Can I tell my 14-year-old neighbor to stop singing because she sucks?
My neighbor in the apartment unit next to mine has a young girl who loves to sing at the top of her lungs. Her room is adjacent to mine, but I can hear her throughout my whole apartment. Problem is she is absolutely horrible, and has kept her selection to just a few random very overplayed songs. It starts as early as 7:00 am on Saturdays, and goes past 10:00 pm on weeknights. I work and go to school full time and she wakes me up regularly. I've tried talking to her parents, but they're not around much and don't speak English. I've talked to my landlord but there's not much he can do because it's not his building. I don't want to call the police because she's just a kid. Only other option is walking over there and telling her myself to stop, which I feel at her age may be dream crushing and mildly traumatizing. Is that okay?
You can ask her to cut down on the singing without telling her she is a no-talent hack with humdrum song selection.
Why are you so afraid of this 14-year-old girl?
The number of people to whom you have either directly appealed or considered involving at this stage is staggering. Good move thus far resisting the temptation to call the cops on your lonely 14-year-old neighbor. ("Hello, police? We got a girl here singing Kelly Clarkson but without the undeniable talent and stage presence of Kelly Clarkson.") But why did you complain about the noise to your landlord if the noisy tenants reside in a different apartment unit? He's the landlord for your building, not the block RA. I can only assume you first took your issue you to the governor, who informed you it was not really his jurisdiction, and have been working your way down ever since. In a few more rungs (mayor, comptroller, junior city council member), you'll hit the lowest person on the ladder—the 14 year-old-girl herself. Then you can start making progress.
While it is impressive that a member of today's youth population is industrious enough to wake up at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and greet the day with a song, keeping things quiet before 10 a.m. on a weekend is a pretty standard neighborly courtesy. Your first move should be to politely address the issue with the elusive chanteuse herself. (You're right that she might find this experience mildly traumatizing. Any interaction with you is likely to come off that way, because you sound a bit unhinged. But traumatic experiences teach us to avoid repeating certain behaviors.)
The next time an opportunity presents itself, pay her a visit. Say something like, "Hey, I live next door and I love your singing, but do you mind if we keep it between 10 and 7? These walls are pretty thin." Don't try to impress her by telling her you work and go to school full-time; if she's 14 years old, she probably goes to school full-time too. (Unless she dropped out to pursue a singing career in her apartment.) Don't critique her "random, overplayed" song selection; presumably your issue would not evaporate if she expanded her repertoire to include Smiths B-Sides. Don't tell her the truth about how much you hate her singing. It won't make you feel better.
This past Sunday, I was awoken at dawn by a young neighbor's performance of "Let It Go" from the 102-minute "Let It Go" commercial Frozen. At 4 years old, she hasn't yet grasped the difference between singing and reciting an uninflected selection of memorized words at maximum volume, so she opted for the latter. As a one-time thing, it was hilarious, but if commanding the block to "LET. IT. GO. LET. IT. GO," became a daily ritual, someone (a less heavy sleeper) might feel compelled to intervene. I hope they wouldn't lead off with "You know what you need to let go of, Zoë? YOUR BROADWAY DREAMS."
After you've made a good faith effort to resolve the issue politely, face-to-face, don't underestimate the power of a simple wall-knock. While, unfortunately, there is no way to make it sound anything but hostile (don't get cutesy by venturing into "Shave and a Haircut" territory unless you want to start a playful knocking club), this is probably the most immediately effective way to indicate a preference for a noise reduction in close quarters.
Above all, remember that a 14-year-old girl is probably more intimidated by you than you are by her. The meanest thing she can do to you is roll her eyes, sigh, and close the door without speaking.
I work at a small pizzeria where my shifts and work duties often coincide with those of this girl. I really like working/talking with her, but it seems that she wants to take things to the next level: yesterday she left a message for me at the cash register that said "ASK ME OUT ALREADY!" (I should note that the computer is set to use all-caps by default.) This would be great under different circumstances! There's only one problem: I like schlongs, not vajayjays. I want to deal with this in a way that doesn't hurt her feelings and preserves the great relationship we already have. My mom suggested that I meet up with her and explain to her that, regrettably, I am simply too busy with my various jobs and studies to engage myself in a relationship. But half-truths make me a little uncomfortable. I'm considering meeting up and telling her that I'm, you know, G-A-Y (though I have no idea how to go about broaching the subject), but that I'd love to hang out with her as friends only. Is that okay?
You know what other apparatus is set to use all-caps by default? This girl's heart.
Your coworker wasn't just leaving that message at the cash register for you. She was leaving it for the new friends you two would go on make at couples-only dinner parties; for the 80 or so tippled wedding guests who would chuckle merrily at her maid of honor's (deftly ghost-written) celebratory toast; for the daughter you two would raise, who one day would need to have her confidence boosted by an inspiring true anecdote about the rewards that can be reaped when you just put yourself out there.
She is living a romantic comedy in her mind. The problem is, she thinks she's in the middle of the movie—when the heroine captures her fella's heart with a bold, zany gesture—but, in fact, she's in the beginning—when the heroine makes a gay guy slightly uncomfortable by hitting on him big time, and then falls down.
It sounds like you guys have great chemistry and the potential for a close friendship. Maybe one day she'll find herself telling the story about the time she tried to pressure you into dating her at your wedding to the man of your dreams. (Maybe your new husband will sigh through a teeth-gritting smile. "Of course Kayla's speech is about Kayla." Maybe you will cover his hand with your hand and whisper "Hey, come on—it's just how she is. Relax. I love you.")
Any confident little crab who would take it upon herself to pepper a communal workspace with adorkable "KISS DE GIRL! :* " reminders will probably not be too shaken up by the fact a boy she liked is gay. Having a crush on a gay man is a rite of passage for young women. For this ballsy girl, asking out gay guys might even become a lifelong habit. You being gay is not an insult to her. (Though you should allow for a momentary disappointment when she learns you have no interest in becoming her boyfriend.)
Your mother should not be advising you to lie to this girl. This isn't an episode of Modern Family. It's a Domino's. If you follow your mom's advice and tell your friend you are too busy with "various jobs and studies" to date her, she will almost certainly know you are lying and, worse, she will assume you are lying because you don't want to date her. In fact, telling her you don't want to date her because you are gay is the kindest thing you could say to her. It removes all fault.
The one thing you shouldn't do is plan a dramatic meet-up where you will break the news. This would force her to become excited for a date that is, in fact, a one-on-one coming out party. (Leg shaving is the rare activity that manages to be both boring and dangerous. Don't make her do it for no reason.)
Instead, one day at work, casually mention that—apart from piping hot pizza pies just like Nonna used to make—you don't want what she's selling. The good thing about how things have shaken out so far is that you now have a chance to be playful back. Maybe leave your own note on the register: "I WOULD <3 2 BUT I'M GAY EXTRA BREADSTICKS."
Repeat the sweet things you said in your email about how you'd love to hang out with her as friends, but cut the terms "schlong" or "vajayjay," as their usage will only make everyone feel uncomfortable.
Do it ASAP before she becomes overwhelmed by the imagined sexual tension.
Thatz Not Okay is a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to email@example.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay." Image by Pete Ryan.