The problem: I’m an empty-nester with a neighbor who keeps inviting me to makeup and jewelry parties. I have no interest in these products or the forced social occasions they present. She works from home as a consultant for a cosmetics line, which is her only source of income. My backyard looks into hers, so I want to maintain a good relationship. How do I nicely tell her to stop inviting me? And why do women feel like they need to make money off their friends? So far, I’ve managed to have “conflicts” on party days.

Low road: Follow her lead. Start sending your grandkids to her door, at the dinner hour, to hawk Girl Scout cookies, gift wrap, plants, Christmas wreaths and your unused waffle iron. Don’t have grandkids? Borrow some. 

High road: Sounds like your neighbor is passionate about her work and is very good at it, too, if she’s making a living. Far from trying to entrap you, she probably thinks your feelings would be hurt if you weren’t invited to participate in her enthusiastic primers on flawless skin and defined eyebrows. You’re right to want to keep things friendly, and not mix business with pleasure. However, unless you want to come up with “conflicts” until you move into a retirement community, you need to put an end to this. Tell her how impressed you are with her ability to build her own business, but explain that, as an empty-nester, your needs have changed and your focus is on simplicity. That means spending and consuming less. Quickly follow that statement with an invitation to a casual dinner in your backyard, or to a movie and dessert, which provides you with an uninterrupted, and appropriate, social occasion to catch up on both of your lives. 

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