Do You Watch Your Neighbors Through Their Windows?

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"Oh, look! Ugly Naked Guy got a girlfriend!" Photo: Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images

Recently, at a cocktail party in Tribeca, someone pointed in the direction of Justin Timberlake's apartment up the street. "He used to have normal curtains, but now he has these blackout curtains that don't let in any light," observed the neighbor. On the way home, we looked up at the pop star's apartment, and it was true — not an ounce of light escaped. It was like London in 1941 (except, you know, kind of the opposite). "That's sad," we thought. "Justin can't even have a view, for fear of people peeping in." Of course, we were only sad for a moment; then we went back to resenting him for his money, baby face, and ability to dance while wearing leather. But it did make us empathetically recall a time when, once, we felt the glare of peeping eyes.

A few years back, we were waiting in line at the secret bar on the roof of the Maritime Hotel at some party or other. We were standing with our boyfriend at the time, when the person in front of us idly turned around and made eye contact. We smiled. He gasped and turned white. "Are you okay?" we asked. "You're — you're that couple!" he said, stammering. "I live in the building right behind you." "Really?" we asked, admitting we could not remember having seen him in the neighborhood. "Oh, uh, I've seen you on the subway," he said, flushing, and then suddenly and swiftly walking away.

Needless to say, we did not fool around with the curtains up ever again.

According to the Times, peeping through windows at one's neighbors is a way of life here in the city. The paper spoke this week to several people who feel like they have relationships with neighbors they've never met, just because they've seen so much of their lives through open windows. Anecdotally, this seems to be true — it's been noted in movies like Rear Window and TV shows like Friends and Seinfeld. One time, at an event at her apartment, Alexis Stewart (daughter of Martha) pointed out to us a skylight below her window that peeked into someone's kitchen far below. "I've seen them have sex on the marble island," she observed, dryly.

"In a large city where there’s a lot going on around you, it can feel very isolating and lonely," one source, an artist, explained to the Times. "By having contact with these total strangers through the window, it’s a safe way of having a relationship without the hard part of a relationship." Readers, we want to hear about your experiences peeping or being peeped at. Seen anything crazy? Developed a relationship with anyone? Tell us about it! Except if you are a neighbor of a Daily Intel editor. Everybody knows we blog in our underwear, and nobody wants to hear any more about it.

Window Watchers in a City of Strangers [NYT]