Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: My Muslim neighbor is embarrassed to be seen without her headscarf. Should I pretend I don't see her?

By Dianne Ackerman  | November 22, 2019 - 9:00AM

You don't have to ignore your neighbor; a quick hello will suffice.


Dear Ms. Demeanor,
I have a Muslim neighbor and sometimes when I am leaving my apartment, I will run into her when she is throwing out the garbage. She doesn’t always have her khimar on and she seems uncomfortable when she sees me and often runs back into her place. I want to be respectful of her faith but it feels rude to pretend I don’t see her. How should I handle this?
Signed, Puzzled in Pelham

Dear Puzzled,

This reminds me of little kids who cover their eyes when they don’t want you to see them. It also reminds me of my neighbor Richie (may he rest in peace) who used to throw out the garbage in just his underpants. That’s when I ran back into my apartment!

I respect your desire to be respectful but the problem really isn’t yours. Your neighbor may be upset to be seen without her head covering, but it might be a hassle to have to put it on just go to the hallway trash chute—that is her issue to deal with. You don’t have to pretend that you don’t see her—just smile and say hello as you would if you saw her outside. If you ever have a chance to speak with her, you may tell her that it does not matter to you whether or not she wears her khimar in the hallway, and that you are not one to pass judgment. 

Meanwhile, make sure that you don’t throw out your garbage wearing only underpants.

Ms. Demeanor

Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.


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