DEAR AMY: My sister asked me to purchase a frozen cheesecake, cookies or pretzel dough from my nephew for his school fundraiser. I told her that I would send a donation directly to the program because I was not interested in the items. My sister pushed the frozen cookies, and I told her that I did not want to be bullied into purchasing an item that I did not want. She told me that my nephew did not want a donation; he wanted 10 orders so he could win a watch. She also stated that she would tell my nephew that I was on a special diet and could not order anything (which is not true). My mother called and asked to place an order (in my name) to ease the tension. I said, "No, I will give a donation and purchase the watch for the boy." I wanted to directly invest in my nephew, so I sent a letter and donation to his school. Any advice? I'm interested in your opinion.

-- Irritated

DEAR IRRITATED: You are not only irritated, you are irritating. You come by it naturally, however -- because your whole family seems to be persistently thorny. I understand your larger point, but here's a parallel version of the drama as it might have gone, scripted by yours truly:

Sister: I'd like you to purchase some frozen dough from "Buddy" for his school's fundraiser.

You: Why don't you have him give me a call? I'd like to hear about it.

(Buddy calls and gives his pitch) You: Well, I don't want baked goods, Buddy, but I'll tell you what: How about I order one dozen pretzels, and when they come in I'll pass them along to you to share with your Boy Scout troop? Your mother has absolutely no role to play in this drama. She should not waste her star power on such petty matters.

See how easy things are when everybody plays their part?

DEAR AMY: The letter from "Mother-in-law" about her son-in-law's condescending and publicly corrective behavior of her was familiar to me. I experienced similar treatment from my son-in-law until I confronted him directly and asked him to stop publicly ridiculing me. I soon realized his rude attitude was a result of his low self-esteem and a need to put others down.

-- Another Mother-in-Law

DEAR ANOTHER: You handled this challenging situation well. Congratulations.