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    Miss Conduct

    Advice on dealing with difficult neighbors

    Plus, wedding invites and thank yous.

    Lucy Truman

    Nine years ago our neighbors embarked on a home renovation. They put a storage pod next to the property line between our homes, where it stays to this day. The pod doors are ajar and everything inside is sodden and filthy. Animals live inside and out; our dog has hookworm from the rabbits. Whenever we’ve spoken to our neighbors we’ve gotten excuses and assurances. What approach should we take to get things cleaned up? Invite them over for a drink and suggest that we’d love to help by making the two phone calls, one to the junkman and one to the pod company?

    A.D. / Cambridge

    Let’s tweak that approach a wee bit. You have a drink, a nice stiff one, and then you call your neighbors, informing them that in one week you will be calling the city to report the condition of the pod. A week later, when your neighbors still haven’t done anything, you call the city.

    If you wanted to make the official call the first and only one, that, too, would be acceptable. This situation has gone far past diplomacy. Your health and property values are being put at serious risk, and the vermin and squalor aren’t improving the quality of life for the rest of the block.


    You’ve clearly been living podside so long that the situation has begun to feel almost normal, which in Bizarro World logic means you are the troublemaker for upsetting the status quo. But that’s pod thinkin’, son! The pod needs to go. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter if calling the city makes your neighbors feel bad. It doesn’t matter if they get angry at you. Their feelings do not make you the bad guys.

    My son is getting married this summer and has informed me that he is not inviting my only sister and sister-in-law, and none of his eight first cousins. They are my only family (his father and I are divorced). I know it’s his wedding, but what is the proper etiquette here? I am having a difficult time coping with his decision, and my family will be very hurt.

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    R.M. / Boston

    Have you talked to your son? It’s his wedding, and it’s about him and the relationships he wants to celebrate, not about you and yours — yada yada, you know that. But parents of the wedding couple are often allowed a guest or two.

    Tell your son that it would mean a lot to you if his aunts were included, and he can consider one of them your “plus one,” if necessary. (Don’t bother about the cousins. That’s not going to happen.) He’ll probably go along with your request unless he has some specific reason for not wanting his aunts there.

    So ask! Ask once. Ask nicely. And then accept the answer.

    We registered for our baby shower with Amazon. One of our guests purchased a gift two weeks before the shower and had it shipped directly to us. Do we send a thank you now or wait until after the shower?


    M.D. / Denver

    You can write the note now to save time later, if you like (thank you notes are a less onerous chore when written in small batches), but mail it after the shower. Your friend may wish to cherish the idea that you will open her gift at the shower, where it can receive its due quota of oohs-and-aahs along with the other presents.

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

    WHAT PROBLEMS DO YOU FACE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? Write to Miss Conduct at And get advice live during a chat with Robin Abrahams this Wednesday, March 19, from noon to 1 p.m.