Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World

Dear Amy: I moved in with my boyfriend fairly recently. His mother, “Betty,” comes to the house every day while we are at work and lets the dogs out and helps in the yard.

We are totally fine with that and are openly very appreciative; she is a fantastic person and I’m grateful to be accepted into such an awesome family.

Amy, we have not asked her for this help. She does it as a kindness, but unfortunately it has gotten a bit out of hand. She decorates to her liking (we change it back). The pool will be skimmed, and the skimmings will be left in a pile, which we have to clean up. The dogs will track mud around the house, which I will have to scrub off the floor. The kitchen cabinets get rearranged and we’re unable to find things.

These are minor inconveniences, but I would like to do these tasks on my own schedule.

I stress out every day on my way home, wondering what will be changed today. My boyfriend puts off talking to her about this, because we know she will be upset.

How do I gracefully decline an act of kindness/favor that I did not ask for? I do not want this put on me, and I’m not sure I should be apologetic, but I don’t want to upset anyone.

What should I do?

— Wondering

Dear Wondering: Let’s review: Every day, someone comes to your house and deals with your dogs. She also skims the pool and does little chores. You don’t have to arrange for these visits, pay a fee or deal with complications of the dogs adjusting to new people.

Given that dog walkers (in cities) can cost upwards of $500/month, Betty’s services are basically gold-plated. It might be worth it to put up with what you call “minor inconveniences,” and when you come home each night and see the pool skimmings in a pile (for instance), say, “Yay! Betty was here!”

You should consider very carefully the value of this service before complaining about it.

All the same, it is definitely a breach to have someone redecorate your house. Assuming that Betty is creating busy-work while she’s with the dogs (and is not suffering with a cognitive illness), I hope you can say to her, “Betty, can I bring up one issue? It drives me a little crazy when we come home and the cabinets and furniture are rearranged. I know it might look like a mess to you, but things here are the way we want them.” (Also, given that she has a key to the house, you should secure any personal documents or items you don’t want her to have access to.)

If you want to decline this daily effort, say: “Thank you so much for your kindness, but we can’t accept it any longer. We’re truly appreciative, but now we need to make a change.” And then you can send Betty to me.

Dear Amy: Why do people send wedding and shower invitations, and then tell you what gifts to give?

In my day, people had manners.

Some of these brides and grooms have parents who are just as bad. These people find your address, somehow, but you’ve never met them, and they don’t get in touch with you otherwise. My solution: Ignore these invitations. There is no excuse for bad manners.

— Disgusted

Dear Disgusted: You’re right. There is no excuse for bad manners. So, let’s do you.

You’re a bit unclear about the circumstances surrounding this deluge of invitations from near-strangers, but ignoring an invitation is not a solution, it is rude and inconsiderate. You need not feel pressured to give a gift if you are not attending, and so you can safely ignore registries or suggestions.

Surely, back in the day (when people had manners), they knew to always politely RSVP to an invitation, regardless of the invitation’s source.

Think about what kind of message you are sending by refusing to respond to any invitation you receive.

Rise above and respond appropriately, or you may find yourself being excluded from things on purpose, including events you actually want to attend.

Dear Amy: First the NFL, now Ask Amy. Like other readers, I cannot believe your PC attitude and your BS about “cultural appropriation” on Halloween.

What if a person from India decided to dress up like a hockey player on Halloween? Wouldn’t that offend Canadians?

— Former Reader

Dear Former: I doubt it.

Contact Amy Dickinson at:

askamy@amydickinson.com