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This is petty, but — how can I dissuade my friend from clogging up our group chat with food pictures? He learned to cook this year, so when he posts his own cooking I want to be supportive. But now he’s just moved on to posting pictures of all the food he eats, whether he made it or not.

Anonymous / Somerville

Group chat irritations aren’t petty at all! The group chat is an underappreciated medium. I’m in a couple that have been a huge source of support over the past two years.

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Are other people in the chat annoyed by the one-man Food Channel as well? Maybe check with one or two to make sure you’re not the only one — but don’t follow up by confronting him with “we all think you should stop.” That approach makes a person paranoid and defensive, reasonably enough. Instead, suggest he start a food Instagram, and then a few others can chime in with what a good idea that is.


My sister had a baby in January. I’ve heard through family that she has threatened to cut me out of her life if I don’t visit before the baby turns 1. We were close until six to seven years ago, when my husband stayed home with our kids while I attended her adults-only second wedding. She lives a full day’s travel away (I’d have to take time off work), in a state with extremely low vaccination and masking rates. I want to model positive adult sibling relationships for my (too young to vaccinate) children! What do you suggest?

S.J. / Belmont

In life as in show biz, you don’t always get the role you want. Your sister is attempting to control and manipulate you and there is no good relationship to be had with someone who does that. The role of “BFF Sis” didn’t get offered to you, but the juicy cameo of “Boundary Queen” did, and as your agent, I advise you take it. Your children need to see this, too. If one of them, grown, were to be treated as your sister is treating you — what would you want them to do? Risk their health and that of your grandchildren to submit to another person’s frankly pointless demands? Probably not!

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Her rumor-grapevine ultimatum is bitterly hilarious, if you take a minute to absorb how weird that is. (I can just imagine your sister as a kidnapper, not saying what the ransom is or where to leave it, because, “If you really cared, you’d know!”) Does she think you are psychic? Of course not: It’s not about your powers of perception, it’s about her power to create the reality that the rest of you have to live in. You can — and for the sake of your children, must — deny that power. Do not respond to anything she (or anyone else, for that matter) doesn’t say directly to you, or allow her to punish you for perfectly reasonable behavior. Boundary Queen is a great role, S.J., You got this.


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