Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 26 2003 11:19 AM

Party Pooper

When being a great host is thrust upon you.

9_dearprudence_01

Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)





Dear Prudence,

As a regular reader, I've come to admire your levelheadedness, straightforward advice, and your ability to cut to the heart of an issue. That's what I need now. My mother is pressuring me to throw a big shindig for her 30th wedding anniversary. The problem is that her husband is an abusive, loud-mouthed jerk whom no one in the family (except my mother) can stand. Additionally, 30 years ago Mom abandoned my dad to be with this jerk. I would rather not hurt my mother's feelings, but I think she's got some nerve putting me in this position. Is there any way around this issue, short of telling Mother what I really think? Help me, Prudie! Please!

—Party-Averse

Dear Part,

Prudie guesses your mother already knows how you feel about The Jerk. If you've miraculously managed to keep it to yourself for three decades, tell your mom—gently—that your heart would not be in throwing such a party. Do not offer too many details along the lines of, "And nobody likes him!" If she insists, offers to pay for it, and your back is up against the wall, let her use your name on the invitation—but with the understanding that she do all the planning. If this happens and people ask you if you are really throwing the party, finesse it by saying that your name is on the invitation as a courtesy to your mother. Your best hope is that if very few people respond affirmatively, there probably won't be a party. If you are close to your mother and it means a great deal to her, you might consider sucking it up for her sake. Should it not be a close relationship (Prudie's hunch), go back to plan A. Some people will no doubt say you should do it simply because your mother asked you. Prudie, however, never votes for phony. Disclaimer: This advice is predicated on the guy really being a jerk, and not a lovely man whom you never gave a chance because your mother left your dad for him!

Advertisement

—Prudie, candidly

Hi Prudie,

I am in need of some advice about a bitter older sister. She is almost 20 years my senior. Our parents are deceased, and there are no other siblings. Despite a little help during my formative years and, later, through difficult pregnancies, my sister and I have been at odds several times during our lives. The most recent dust-up occurred this summer with my sister stating that she wanted no further contact with me or my eldest daughter—ever. I have grieved over this but have come to realize that my sister has an inherent lack of respect for me and my children, so I'm going to go along with her wishes. I know it will be difficult during the upcoming holidays, but I also know that if we resolve the problem this time, it will be temporary. My sister is getting on in years, and I am sure she isn't going to change. I am tired of walking on eggshells and trying to keep peace. Does this make me a terrible person because I plan to go through life without any contact with my sister?

—Twisted Sister

Dear Twist,

Reminder: It was not you who requested no contact. Your use of the word "bitter" is probably the key. Your sister sounds like a foul-weather friend since she offered some support during your growing-up years and then at the time of complicated pregnancies. The overall pattern, however, suggests that her personality is prickly to begin with and that her life has not gone the way she would have liked. With an exception here and there, it is the disappointed people who take it out on others—quite often family members. Prudie agrees with your decision to allow things to drift with your sister. If relatives cannot behave like friends—and they bring you anguish in the bargain—life is easier for everybody if you call it a day. Do remember that being related is merely a function of DNA. The age difference, by the way, could certainly be a factor. Chances are that the elder sister feels like your mother and possibly envies you your youth, your place in the family, and … you fill in the blanks. It didn't have to be this way, but it is. Try not to beat yourself up.

Advertisement

—Prudie, pragmatically

Dear Prudence,

I was dining out at a casual restaurant recently with my parents. Several gentlemen in the restaurant were wearing baseball caps while eating. My mom said this behavior is inappropriate. I, however, don't think it matters in this day and age, especially in a casual dining atmosphere. So who is right?

—Younger and Wiser?

Dear Young,

When you say "casual," Prudie imagines you mean Denny's or Burger King or someplace along those lines. Your mother is probably right about no hat indoors in the strictest sense of what is proper, but your referencing "this day and age" trumps formal etiquette ... at least in a Burger King. Even some expensive restaurants allow casual clothes—though one would not see baseball caps. And perhaps these hat-wearing diners are still jazzed about the World Series? Prudie only hopes that the hats were not on backward.

Advertisement

—Prudie, conventionally

Prudie,

I love my boyfriend fiercely, and we're engaged to be married this December, but I am worried because practically everyone I know hates him. (And HE wants nothing to do with my friends.) They all feel he's controlling and whiny and that he oftentimes makes me feel bad for things that are not my fault, though he swears this isn't his intention. We've had long drawn-out discussions and fights about this. Other than that, he's a deeply committed, loving, compassionate boyfriend. He sends me cards when I'm sick and almost always fits his life around mine. My friends also take THAT as a bad sign; they say because he's made me the center of his life, in some ways, they're afraid of what he might do if for some reason we broke up. I'm honestly at a loss about what to think because I don't see him as the domineering, controlling jerk my friends do. How should I think about this situation?

—Sincerely,

S.

Dear S.,

Very carefully. This is one of those hard-to-figure two-handed problems. On the one hand, one should not necessarily buy into other people's take on a personal situation ... on the other hand, there is the old axiom that 50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong—in your case, the 50 million being your collection of friends. The fact that he wants little to do with your friends is worth thinking about. Not only is that a sign that he is trying to control you, but think about it: Could you be married to someone who liked none of your friends? The business about making you feel bad is called blaming, and you need to evaluate that, as well. Prudie's instinct is that this would not be a successful marriage. However ... maybe you could split the difference and postpone the wedding while you seriously assess how the relationship makes you feel.

—Prudie, explorationally