(WWTD – What Would Tim Do? - is a semi-regular feature (read: space filler) in which I select letters from actual advice columns and answer them myself without reading the advice columnist’s response first. I will post my reply and then the columnists reply so you can enjoy comparing and contrasting answers. Feel free to offer your own advice in the Comments section.)
Today’s letter is from the January 14 “Dear Prudence” column at Slate.com .
I'm a happily married man in my 20s with a gorgeous wife, whom I adore. We live in a big city in an apartment building. In order to let in light, we keep the curtains open in our bedroom (sans naughty time). I've recently noticed that the female who lives in the apartment directly across from ours and the female in the apartment one floor below also leave their curtains open as they walk around half-naked. I'm not saddling up to the window for hours upon end, but on occasion I catch a glimpse of skin, and I'll admit that I don't turn away. I don't know whether my wife has noticed the neighbors, but I haven't told her that I have. I feel as if I'm hiding a secret from her and even committing a form of adultery by not walking away when I see them. Should I tell my wife so we can make a decision about what to do together (and hope she doesn't divorce me)? Or should I unilaterally reach out to the neighbors, telling them that my whole building has probably been getting a show for several months and they should be more aware of their actions?
—In the Window
What Would Tim Do?
Dear In The Window,
First of all, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t take this opportunity to choose a “sign off” name that references the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Rear Window.” Opportunity missed my friend.
As for the matter at hand, it strikes me that there are three people you need to consider here. Let’s start with you. Is it weird or unhealthy that you’re compelled to sneak peaks at your naked neighbors? Not at all. You’re hard wired to be compelled in that way. As long as you don’t act upon those urges or allow yourself to become obsessed, you’re cool.
I’m not saying that there’s not a line you can cross here. There definitely is. Let’s all agree that filming your neighbor and posting her on YouTube is crossing the line.
Taking the occasional peak and allowing yourself to become titillated though…hell, we’ve all got bigger fish to fry.
The second person to think about is your “gorgeous wife.” She might not be down with the “hard-wired” idea. Best not to ogle obviously. Again, until you cross the line and start staking out your neighbor’s lobby, you’re not committing any egregious offenses.
And the third person to consider is your neighbor. Are you obliged to somehow warn her that you (and surely a lot of your building-mates) can see her naked every night? No. That’s on her. Having lived in a building similar to yours, I was always aware that my life was an open book when the lights were on and the blinds were open.
She is surely aware of what she’s doing and might find it titillating to think about strangers ogling her from across the alley. She may be putting herself at some risk in the event that one of your neighbors does cross the line to obsession and becomes dangerous but that risk is probably pretty small.
All in all, let your neighbor continue to pursue what excites her and don’t beat yourself up too much for what is a very natural response to visual stimulation. Keep it in check and be cool about it.
And now for the actual response from an actual advice columnist…
Dear In the Window,
Virtually any heterosexual man finding himself in your situation would conclude he's got a Donald Trump-like gift for picking real estate. Since we're making comparisons with The Donald, who is also an expert on adultery, let's narrow the definition of it to actually having sexual contact with a woman other than your wife. As for your plans of attack, let's take the second option first. If you secretly make the rounds of the Victoria's Secret models across the way and explain to them the distress their dishabille causes you, that will surely be the day your wife does glance out the bedroom window at the neighborhood lovelies and wonders what in the world you're up to. So forget the friendly lecture. But since your voyeuristic impulse and subsequent guilt are bothering you, go ahead and mention the peep show to your wife. She may surprise you and suggest the two of you discreetly catch a Saturday matinee. If, however, she (ridiculously) gets all huffy that you didn't run in horror when you realized the neighbors were scantily clad, you should point out that while you two draw the curtain for your own "naughty time," that leaves a lot of your own half-dressed lives on display. It's possible your entire neighborhood is engaged in an endless round-robin of Rear Window. You could suggest that you get some sheer bedroom curtains so you continue to get light but don't put yourselves on view. And if it happens that when you're alone in the bedroom, the sheers somehow get nudged open a crack, and you see that next door the show goes on, consider it a freebie.
Agree or disagree? Have a different take? Put up or shut up in the Comments section!