Dear Urban Diplomat: Can I boycott my friend’s gender-reveal party?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Can I boycott my friend’s gender-reveal party?

I want to celebrate her growing family, but I think these kinds of parties are stupid. Can I ditch her shindig without seeming like a bad friend?
—Elephant in the Womb, Liberty Village

I agree wholeheartedly: the gender-reveal party is, at best, a fraught idea and, at worst, a flaming disaster (like last year, when an oblivious couple started a 47,000-acre wildfire in Arizona, causing more than $8 million in damage, with blue “It’s a boy!” explosives). But you should suck it up and go anyway. It’s going to happen with or without you, and not showing up will demonstrate contempt not just for the event, but for your friend and her unborn child. On the bright side, since no one will know the baby’s sex ahead of the party, the gifts are bound to be free from all the frilly pink and blue stereotypes.

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My husband and I spent 15 years renovating our bungalow, but now that our kids have moved out, we’re looking to downsize. I was curious to hear what prospective buyers had to say, so I bought a small audio surveillance system and installed it in the living room before we started showing the house. I thought it was a brilliant idea, but when I mentioned it to a friend, she freaked out and told me I had no right to spy on people. It’s my house, and I feel like I’m entitled to hear what people have to say about it. Have I taken my curiosity too far?
—Snoop Therapy, Richmond Hill

Your sneaky surveillance is both legally murky and ethically dubious, so why do it? Does it really matter whether looky-loos and other open-house attendees like your wainscoting or wallpaper patterns? Selling a house is stressful enough. Instead of second-guessing that Billy bookcase purchase and giving yourself more to worry about, retire from your newfound role as an amateur spy, kick back and wait for the offers to roll in.

Dear Urban Diplomat,
There have been a ton of car thefts in my neighbourhood over the past few months. A group of macho guys who live next door decided to start a nighttime patrol to try to catch the culprits. At first, I thought it was a good idea, but they’ve been acting more like a vigilante lynch mob than a friendly neighbourhood watch. The other day, I saw them yell at an innocent guy who stopped for a couple of seconds to look up directions on his phone. I’m afraid things will eventually escalate if someone doesn’t intervene. How can I get them to tone it down?
—Missing Peace, Hillcrest

Call a meeting—now. The onus of confronting the watch patrol doesn’t need to fall on you alone. Try getting a group of your neighbours together and treating the whole thing like a civil discussion instead of an intervention. If these guys are really concerned about your community, they’ll listen to what you have to say and re-evaluate their quarrelsome tactics before things spiral into full-fledged sidewalk warfare.

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My boyfriend and I just adopted the most adorable kitten. We’ve started discussing names, and he suggested “Harley.” I balked. He has an ex-boyfriend named Harley. When I confronted him, he said I was being too sensitive and that it didn’t mean anything. I still think it’s weird, and I don’t want to be snuggling in bed with his ex’s namesake every night. Am I over-reacting?
—Kitty Cornered, Dufferin Grove

You are not: this is definitely weird. There are literally tens of thousands of appropriate and adorable names from which to choose. I find it hard to believe that picking Harley 2.0 was purely a coincidence. Save yourself some awkwardness (and possibly future heartbreak) by insisting your boyfriend come up with some second-choice monikers—and sort out his unresolved feelings for his former flame while he’s at it.

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My two kids attend a private school in our neighbourhood. We’re very happy with the educational standard, and they both seem quite happy there, but the institution is constantly asking us for more money. We already pay $60,000 a year in tuition, which seems like more than enough. How can I back away from donating without seeming like a skinflint?
—Pennywise, Summerhill

If you’re loaded and care enough about what your fellow PTA members think of you, fork over a few hundred dollars and move on with your life. If it’s a matter of principle, then embrace your inner Scrooge and say no. But if you honestly can’t afford to donate, you can always take the “time is money” approach and offer to volunteer instead. Surely your kids’ school will be badgering you with opportunities to organize a fundraiser or chaperone a field trip before the year is out.