We have an elderly neighbor next door, “John,” who we know is bored and lonely. He moved in about five years ago, and the first thing he did was build a waist-high deck from his back door that looks directly over our privacy fence. We call it “the observation platform.” We planted trees and shrubs to regain a sense of privacy, but every time we’re in our backyard he looks over the fence and starts hollering things like, “Working har, or hardly working?” Ugh. He’s trying to be friendly, but we want privacy! Often we just don’t respond, but on the occasions that we do, it’s just to say “Hi” and go back to whatever we were doing. He used to ask us for a lot of favors, like to borrow our lawn mower (which he’d return empty on gas), until we finally just told him it was broken. We’re happy to be friendly, but he wants to talk all the time. Every time we’re outside gardening or sitting on the deck, he starts shouting over the fence (“Hot enough for ya?”), or comes over through our yard to find out what we’re doing.
He wanders around the neighborhood and peers into everyone’s yards if they’re doing construction or paving their drive. I know that I need to set a firm boundary with him, and I know that I’ve bent over backward and spent a ton of money on plants and a yard guy to try to maintain our own privacy. So how do I do this? Is there a polite way to establish boundaries with a nosy neighbor like this? He’s even come into our yard before without an invitation, and I had to ask him to leave. My husband is annoyed by the guy, but doesn’t want to start a feud. I don’t want that either, but I do want to enjoy being outside our own home.
—Never “Just Saying Hi”