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    Miss Conduct

    Advice: She nearly backed over me at Market Basket, and then blamed me

    Why is it my fault that she almost hit me? Plus, my toddler got a sexist gift.

    Need advice? Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

    A 50-ish lady almost backed into me with her SUV in a busy Market Basket parking lot. I am 70 and a very tiny lady. She yelled at me to watch out, whereas she barely flashed her brake lights before she backed up without looking. She continued shouting at me. What was I to do? Backup cameras do not do miracles.

    Anonymous / Boston

    PEOPLE! LOOK BEHIND YOU! There, do you think that will do anything?

    I feel for you. There isn’t much you can do when someone in an SUV starts yelling at you, unfortunately. I admire your courage at attempting Market Basket during peak hours. It’s not for the fainthearted, but I bet it keeps you spry!


    Getting around Greater Boston is awful and getting worse, and many people react to the stress with irrational aggression. When startled, they attack, like badly socialized terriers. I bet you a reasonably priced whole lobster that your Market Basket miscreant knew she was in the wrong, and was only yelling at you because she could. Individual drivers can’t do much about the congestion, construction, and confusing layout that makes Boston such a challenge. But we could improve the experience if we gave other drivers and pedestrians the benefit of the doubt when the inevitable mistakes are made.

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    My father and stepmother gave our daughter a toy ironing board, maid’s set, and grocery cart. My husband and I put together the shopping cart, but we found the other gifts slightly sexist. I’m trying to not impose the dynamics of my youth upon the next generation, and I honestly believe this was my stepmom going “I don’t know what to get a 16-month-old, these will do” more than anything nefarious. What, if anything, should I say when they come to the house and see no maid’s cart/ironing board in the playroom? V.N./ Merrimack, N.H.

    They shouldn’t expect to! What, are you raising your child to leave laundry equipment and cleaning supplies out when guests come over? Lucky for you, these gifts lend themselves rather well to a “putting-away-is-part-of-the-play” excuse.

    Come the next holiday or birthday, nudge the grandparents toward more appropriate gifts. There’s always a line to be walked between seeming to ask for gifts and offering useful tips for people who would otherwise have no idea what to buy — you know best how to negotiate that gray area with your own family.

    I get that the trio of gifts in concert feels a wee bit Ken’s Dream House, if you will, but they don’t have to mean to your daughter what they might have meant to you as a child. If the cleaning set is still around — not dragging you, but “maid’s set” is wicked sexist and classist — why not see if your daughter likes it? Cleaning needs to be done, and it’s not a bad idea to teach her that being competent at housework is grown-up and cool. She’s not going to see it as gender programming if she plays “cleaning house” with Daddy and Mommy alike.


    (Ditch the toy ironing board, though. I had one as a kid and while it didn’t turn me into a Stepford wife, it did create a lifelong habit of forgetting to unplug the iron, because that was never part of the “game.”)

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