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Miss Conduct

A little matzo etiquette, please

Where not to hide the afikomen. Plus, how to call a politician.

A friend recently told me of a Passover Seder where the afikomen was hidden in the toilet tank. Sure, it was in a sealed plastic bag, but people had to eat it afterward! Please tell me I’m not alone in finding that disgusting.

M.G. / Arlington

One does not even have to know what an afikomen is to agree that one should not be hidden in the toilet tank. (For those not in the know, it’s pronounced ah-fee-KOH-men, and it’s a piece of matzo hidden during the early part of the Seder and looked for after the meal. Imagine if Easter eggs were flat, beige, and crumbly, and you get the idea.)

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I don’t know what these folks were thinking. The Israelites didn’t even have modern plumbing all those years ago in the desert.

Passover is supposed to be about teaching our children the sustaining traditions that have kept our people alive for 4,000 years, not giving them really good ideas for places to stash drugs. Huntable food should be kept out of bathrooms and private areas generally. And I don’t think Moses himself would have blamed you for not wanting to eat any afterward.

I am concerned about the current state of political affairs, and I feel helpless to do anything. I hear that sending e-mails or tweeting politicians is less effective than calling them. But picking up the phone to tell someone how wrong they are goes against everything I was taught about polite conversation. I pick up the phone and I just feel panicked, so I hang up. What can I do to make my voice heard?

Anonymous

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You can call people to thank them for the good things they’ve done! It’s just as important, perhaps more so, to offer praise and gratitude for the behavior you want to encourage. Would that solve your problem?

If not, let’s unpack a little more. You sound new to political engagement (many of us are!), and you don’t like criticizing people over the phone. What produces the most anxiety for you? The politics? The phone? The conversation itself?

If you find the whole political landscape intimidating and frustrating, there are plenty of apps and weekly e-mail updates that can give you information about whom to call and exactly what to say. Make use of them! Don’t get wrapped around the axle about tactics or what issues are “real.” The point is to do something.

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Or maybe it’s the phone. Phones are awful; you don’t have the time to reflect and polish your words, nor can you see the other person’s body language. If you have phone anxiety, you could work on that issue — call the restaurant instead of using Grubhub, actually pick up when That One Friend Who Likes the Phone calls.

If it’s the conversation, though — then please, write me back with a follow-up question. I mean it. “I’m disappointed you voted for X; that will hurt your constituents” — this is basic self-advocacy, not the slightest bit impolite. Can you speak up for yourself in other contexts — with friends, colleagues, waitstaff? If so, transfer those skills. If not, write me back.

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

UNSURE ABOUT HOW TO HAVE AN AWKWARD CONVERSATION? Send your questions to Miss Conduct at missconduct@globe.com.
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