miss conduct chat transcript

February 6, 2008

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February 6, 2008

Robin_Abrahams: Howdy, everyone! How is it February already? When did that happen? It just seems there's been so very much going on ... I hope any Pats fans out there have recovered from Sunday, that anyone hoping for closure on Tuesday has steeled themselves for another long slog of campaigning, and that my Catholic chatters are feeling able to get into the spirit of Lent despite how early it's come this year. (The weather must help with that, I should think. I'm not even Catholic and I'm feeling rather Lenten myself on such a grey, sad, contemplative day!) So what's on everyone's mind BESIDES sports, politics, and religion? (Not that we can't talk about those too ...)

franktank__Guest___Guest_: I am throwing a shower for my sister, she is on bed rest but her husband is going to drive her to my house. I have asked roughly 20 guests, some of which are not fans of children, one has asked to bring her dog (which i'm OK with) but one asked to bring her 2 year old. I was put on the spot and said, "well, you know X and Y don't like kids, and the dog Lilly, isn't good with kids, so use your judegment". What do i do now? I am thinking she's bringing the kid, who is stressful and messy.

Robin_Abrahams: I'm thinking an anti-child baby shower is a rather odd concept. The event is to celebrate children, not dogs, so kids should get priority. (If it were a "meet the new puppy" party or a rescue dog's Gotcha Day celebration, it would be different.) But your sister's the one who's disrupting her bed rest and making the schlep and expressing all the joy (which can be exhausting!), so you should ask her what would make the event least stressful, and most pleasant, for her. I'd suggest no dogs OR kids, if she's really having a rough time of it.

Fedd__Guest_: My boyfriend's best friend is a nice guy and I don't mind socializing with him. The best friend is married with a daughter. The problem arises when almost every weekend we like to socialize, and then the best friend asks to socialize with us, but then brings along his 16 year old daughter. She is a great kid, but I don't want to socialize with a 16 year old when I dont have much free time as it is. How do I tell my boyfriend to tell the best friend not to bring the daughter?

Robin_Abrahams: Wow, what's with all the hatin' on the young 'uns today? I don't think it's your place to tell your boyfriend whom he can and can't socialize with. He obviously likes the girl, or else he'd suggest the occasional adults-only get-together. If you don't enjoy spending time with Friend and Friendette Jr., don't. Couples don't have to do all their socializing in tandem.

Cassie__Guest_: Speaking of dogs, thank you for linking the article on the happy endings for the dogs that were rescued from Michael Vick's property

Robin_Abrahams: Oh, wasn't that the BEST? For any who don't read my blog or haven't seen the news elsewhere, Michael Vick's (surviving) pit bulls are in shelters or foster homes, and have been assessed as psychologically sound enough for adoption. Happy, happy news.

Robin_Abrahams: No more questions so far so I'll ask one--is anyone giving up anything interesting for Lent? Also, can any Catholics enlighten me--can you do *positive* practices for Lent, too, instead of/in addition to negative (i.e. giving up things) ones? Like, instead of giving up a vice, adopt a virtue instead? (Say the rosary every day, reach out to someone in need every day, etc.)

Robin_Abrahams: Well, since no one wants to talk to me, I multitasked on over to Wikipedia and found this: "There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations." So it is both positive and negative. Look, we don't HAVE to talk about Lent, but unless I start getting questions ...

Cassie__Guest_: Oh Robin. Guess you never went to Catholic school. It's always about the negative.

Robin_Abrahams: Heee! I did *teach* at a Catholic college for two years, but they were pretty liberal.

938282__Guest_: I was wondering what to do if you get into good colleges and your friends don't get into any/ the ones they want to it is very akward.

Robin_Abrahams: Oh, it is. Have a talk about the awkwardness--your friends should be able to express their disappointment, and let you express your happiness, in ways that don't impinge upon/judge/buzzkill the other. This kind of thing just takes practice, practice, practice, and these kinds of situations will ALWAYS be with you--your friend will get the dream job while you're still a barista, you'll find Mr./Ms. Right while they're still trolling ... eventually their kids will get into Harvard and *yours* go to State! Accepting the ups and downs of our respective fortunes is part of friendship. Whatever good fortune you have now that your friends are missing out on, someday the situation will reverse. Act now as you'd like to be treated then.

Cassie__Guest_: What do I do with a no longer close friend who doesn't drive. I know I will run into her at Spring Training next month. I just know that I will offer transportation. The thing is her agenda is very different than mine.

Cassie__Guest_: A follow-up. It's not like I can pretend not to know she has no way around, other than taxis.

Robin_Abrahams: I assume you mean time agenda, not, like, personal agenda. Offer her rides when you can--let her know in advance, if/when possible, so she can plan--but you're not responsible to be her chauffeur. The main thing is to decide what you can and can't (will or won't) offer ahead of time, so you're not all "erm"-y and squirmy about it.

obamain08___Guest_: An acquaintance of mine always launches into a monologue on the latest trials and tribulations of her life every time I see her. The last time she did this I desperately needed to go to bed (I was getting up at the crack of dawn the next day) but all my gentle hints of "Gee, it's getting late, I should really head off to bed" were ignored. I'm told she does this to other people too. Any ideas, short of standing up and saying, "I really have to go NOW" and leaving in mid-monologue?

