Recently they were invited across the country to visit our newborn (their granddaughter), and they took the opportunity to invite their California friends (a couple) up to our house for a couple of nights without asking me. They just informed me that so-and-so were coming. They also brought their puppy.
This is just one of MANY unthoughtful gaffes they have made that drive me crazy. Well-intentioned people usually have my sympathy ... but in this case, wouldn't it take a real buffoon to not see that I have a newborn (no nannies or anything, just me) and might appreciate a phone call if a houseful of people are going to arrive?
I went over the edge the last time my husband and I were talking to MIL and she mentioned her dog can't wait to come back and see us ... AFTER it spent two weeks aggressively chasing our cat and waking the baby!
Yes, she was serious.
How do you handle clueless and insensitive behavior when you don't want to alienate the people who are doing it?
Emily Yoffe: You ask your husband to clarify some things so that when they visit it will be pleasant for all. Number one, no dog. You've got a baby and a cat, and it's too much to throw a puppy into that mix. If they say they won't travel without the pup, then suggest they find somewhere nearby to board it when they're over, or explain that unless they leave the dog at home, you can't have them. Also explain quarters are cramped and life is stressful, so when they visit, you cannot play host to any of their friends. If extra people show up, you will give them a list of nearby motels, but you can't put them up. Then they either start behaving, or they stop coming—that sounds like a win-win.
Midwest: I'm about five weeks pregnant. My family will sense something is up the second I decline the wine at Thanksgiving dinner. But I don't really want to tell the world unless/until I hear a heartbeat, which won't be for awhile yet. Help!
Emily Yoffe: Congratulations! If you really are having Thanksgiving with such a bunch of Sherlock Holmeses, take the wine, saying, "Not a full glass for me, thanks," and don't drink it. Casually get up from the table with the wine, and pour some in the sink when no one's looking. You can do the same thing at Christmas, unless by then you feel ready to announce your wonderful news.
Boston: About a year ago, I started writing for my college newspaper. The editor of the paper, "Alice," is leaving for a semester to study in Europe. The problem? While we have always been friendly and gotten along great (at least professionally), I have found myself increasingly attracted to her and have often wondered about asking her out and seeing if we could possibly connect on a more romantic level. Since she is leaving for six months, as well as the fact that she is my superior, do you think I should ask her out and see what happens, or just accept that I am a victim of bad timing and bad circumstances and move on?
Emily Yoffe: The flip side of beneficial restrictions on intraoffice romances is that they may put the kibosh on the chance to find mutual romance with a person who you know shares your interests. This is a college newspaper! Your supervisor is not a faculty member, but a fellow student. If you two can't romantically connect, how are we going to create the college newspaper reporters of the future? You don't know if she feels as you do, so before she takes off, take a risk and ask her out. If she says no, take comfort that by the time she returns, you'll be over her.
Portland, Ore.: I am a happily married thirtysomething woman. About a year ago, my mother found an old notebook of mine in my old bedroom. She read it cover to cover—it unfortunately included some unsavory thoughts about my brother. At the time, he and I did not get along, and I considered him the bane of my existence. You could imagine some of the things an unhappy, angsty teenager could come up with. When my mother informed me that she found this notebook, she also told me she shared it with my brother—horror! I would hope she would respect my privacy and his feelings more than that, but she didn't. Not knowing how to address this, I simply ignored the problem. Now, a year later, I wonder if my brother holds the things I said about him against me. Should I apologize? Should I let sleeping dogs lie?
Emily Yoffe: Mom should have been grounded for life for that one. You don't mention she's crazy, so I'm having a hard time understanding why she would want to open up such a wound. I hope you told her what a violation this was. Good for your brother that he's acted as if he never heard about this. The two of you sound a lot more mature than Mom, and maybe he realized how meaningless your long-ago teenage thoughts were. However, since you know he read it, you could pull him aside privately at Thanksgiving and say you've been troubled for a long time about your mother's actions, that you hope he understands he was reading ancient history from an unhappy adolescent, and how grateful you are that you now get along and that you hope he knows you love and admire him. Then check out your family home and remove any more incriminating evidence from Mom's clutches!
Missoula, Mont.: My husband and I are having Thanksgiving dinner at our dearest friend's house with him and his partner. We did this last year, and it was lovely except for one weird exchange with the partner. I asked last year what we could bring, and he said bring whatever we wanted. So I made my favorite stuffing to serve as a side dish (it's a family recipe and very dear to me). Partner was extremely upset because he had already made stuffing and felt like I was trying to outdo him, or take charge, or something. He was pretty passive-aggressive about it the whole evening, making comments about how it took up too much space or was redundant. This year, I asked what to bring, and he said to bring a side or, again, "whatever I wanted." How do I avoid a scene again? Do we just show up with a bottle of wine? I feel like it's important to contribute but don't want the drama.
Emily Yoffe: He obviously should have graciously served your stuffing and said how delicious it was. However, unless you say, "Can I bring stuffing?" it seems like a bad choice for Thanksgiving. You wouldn't show up with a plate of turkey legs, either. So decide what you'd like to bring—then check it out with them. Say, "I was thinking of green beans with almonds or brownies, which would you prefer?" If even then he won't give you hint and he has a snit this year, be grateful you don't have to live with him.
Olney, Md.: My husband and I are treating two of our daughters, their husbands, and our granddaughter to Thanksgiving dinner at a nice restaurant (third daughter is having dinner in Florida with her husband and his family). I'm happy that we can afford to do this for them, and I'm grateful for our wonderful family.
Emily Yoffe: You aren't charging everyone? You aren't making a scene? You aren't revealing your children's secrets to the table? You're just grateful to be with your loving family? What are you doing in this chat?!