I live in a townhouse. The walls between units, despite appearing to be made of solid concrete, seem to actually amplify rather than muffle sound. The neighbor on one side of me is pretty reasonable about how much noise he makes, and when. The ones on the other side, I’ve nicknamed the Howler Monkeys, because that’s what they sound like when they have sex. Their preferred time seems to be about 4AM. They tend to have several bouts of half an hour on, half an hour off, which is just enough time for me to start to doze off, then get woken up again. Sleep deprivation is a migraine trigger for me. My partner moved in with me a month ago, and it’s driving him batty too. He has a high-stress job and if he’s not fully awake and on the ball, people can get hurt. We do want to move, but financially and logistically we can’t swing it right now.
The obvious solution would be to wear earplugs, except that every brand of earplugs I’ve tried is uncomfortable enough that they keep me awake just as effectively as the HMs do. My partner can wear earplugs comfortably, but my startle response when the HMs wake me up, wakes him up.
The next step, I suppose, would be to talk to them, which would be awkward enough if we had a friendly-neighbor relationship, but (for reasons I’ll describe) we really, really don’t. Plus this has been going on for just short of TWO YEARS so it’s extra weird to say anything now.
The reason it’s gone on so long is, at first I let it slide because it was the least bad of their behaviours. Plus the boyfriend was really large and hyper-masculine and aggressive-looking, and at the time I lived alone and frankly I didn’t feel safe confronting them directly. When their parties were too loud, and/or broke into fistfights in the parking lot, I’d call the police; when they left their empty beer cans, broken dishes, and cigarette butts in my planters or stomped around in my flowerbeds, I’d call the landlord. When they were having sex, at least I wasn’t sitting by the phone trying to decide on the threshold for calling 911 – too early and I’m a whiner, too late and I’ll need an ambulance as well as police.
She’s no longer with the asshole boyfriend whose asshole friends were the cause of the violence and property damage, but the loud sex with subsequent partners goes on. The gratitude that at least nobody is getting beat up is fading. We are getting to the end of our ropes. Something has to change.
Also some possible overthinking: Ms HM is young enough that probably porn has been the primary – maybe only – shaper of her sexuality. She may well think 90dB is normal, natural, even required. Her partner(s), being about that age too, might have that same expectation. Ms HM appears to be a dedicated patriarchy-complier. I’ve never seen her outdoors other than perfectly coiffed and made up and shaved and waxed and preened and fashionably dressed. So she’s probably living under a significant burden of pressure and shame about her body and sexuality. Being told to cut the howler monkey antics could hit her pretty hard, and not in a good way.
So Captain Awkward, what should I/we do?
Best Regards and thanks for any advice you can offer,
Sleepless in an Undisclosed Location
I love your letter because it’s a good example of not speaking up, letting things to on too long, and then working yourself up and worrying about other people’s feelings way more than you worry about your own quality of life. Your neighbor’s relationship with the patriarchy is not your problem. Your sleepless nights are.
We’ve been hearing some loud noises late at night (4am-ish) and they are waking us up. Can you keep it down?
If the noise level does go down and you start living in peace and quiet again, bake some cookies and drop them by with a friendly note. “Hey, we really appreciate your courtesy and hope all is well with you. Thank you for understanding.”
If the noise keeps going, or worse, escalates in some kind of hostile exhibitionist display, somewhere in your lease there has to be language about noise and the tenant’s right to not be disturbed by their neighbors. Pull that clause out, and write a letter to your landlord documenting everything and asking him or her to step in. Depending on how evil you are, this may include an audio recording of the problem.
You have the right to ask them to be quiet and to ask the landlord to enforce that. May not work, and you said you can’t move out right now. Audio nerds to the rescue! Implement some creative decorating and soundproofing solutions. A bunch of sound blankets hung on the offending wall, with nice floor-to-ceiling drapes over them to hide them might turn you bedroom into a cushy cave where you can get some sleep for a change.
I feel like a lot of apartment-dwellers read this site, so here also is advice on how to BE a polite sexy neighbor.