorekeeping happens. Don’t be the tension-maker.
  3. Sounds like there are no grandkids yet? Once we had kids, we insisted on at least Christmas morning on our own. It’s the best! My husband and I both come from big families, so everyone has to be flexible about when to get together for holiday celebrations. It’s OK to celebrate early or late!  
  4. Instead of sitting at home feeling neglected and disappointed, wishing things were different, “Tired” might try changing it up. Take a cruise or a road trip or something. Fly to Europe and have an Italian Christmas or a Dutch Christmas. Old World Christmases can be gorgeous. Go somewhere warm and have Christmas in your shirtsleeves. Embrace the change. Experience a Christmas culture very different from your own — you may find it wonderful and exciting.
  5. My extended family has a gathering the Saturday or Sunday evening before Christmas, which allows us all to get together but also gives those with other local families the flexibility to get together on Christmas if that is the desire. There is no expectation that we will get back together on Christmas Day.

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