Miss Conduct

When friends give you something for nothing

How do you repay a pal who works for you for free? Plus, when kids run wild at a wedding shower.

Illustration by Lucy Truman

> My best friend of more than eight years is my hairstylist. I have always received free hair services, which is very generous of her. I used to try to tip her, but she would never accept. She recently did a treatment that took three hours. Is a thank you gift appropriate? Or should I just tip her the cost of it?

C.E. / Boston

Give her a thank you gift or take her out for a nice dinner. Tipping a friend is fine if you’re actually doing tip-worthy business with her, but given that she isn’t charging you, tipping would seem to demote her from friend to hairdresser. That’s the instinct you have, too, isn’t it? So listen to yourself.


However, economic times being what they are, it would be kind to have a sit-down with her and ask if she’s still comfortable with the free services. You can let her know that if things ever do change, if she should ever not be able to afford to give her services away, you would be happy to pay. Also, ask her what you could do to support her business. Maybe you could “pay” for her services in another way, by bartering your own skills (I’ve traded editing for housecleaning help and pies before) and by helping her promote her business with referrals, “liking” the salon on Facebook, or whatever.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here


> While planning a bridal shower for a niece, we decided no small children would be invited. But when some cousins said “all their friends bring their children everywhere they go,” one of the co-hosts decided to include them. There were 45 women at the shower, and the kids were allowed to run wild. Is it now the norm to include children in all events? Am I wrong, or just in the wrong decade?

S.C. / Wellesley

Maybe you’re in the wrong family. I’m diagnosing a few problems with this shower:

A 45-person guest list? That’s just a wee bit unmanageable and suggests fund-raiser more than intimate gathering. The latter, incidentally, is what a shower ought to be. Bringing babies to non-baby events is obnoxious, but somehow a more forgivable sin when the event leans toward the wild-and-woolly side.


Lack of a united front. Host committees must act in concert. The pushy cousins at least asked if they could bring their kids (dismayingly often, children are simply dragged along without the hosts’ permission), so you really can’t blame them. Next time you plan a party with other people, set the rule that the entire group has to agree before you change anything.

Lack of follow-through. If children were to be included, there should have been some area set aside for them, with activities and whatnot. Including children in an adult event means giving them something to keep them occupied and peaceful or deciding that the chaos is part of the fun.

Expecting parents to be sane. You sound a bit judgmental about your cousins’ child-rearing philosophy – but I can’t blame you on that one. Grown-ups are grown-ups and children are children, and, good heavens, you’re not supposed to want to be with each other all the time. However, this isn’t your problem, and if there are flaws in your cousins’ methods, those will become evident in time. Shake your head, roll your eyes, and let it go.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Write to her at And read her blog at