Robin_Abrahams: And whom did *you* vote for yesterday? ;-> If people don't take gentle hints, don't feel bad about being blunt. You can be extremely blunt and still be kind and good-natured. (It kind of helps to have grown up with my mother to know how to do this right, but I bet you could still get the hang of it.) Something like "I am SO SORRY to hear all these things! I really want to hear the end of it but I've simply got to go now. E-mail me next week, okay? (or some similar promise of future connection."

sonic__Guest_: We are expecting our second child and found out a couple of weeks ago that we will have a girl. We shared this news with my mother last night and she looked like we'd just told her that we were both quitting our jobs to breed cats. She already knew that we're expecting, so there was no big surprise in the announcement and I'm not really sure what her dissapointment was. Our first child is a boy, and she only had girls, so maybe she was hoping for another boy? I'm not sure if I should try to talk to her about it, or just wait till it all resolves itself when the baby arrives.

Robin_Abrahams: Well, that's weird. Are you from a culture that's really sexist that way? But I'm sure you'd have told me if you were. Maybe just sit with it for a while and see how your feelings evolve. In a week it might seem like no big deal--or it might still be nagging at you. (Or if it's been long enough and you're still bothered, then yes, ask her what was up. Otherwise you'll be able to give yourself no peace.)

Cassie__Guest_: Thank you. Sound advice. I had it in my head it would be "all" or "nothing".

Robin_Abrahams: Oh, I'm a BIIIIIG all-or-nothing thinker, myself! Just ask my husband, my best friends, my therapist ... funnily enough, writing this column has helped me get over it! Once I realized that the right answer for *other people* is usually not black-and-white, I've started being a little more flexible even with myself!

Robin_Abrahams: So, Monday I was walking to work and saw (in addition to the "S&M Food Services" truck ...) a guy riding a *unicycle* while holding up a big "Obama 2008" sign! Is that cool or what. Wouldn't it be fun if more people showed support for their favorite candidates that way? Fireeaters for McCain, jugglers for Clinton, tightrope walkers for Huckabee ...

Cassie__Guest_: In suburbia, all I saw was glum looking people holding signs. No unicycles in sight.

Robin_Abrahams: Well, there was just the one in Harvard Yard. But yes, if you're going to hold a sign for your candidate, look HAPPY about it. No need to be manically gleeful, but try not to look like Eeyore. "Oh, you might as well go ahead and vote for So-and-So ... how much worse can things get."

Robin_Abrahams: In fact (I'm only holding forth on these little monologues 'cause I'm not getting a ton of questions) I think that in general the concept of being a good advertisement for your beliefs is a simple yet profound--and sometimes difficult to live--principle. Would it appear to the outside observer that your values make you happy? Compassionate? Interesting? Balanced? If the only Obama supporter or conservative or Muslim or vegetarian or AA member or *whatever* someone knew was you, what generalizations would they draw about your group?

DMajor__Guest_: I'm originally from New Jersey, went to school in upstate New York, and lived in Brooklyn for awhile before moving to Boston. I don't think I ever saw *people* holding politician signs until I moved here.

DMajor__Guest_: It looked funny to me, like human flower vases or human flagpoles or something. Signs are for sticking into the ground. Getting people to stand around holding them seemed part of an old Boston political culture, like something out of The Last Hurrah.

DMajor__Guest_: (Okay, that's not a question...)

Robin_Abrahams: Well, we seem to have transcended the q&a format in today's chat, for whatever reason. But it's not purely a Boston thing; people did it in Kansas City, too, where I used to live. Don't know about other places.

Chris__Guest_: Robin, help me come to peace with my world. ... Cellphones in public bathroom, trash just left on the subway, spitting and smoking on a crowded train platform.... we're surrounded by inconsiderate and immature ...adults! What's one to do? just stay quiet? confront them? seems my choice is either to fume in silence or open myself up for hostility. Suggestions?

Robin_Abrahams: Meditate. Read Viktor Frankl. He was a mid-20th-century psychologist/philosopher. He managed to find meaning and dignity in a concentration camp. You can manage it on the subway. (I'm not being snide, truly. I think you need some kind of spiritual/philosophical practice to help you deal with your anger. Your question is an excellent one--I might try to blog about it later in the week.)

nice__Guest_: My brother has taken to "blogging" on a weekly basis in a forum available for public view. Recently, he's included pictures and detailed desriptions of family events. Am I out of line to tell him to stop, or at least not include photos or details regarding my family (and small children)?

Robin_Abrahams: NO! You are not out of line, not one bit. Do speak to him, let him know what your personal boundaries are, and ask him to remove anything that you're uncomfortable with.

Robin_Abrahams: Well, it's 1pm and NOW the questions are coming in like mad! Tune in next time (February 20, same time & cyberplace) and I might get to a few of the "oldies" before new ones start coming in. Or you can send them to Stay dry and calm and happy, y'all, and come back in two weeks and in the meantime, please read my blog at Thanks for another terrific chat!

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