> Two years ago, my stepson and his English bride held their three-day wedding celebration at his mother’s home. She, my husband, and I rented a tent, tables, and chairs, and bought the wine. Their 100 guests were asked to pay for the food (after paying for international flights), and then we all cooked endlessly. The couple pretty much sat back and watched everyone work. Now my stepdaughter is turning 30, and my stepson is asking everyone to do it again. I am embarrassed. Can I say anything?
S.J. / Brookline
They. Did. What?
Yes, you can say something. You can say: “Happy birthday, dear. I’m sorry we can’t attend.” Your stepson and his wife aren’t yours to discipline (because they’re thirtysomething, not because of the “step” business), but you absolutely must not help fund this travesty of hospitality. If pressed, explain that you are uncomfortable with that style of entertaining. If pressed further — oh, what the heck, if they give you anything like a hard time — then don’t hold back. (Unless it’s a question of maintaining a peaceful marriage with your stepson’s father. What’s his take?)
If they do go through with it, then tempting though it might be to call Immigration and report all these undocumented kitchen workers, you must restrain yourself.
I feel sorry for anyone who got hornswoggled into the indentured servitude wedding. Anyone who RSVPs “yes” for round two, however, deserves to be exploited like an Oompa Loompa. There is a point at which one is complicit in one’s own victimization, and that point is well short of this.
> Our neighbors’ fence is partially down, and they let their two dogs run free. A few weeks back, the larger dog stood in the middle of the street. It took a loud BEEP! to make him move. When I e-mailed my neighbor, she said she’d probably be apologizing a lot for the larger dog and thanked me for not hitting him. If I call animal control, they would probably know it was me. I don’t want to lose their friendship. What to do?
D.N. / Beverly
You’re going to lose their friendship if you run over one of their dogs, too, and probably your breakfast and several nights’ worth of sleep as well. How would you feel if another neighbor whom you are friends with — or one of your houseguests — killed one of the dogs? Or worse yet, injured but didn’t kill it. Work up a good driver’s ed movie about that in your mind — don’t forget sound effects! — if you need something to motivate you.
Give your neighbor fair warning, and then stiffen your spine and be the “bad guy.” Let them know that if you see the dogs on the street again, you will call animal control, for everyone’s safety. And then do so. What do other neighbors think about this situation? Surely, you can’t be the only one who is concerned. This would seem a worthwhile issue on which to bring some community pressure to bear. One possible option would be to put out treats in the hopes the dogs linger in your yard for a few hours, giving the neighbors a scare. If they’re as negligent as that lackadaisical e-mail suggests, though, this could end up with you having canine housemates for longer than you want.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Write to her at email@example.com. And read her blog at boston.com/missconduct.