Miss Conduct

Canine conundrum

Dealing with dogs, addressing undertippers, and stopping guest-list snoopers.

> At a gathering at my brother’s, his own and other relatives’ big dogs were everywhere. My brother knows the dogs bother our 80-year-old parents (especially my mom, who has asthma), but I don’t think his wife does. Their place is small, so the dogs are all over you. What’s the etiquette when a host has guests who are uncomfortable with dogs?

C.M. / Westborough

It’s not a guest’s place to improve a host’s hosting capabilities. In fact, doing so is insulting to both the host and the guest, who should be considered able to speak up for his or her own interests. But come on, C.M., this is family! Families take responsibility for one another. So get on the horn (never criticize someone over e-mail, if you can help it, because it’s a hostile-sounding medium, at best) and explain to your brother and his wife that the dogs need to be outside when Mom and Dad come over. And start assuming more hosting duties yourself, if that’s what it takes to achieve human-only parties.

> I took a cab through Boston on a busy Friday night with a friend. The tab was $18. The cab didn’t take cards and I didn’t have cash, so my friend paid — with a $20 bill, and asked for $1 back. She is conscientious, caring, smart, and good at math. I don’t recall her being cheap with tips before. I felt karmically awful after exiting the cab. How should a situation like that be handled?

K.I. / Concord


A restaurant is one thing, but there probably wasn’t much you could do, exiting the cab in the middle of a busy city street. If it hasn’t been too long, you might ask your friend if there was something amiss with the driver that she only tipped a dollar. (If it’s been weeks, let it go.) She may have had a reason you didn’t realize or have just made a flustered mistake that she herself feels bad about. If it turns out she does have a philosophy of undertipping, now you know, and you can revise your opinion of her accordingly. Either way, make sure to carry plenty of small bills the next time you go out together. 

> I recently hosted a gathering to which I had invited “Jim,’’ who asked me why I had not invited “Kathy.’’ I ended up inviting her because of this, but was resentful. I had not invited Kathy originally because I do not always enjoy her company. Should I have felt obligated to invite her? Also, is it OK for Jim to make such inquiries?

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A.S. / Burlington

You shouldn’t have felt obligated. In the same breezy voice you’d use if it were actually true, you should have responded, “Oh, I just couldn’t have everyone this time.” You can’t have everyone you want to every party, after all.

It’s not usually a good idea to ask who’s invited and who isn’t, because of the possibility of embarrassing the host (as Jim did) or sounding as though you yourself will only attend if certain A-listers can be guaranteed. However, it’s one of those faux pas that almost everyone commits sooner or later, because we’ve been meaning to return Kathy’s copy of A Game of Thrones for weeks now and, oh, good, maybe she’ll be there Friday night. So don’t get annoyed at Jim because you caved under surprise pressure and invited Kathy.

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

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