By Christa Torralba

After weeks of watching the house across the street sit vacant and having grand visions of our perfect new neighbors who would, of course, become our best friends and we would have each other over for dinner … this was the question I was asked, “What’s your WiFi password?”

Let me back up to illustrate how squishy boundaries continue to pop up when you least expect it.

Four years ago, my partner and I moved into the perfect home for us. We took it as a sign that it was the first house our realtor took us to see, but also, it was a few blocks from our best friend’s home and the only people we knew in our new city. It was love at first sight.

My partner became good friends with the neighbor across the street, even though he moved a short time later once he bought his own dream home. Next came the fabulous couple who moved in, made major improvements to the house, had us over for dinner, and we became fast friends! Alas, they also eventually left to buy their first home.

Since we had such great success with all the prior tenants, our streak of luck was obviously going to continue. I waited patiently (well not really) watching the landlord show the house to many potential renters who all seemed like stellar choices – at least from the nosy vantage point of my kitchen window.

Finally, the big day. There was activity – many people moving things inside – it was impossible to tell who was actually moving in. And then, the disappointing realization. Not the exciting new couple I had envisioned having over for wine flights and gourmet dinners.

My dreams were dashed as I heard one of the girls talking from across the street about puking after the last keg party.

Days passed and we still had not met the new neighbors. Then came the unexpected knock on the front door around 5 pm. My dogs went ballistic. I angrily thought, anyone who knows me knows better than to knock on the door without texting first so I can deal with the dogs. The outrage! I went out onto my back porch to tell this obvious unwanted solicitator to go away. Looking over the fence though, I was faced with a college girl holding her laptop open and ready to type. She said she was my new neighbor and she needed my wifi password. Apparently, she had a homework assignment to turn in and the coffee shop she normally went to was closed, so she just needed to know what my password was so she could access my wifi. Her fingers were ready and she was nodding at me to go ahead, so she could type it in and do her homework.

I know what you’re thinking. Because the screaming in my head was so loud it was deafening.

“Then go to another coffee shop (there’s one a few blocks away with free wifi that stays open until 10 pm)! Are you crazy?! I don’t know you, have never met you before, but you think for some reason you are entitled to have my wifi password? Get your own damn wifi! This is making me wildly uncomfortable that you are asking me to give you this.”

And the inner monologue went on from there. But then started the other internal monologue. The one you also might be familiar with.

“Well, how can I not give it to her? I mean, she lives across the street now. She might think I’m a total bxxch.
She did say that she wasn’t a crazy person. How am I actually going to say no to this person in need? What if I needed something and was in dire straits?

I don’t want her first impression of the new neighbor-lady to be negative. I want her to see me as the cool, laid-back neighbor.

Maybe I could give it to her and then just change the password later (after she gets her homework in of course)? Why is she putting me in this awkward position? Do I have sucker written across my forehead? Why did she ask me first? She could have asked the neighbors on either side of her house much easier, and they are both home now because I just saw them a few minutes ago. I wish my partner was here. He would know how to deal with this request. Wait, would he just give it to her?! AM I a bxxch for not telling her my password?”

With diabolically opposed monologues running through my head, I managed to stammer out that we just had new internet installed (true) and ….. she filled in (probably because I looked so uncomfortable) “and you don’t know the password?” Yes, thank you entitled-new-neighbor for throwing me that bone. And truth be told, I don’t know the new password. You see, my partner is the techie one and he just texted me (“why are you rambling this clear lie and she knows you’re lying because you’re a terrible liar”) and he just finished teaching a class. You see, he’s a yoga teacher (“wait she still might like me and think I’m cool if I’m with a yoga teacher!”) but he might be at least an hour out. (“Do you think she bought it?”) I’m pretty sure she didn’t buy it. But still, that was enough to get her off my front porch with her saying it was no problem, she would just ask another neighbor.

Why am I telling you this? Because, I had been doing some serious work on setting boundaries in my personal and professional life.

I was way past realizing that having soft boundaries resulted in a majority of the unfortunate and unpleasant experiences in my personal and work life, and I had been creating more flexible boundaries – too rigid is also not great. And then entitled-neighbor-girl knocked on the door and I felt like I was back to square one. But I wasn’t. In fact, past-Christa would have invited her in to use the computer, free wifi and maybe even thrown in a snack plate.

Yes, I still had many of the same thoughts that plague those of us with squishy boundaries –feeling uncomfortable but not voicing that feeling and instead just going along with something that doesn’t feel quite right in your gut. And no, I didn’t firmly say “No, I’m uncomfortable with that request. There’s free wifi available at several coffee shops in your new neighborhood.” But, my work on boundaries gave me the awareness to realize that the second monologue (wanting to be liked, needing approval, doubting myself) was really just a story.

Squishy boundaries result in us telling ourselves a story…it’s a powerful story..but it’s just that – a story – and it isn’t real. The boundaries work continues.

And, no, you can’t have my wifi password.