Miss Conduct

Can we invite only the cousin we like on vacation and not her annoying brother?

A tight-knit family has enjoyed time off together for years, but now there’s tension about adding to the mix.

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Every year my family — my wife and two kids, my sister, her husband and son, our parents, an uncle, and cousin “Yvonne” — rents a big house for vacation. This year, because of Mom’s ill health, we will travel to a resort near my parents’ home, but also cousin Yvonne’s. She lives with her brother, cousin “Ygor,” who rarely stops talking, acts like a know-it-all, and gets on people’s nerves. Some of us want to exclude him. But we will be vacationing nearby, with his sister, and I feel bad about leaving him out. What to do?


M.S. / Needham

Who are “some of us”? Whether to invite Ygor should be a group decision. Yvonne’s vote should be heavily weighted — probably the deciding one — as she’s the one who’ll either be getting no annual break from Ygor or dealing with a pouty resentful Ygor upon her return if he is not invited and takes it badly.

But will he? Ygor must have known about this family gathering for years now, through Yvonne. If that’s the case, the changed venue shouldn’t make that much of a difference. You can all say that you just want to keep as many things about the vacation the same as possible (perhaps for “Mom’s sake”). Also, what precedents are you setting? Does inviting Ygor one year mean he will recur annually, like ragweed?

And what if he does? I get — oh, M.S., believe me, I get — how annoying the Ygors of the world are. But they can be diluted — I count an 11:1 Non-Ygor:Ygor ratio in the party you describe. They can be disciplined — you can tell someone to give another person a chance to speak, to stop interrupting, to stop explaining people’s own areas of expertise to them. And they can be deserted — nothing wrong with wandering out of the room when someone is holding forth without end. Ultimately, it might be more comfortable to listen to Ygor for a week than to your conscience scolding you for a year.


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