Dear Amy:

My husband's 30-year-old daughter is very controlling. She decided last year that at her annual family Christmas party there was going to be a "silly hat" theme.

The eight or so adults (her parents, their spouses and grandparents), all over 50, and her two children under 4 are to provide, exchange and wear silly hats.

Last year she announced this event without notice and pulled a bunch of hats out of a bag and insisted we all wear them. None of us was happy about this, but we went along because she has a quick temper and we wanted to get through Christmas without her snapping. She also insisted on photographing us. Her children started crying.

My husband divorced her mother after a 20-year marriage because of her multiple infidelities. Her current husband is the man she was cheating with when my husband finally divorced her. Four or five times a year, his daughter insists on having her parents and their spouses together in her small house "for the sake of the grandchildren." We remain civil for the two hours we must be in the same room.

The invitation for this year's party includes a reminder about the silly hat theme and she is asking us to buy hats for one another. How would you suggest that we deal with this?

Dear No More:

If you choose to attend a theme party , then the polite thing to do is to participate. Some families manage to squeeze all of their exes into a small space fairly happily, and I applaud your choice to remain civil even when you're not feeling civil.

Your husband should be the primary point person in dealing with his daughter. If he (along with you) simply can't bear this sort of thing - even for two hours - then he should tell his daughter that you can't make it and suggest an alternative idea for getting together that won't involve his daughter hosting you separately.