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How to get a guest with a ‘lack of social graces’ to fall in line

“I’m concerned this woman may say something that makes the rest of my family want to do something not in line with a season of repentance.”

We will probably be seeing a woman soon who is notorious for her lack of social graces. In the past she invited herself and her daughter (a friend of the family) to our house for the High Holy Days, and told my mom she “wasn’t really Jewish” because she converted. My sister has been experiencing some medical issues lately and may look and act in ways that reflect them, and I’m concerned this woman may say something that makes the rest of my family want to do something not in line with a season of repentance. Suggestions?

Anonymous / Cambridge

Are you hosting this gathering? It’s not entirely clear. If so, know that the host of a party is like the captain of a ship: the person in authority with the power — and duty — to establish and communicate codes of conduct, warn offenders, and put people ashore or right overboard as necessary. The captain can also decide that unpleasant voyagers need not be invited on future excursions.

If you aren’t the host, talk to whomever is (your mother?) about your concerns, to ease your mind and to ensure that you are both on the same page about Graceless Guest’s behavior and appropriate responses thereto. You’ll feel more confident if there’s a bit of a game plan in place for whenever GG invariably commits her foul. If and when she does, there’s no need to sit silently and absorb insults. Replying “That was a rude thing to say — let’s change the subject” won’t add to your Yom Kippur atonement load.


You can also deprive GG of her disruptive power by simply laughing, saying “Wow” or “There’s a question,” and continuing on with whatever you were talking about. This is often the best option, because it treats the offense as not worthy of attention. If indeed your mother is the host, and has invited GG back despite that “you’re not really Jewish” crack, I’m tempted to say she probably sees GG as a bit of a Michael Scott-type who only embarrasses themselves, and might prefer this route. (If someone had said that to me in my own house I’d have shown them the door for their own benefit, since why would they want to break their fast in a non-Jewish household?)


Am I the only one who finds it annoying for people to share articles that require one to subscribe to the journal/newspaper to read them?

B.S. / Boston

It can leave you feeling like a media Tantalus, I agree! But not everything that’s annoying is the result of human misbehavior. You don’t know who among your friends might have a subscription, and some publications (like this very one) have X free articles per month, or only paywall some of their premium content. We post a lot of things on social media — events, referential jokes, etc. — that will only be accessible to a portion of our friends and followers.

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