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Ask Amy: Transgender neighbor wants gal pal

DEAR AMY: For close to 20 years, my family and I have lived across the street from “Frank,” his wife and two kids. We have had a cordial relationship but not a friendship.

Two years ago, just as Frank’s youngest was heading to college, we started noticing him leaving the house wearing women’s clothing. He told me he has always felt like a woman, and would now like to be referred to as “Frances.”

His wife moved out, and Frances moved in full time. We don’t have a problem with the fact that Frank, now Frances, is transgender. We truly believe he is finally becoming who he was meant to be, although this continues to make us and our teenage children a little uncomfortable.

Now Frances is very lonely, and constantly wants to come across the street to talk about her transgender issues. If we had been good friends before the change, I could understand her desire to share everything with us and to hang out on our front porch talking things over. We were never friends before, though, and we are not comfortable having to entertain her on our porch every time we sit outside.

She has boundary issues, possibly because she is very lonely. This makes me sad for her, and my desire not to be her new best girlfriend makes me feel guilty. Should I feel guilty?

If not, how can I let Frances know that, while we support her, we just want to continue having a neighborly relationship, nothing deeper? -- Ill-At-Ease Neighbor

DEAR ILL-AT-EASE: Before figuratively slamming the porch door on “Frances,” it might be helpful (certainly to her) if you asked, “How are you doing — you seem pretty lonely sometimes. Do you have close friends to talk to?”

After you initiate some communication — and listen to her response — you will then have to be brave enough to add, “I feel guilty sometimes that we’re not better friends, but I just don’t feel able to give you what you seem to need. We love being your neighbors. We’re all very much on your side. But I need to keep a boundary. Can you understand that?”

DEAR AMY: My neighbor has lovely parties throughout the year. She always places scented candles on the tables and scattered around her home. I am very allergic to any scented candle (as well as to perfumes). When the party is held indoors the candle aroma is debilitating!

I just received an invitation to this neighbor’s holiday party. Last year I attended for a short time but needed to leave early due to my reaction.

I would like to RSVP that I will not be attending this year. All my neighbors attend the party and I do not want to appear snobbish. I also do not want to let the hostess know of my allergy because the candles are so important in her decorations.

Is there a tactful way to let her know that I appreciate being invited and yet cannot attend? -- A Sensitive Person

DEAR SENSITIVE: Politely responding that you will not be able to attend this party is not snobbish — it is polite to let the hostess know. Sometimes people make the mistake of providing explanations when a simple, “I’m so sorry but I won’t be able to attend your lovely party this year,” would suffice.

If this hostess asks you why you won’t be able to make it (she won’t), you can tell her, “I have an extreme sensitivity to perfumes and scents; the holidays are tough for me because of the fragrances of the season. I have to do what I can to avoid exposure this year because I can get very sick.”

DEAR AMY: I was bemused by the letter from “Tight Tenant,” who couldn’t seem to handle the fact that her landlord didn’t cash her rent checks promptly. First of all, she should keep a check register and a running balance on her account. Also, if she has an interest-bearing account, she will potentially make a few pennies on the “float.” -- Fiscally Responsible

DEAR RESPONSIBLE: I agree that “Tight Tenant” was placing the responsibility for her money in the wrong hands.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune



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