Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a time, except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and still resides there. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.

This week's question comes from a New Yorker who wants to know if it's okay to exclude a friend with a bed bug problem from her party.

Hello Mr. Dobkin,

A friend of mine lives in an apartment in which one of the other roommates has bedbugs. A couple weeks has gone by and they have not had an exterminator in. Insane, right?

It becomes my problem because I'm having a party to which I plan to invite a circle of friends that includes the bug lady, and I don't plan to include her. Although she has no bites, I don't want the risk of her dropping any eggs or whatever at my place.

Is that OK?

DK in the BK

A native New Yorker responds:

Dear DK,

You are within your rights to exclude your infested friend from the party, just as you would be if you excluded a friend who had a case of some other highly contagious disease—the mumps or measles. This is even more understandable if the suspected carrier refused to be vaccinated, which is analogous to living in a bedbug apartment without taking any protective measures.

Of course, and this is the hard part, you must tell your friend why she is being dissed. Being ostracized from anything is terrible, but being excluded from a party by your friends with no explanation—that's the worst. (I assume you are friends, because no sane person would even contemplate inviting a mere acquaintance to a party at their home if they were suspected of hosting bedbugs on their person.)

So you must level with her. First, get yourself in the right mindset. Put aside the pejorative "bedbug lady"—that's a sign of lack of empathy. Let us agree to call her a "bedbug victim." After meditating for awhile on the cruel hazards and sudden disasters that the universe inflicts on the just and the unjust alike, pick up the phone, and say, "Hey Yo, you know I really like you but this apartment is a no bedbug zone." Then outline your reasons for concern: bedbugs can indeed travel on human clothing, her apartment has not yet been treated, and it would be unfair to expose your other friends to this avoidable hazard.

She may object! It's possible she has read the scientific literature and knows that bedbugs really don't like to travel on human skin (it's too warm), or even clothing that's close to skin, so unless she brings luggage to the party, the risk is low. Keep calm, and simply respond that a low risk is not no risk, and you're not prepared to roll the dice. If she persists, up the ante with this offer:

"You may attend the party, but I must insist that you strip naked in the hallway outside my apartment and put on this fashionable painter's coverall, and then bag your street clothes in two layers of garbage bag, and place them outside the building, to be carried away when you leave."

If you're really paranoid, you can ask her to strip in the street outside, but that seems unduly cruel to me.

She will probably refuse, which is the point. But if she hasn't already hung up on you, this is a good time to get real with her and ask why, for the love of all things holy, she hasn't yet called an exterminator. If you found out your roommate had ebola, would you just carry on for two weeks as if nothing was wrong? Bedbugs are the ebola of New York infestations. Her lackadaisicalness suggests a depressive tendency towards self-harm—a profound recklessness that should concern you as her friend.

With compassion, help her work through to address the deeper causes, and move forward to addressing this pestilence. Remind her that her landlord is required to provide an insect-free environment, and if they refuse, there are many well-reviewed bedbug exterminators in NYC, and she can deduct the costs from her rent (that part will probably require speaking to a tenants' lawyer, however.)

Remind her that though bedbugs are very annoying, there is no reason to become frozen with fear. So much of bedbug paranoia is a creation of the media, which reports each new infestation (of a subway car, of city hall, of a swank hotel) as if it's part of an unstoppable epidemic of giant mutant flying bedbugs attacking the city with laser beams. It is not—bedbug reports have actually been on the decrease the last five years. Here are the most recent numbers from HPD:

(via the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development)

So do not give in to fear and hysteria—we are winning the bedbug war. It's not easy, but your friend's apartment can be de-bugged and she can return to socializing with the rest of your gang. When she does, show her love; according to my sources, the worst part about bedbugs isn't the bites, it's the PTSD you experience afterwards, when every mosquito attack makes you think they're coming back.



N.B.: One office millennial here at Gothamist HQ suggests that you just move the party to a bar, which is a typically irresponsible millennial life-strategy that avoids conflict at the cost of potentially exposing innocent barflies to bedbugs. Take responsibility for this problem and confront your friend!

Ask a Native New Yorker anything via email. Anonymity is assured.