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The Boston Globe

Magazine

Miss Conduct

The unkind kidder

When to put up with someone who follows up insults with ‘just joking.’ And when not to.

> A neighbor often stops to say hi and chat — then makes offensive off-color remarks and adds that he is only joking. The last time I ran into him, he made a rude remark about my daughter. Now with the good weather coming, it is just a matter of time before we bump into him again. My husband plans to insult his kids. I also feel like giving him a zing back. However, the adult side of me says not to stoop to his level. Please tell me what you think is the best way to deal with this.     D.V. / Watertown

There’s a part of me that frankly delights in the prospect of suburban fathers getting into an ever-escalating game of the dozens using each other’s children. “Your kid’s quantitative SAT score is so low I thought it was your credit rating.” That part of me, however, would be more properly employed directing an improv comedy troupe than writing an etiquette column.

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