My eighty-six year old neighbor has a crush on me. I’m going to call him John, because I don’t know his name. John is Greek and his English is minimal, so conversations are painful and time-consuming. I try to stick to weather observations like “beautiful day” and “it’s getting chilly,” but he persists in our version of chatting, so over time I’ve learned a thing or two about him.
He lives down the block with his wife and a cat (or two, or three). He has a daughter in Connecticut who is, apparently, a great success, and lives in a house I think he bought her, with his grand-daughter. Another daughter passed away a couple of years ago. I think the cats were hers. Most days, he takes a walk up and down our street. His wife does not join him, but sometimes one of his cats does. He carries a very tall stick as a cane, and moves slowly.
If I am outside when he passes by, he stops to say hello. If I am actively engaged in something, he will stand on the street and watch me. After a while, if I don’t stop what I’m doing to join him at the curb, he’ll walk onto the lawn towards me. He does this even if I’m mowing the lawn. When that happens, I feel obliged to stop the mower to say hello since clearly he is going to pursue me until I do, even though it strikes me as an outrageous intrusion.
He kisses me hello on the cheek. The first time he did that, I allowed it out of some convoluted sense of respect for his age; that and I didn’t know how to repel him politely. Lately, he has professed his love for me. I want to believe he means like the love he feels for a daughter, but given his limited English, I am not sure, particularly since one of his words is “jealous.” He told me he was jealous of my husband. If he is like most other elderly men, he is probably just taking advantage of his advanced age to get away with saying mildly inappropriate things. But I am no longer comfortable letting him kiss me, and I don’t know how to make him stop.
I have taken to avoiding John when I can. If I’m thinking of going out, but I see him on the street, I wait until he’s gone. Recently, I ran away from him. I was across the street, chatting with another neighbor, an older woman he likes to hug hello, when he came by. We said hello and then I told him we had something to do and dragged her back to my house, up the driveway and around the back. We congratulated ourselves on getting away and continued our conversation. After a few minutes, I walked back to the driveway – where he was still standing, waiting for my return.
Winter is my least favorite season; I hate the cold. This year, however, I’m looking forward to it, because it will curtail my elderly suitor’s constitutionals. If John’s intentions are innocent, I can tolerate them for the sake of an old man’s happiness. If, however, they are not, I do not want to encourage him. Since I don’t know how to discern his true motives, I guess I’ll spend my winter reprieve dreaming up creative ways to avoid him come spring.
Wow. This story makes me really uncomfortable on so many levels. Here’s what I think, which is easier because I’m not in the middle of it.
Whatever someone’s age, whatever their mental condition, it’s all right to be clear about how YOU want to be treated. This can be done without attacking or excoriating the other person. While backing away firmly maybe say, “No, thank you, I’m not a touchy-feely person.” And, “I’m sorry, but I’m in a rush and I don’t have time to chat today.”
If he continues to engage, just keep talking and walking away or back in the house. Ultimately, HE is being rude, not you if you defend yourself. If he calls you on “your” rudeness by criticizing or guilt tripping you, you could maybe say something like, “Well, I didn’t want to be more explicit because I was hoping to spare you embarrassment, but I can clarify if you prefer. I only feel comfortable hugging and kissing people I am very close to. And I am often in a hurry or busy when I am doing yard tasks and prefer to just have some quiet time working rather than chatting.”
My sister’s mother-in-law is terribly critical, rude, and basically just plain mean-spirited. She tries to get away with it now by citing her age (84). But she’s always been like that! She has berated my nephews for years over their table manners claiming they are rude, when it is she who is rude for ruining every family meal together by berating them and their parents for how they raised them.
I suspect your neighbor was not more considerate in his youth. And if he was and is now suffering from dementia, his younger self would probably be glad to know his uncontrolled older self is being prevented from making people uncomfortable and behaving inappropriately.
It’s so easy to theorize, though. If I had to do or say something myself in this situation, I’d be quaking in my boots.
You clearly feel my pain. xo
Could you approach his wife and tell her how he is acting? Clearly it is dementia or something which is causing to act this way.
I don’t think it’s dementia. If I had the nerve to talk to his wife, I could just tell him!
First – RELAX. Ditto to the commenters. Why? Well, there are these cultural, age, and gender barriers to transcend. That and some vocabulary.
Kissing on the cheek(s) is so very, very southern European. Maybe even Israeli. Definitely Brasilian, etc. etc. People who know each other, even if only slightly more than totally casual, usually do it on both cheeks. Gives new meaning to turn the other cheek. Genderwise – any man, regardless of age, who doesn’t flirt, even lightly, might as well already be in the ground. Me, I don’t expect to live to 86 but I’m a long way from 40. Now, as always, I treat the women in my life, ALL the women in my life, as jewels; and, I love to see them shine. I buff my jewels lightly whenever I can. In other words, I flirt outrageously. Sadly for most of the men around me, they don’t know how I get away with it – I do. There’s a big difference between flirting for the smile/shine and coming on or hitting on a women; and, Judy, I’ve never, ever, known a women who couldn’t tell the difference.
Oh yeah – 86 years old? The clock is ticking loudly. How about you make his day. Tell him what a handsome gentlement he is – and then give him a peck on each cheek. When he lingers too long, lord knows I would with a hottie like you, when he lingers – tell him he’d best move along before your extremely jealous husband finds out/comes home/whatever.
So, lighten up girls. Let the love/life in (and out) – it’s not always about the nooky. And treat old men with both respect and affection (especially me).
P.S. Anyone who could use a buffing should ask Judy for my name and number.
P.P.S. It will help if you like throwing yourself off cliffs since I’m surrounded by ski mountains and resorts.
I know, I am being SO bad.
I read that out loud to a house full of thanksgiving company. They agree. I’m a hottie.