I will NEVER hit reply-all again.

This is pretty bad. My husband “Bubba,” my sister-in-law “Misty,” and I were emailing back and forth, making fun of my other sister-in-law, “Betty.” Poor Betty is often the brunt of jokes. She’s nice and well-meaning but a little intense and uptight and is an easy target, especially for sarcastic people like us. We had a family gathering this past weekend and she was getting all tied up in knots about her kids getting the swine flu and fussing over the dessert she prepared and generally stressing everyone out, so Bubba, Misty and I were mocking her during a Monday morning email exchange.

Unfortunately, Bubba inexplicably included Betty’s husband (his brother) in one of the emails. We said some things, each hitting reply-all each time, until we got a reply-all from Bubba’s brother. Uh oh. Now we’re in trouble. Bubba’s brother told Betty; told his mother; sent a scathing email to me, Bubba, and Misty; Misy’s husband (Bubba’s other brother) is mad at her; and it’s generally a big mess. We’re usually good about avoiding family drama and my husband is very close with both of his brothers, so we all feel bad. What can we do to make up for this? How do we even start apologizing?

First, a PSA: Every time I send an email–every time–I check, recheck, and then check one more time to see who’s in the To box. I learned to do this long, long ago, back in the dark ages of email when it was DOS-based and someone who was definitely not me sent a scathing email about another girl trying to budge in on my boyfriend not to my friend, but to the girl who was budging in on my boyfriend. Horrible. I’m blushing now just thinking about it. Always check the To box. Always.

Now, on to poor Betty. You and your husband need to go visit her with a big basket of homemade cookies, show your sad, miserable, shamed face to her, and apologize. Don’t say anything like, “I’m sorry we made fun of you, but really, you should relax because no one really gives a shit if you serve the whipped cream at the wrong temperature and your kid had a goddam cold, not the swine flu, you freaky hypochondriac.” Say an honest, straightforward, “I’m sorry, Betty. We must have hurt your feelings terribly. I’m very fond of you and we love having you around. Please forgive me.” It’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s the right thing to do.

Don’t worry about apologizing to anyone else. Your husband can say he’s sorry to his brother, his mother has nothing to do with anything, and stay out of it as far as Misty’s husband is concerned. Just keep your head down, be nice, and if you have to make fun of people, do it in a notebook you keep in a drawer next to your bed and after they’re all dead publish it as a novel and make a ton of money.

A side note to Betty’s husband: you shouldn’t have told Betty about this. It would have been plenty sufficient to call everyone else out and leave Betty out of it. You’re the one who really hurt her feelings; she never would have known, otherwise. Don’t be such a drama queen and get your wife some flowers.

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