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Miss Conduct

How to handle a teenage tag-along

My friend brings her daughter every time we meet. Plus, coping with a wealthy wine zealot.

How do you talk to a friend about not bringing her teenage daughter with her every time she visits? Or every time we make plans to hang out somewhere?

K.B. / Fort Worth

You talk to her when the kid’s in the bathroom, I guess, because when else could you? What an annoying situation. I’m tempted to suggest you team up with “Teena,” because she probably isn’t any keener on the non-peer-group hangout than you are. She’s your natural ally!

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But this immediately takes me to the idea that the situation doesn’t have to do with you at all. I can’t imagine your friend finds your company unfulfilling and drags her teen spawn along so that she’ll have a decent conversational partner. It’s not about you. It’s about Momfriend and Teena.

Which means that mentioning anything — and the way you do that is “Hey, I would love to have it just be us grown-up ladies this time. Is that all right?” — might bring up issues. Mother-daughter issues are the richest, most aromatic kind of issues. Maybe Teena needs extra adult supervision and companionship for reasons you don’t know; maybe Momfriend is low-key freaking out about her upcoming empty nest.

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Do you have a sense of what might be going on between Momfriend and Teena? Do you want to get in the middle of it? Those aren’t rhetorical questions. Maybe your answers are “I do” and “Heck, yes.” In that case, ask. But if you’re hesitant to open that can and find out what the worms look like, just wait it out. Teena will be out of the house before you know it.

Dining with friends who earn substantially more than I do, I requested that the person choosing the wine pick a bottle under $100. He ignored my request, ordered wine far more than $100, then ordered more. I could barely enjoy my meal. When the bill arrived, one of my other friends, sensing my discomfort, suggested that the two of them pay for dinner. I was relieved but also embarrassed. What’s a graceful way to set the tone so that my friends can order fancy wines and I can still drink within my budget?

J.S. / Cambridge

Your first friend behaved horribly, and the tab-picker-upper wasn’t bailing you out of your financial embarrassment, he was bailing Mr. Oblivious out of his moral embarrassment, which in a just universe ought to have been paralyzingly severe.

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Either be more militant about what your financial contribution will be to the group bottle, or buy your own — or even drink cocktails! — by the glass. (It’s what you’d do if everyone else wanted white and you wanted red, isn’t it?) You’re not on shaky ground, about wine or money or manners.

You feel self-conscious because you don’t have a lot of money. But I guarantee that if you were a rich person with a strongly held belief that no wine should ever cost more than $50, you wouldn’t hesitate to share that belief with your friends and demand that they excuse you from contributing to any bottle that cost more. Assume that confidence if it doesn’t come naturally.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

DO YOUR OBLIVIOUS FRIENDS DRIVE YOU TO DRINK? Send your questions to Miss Conduct at missconduct@globe.com.
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