Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR READERS: I have stepped away from my daily column for two weeks while I work on my next book, a memoir, which is scheduled to be published in the fall. While I’m away, I hope you’ll enjoy these topical “Best Of” questions, chosen from 13 years of “Ask Amy” columns. Today’s letters are about etiquette. I return with your fresh questions next week.
DEAR AMY: Our family is interested in your comments about what to do when a family is presented with a daughter-in-law from hell. Our family has always worked and played together and enjoyed both. Enter the Cuban know-it-all daughter-in-law, who tells her parents what to do and has attempted to begin that with the family of her new in-laws. After taking her wedding vows she came down off the altar and snubbed us by excluding us from a receiving line, which she had no idea how to assemble. If ever a $100,000 wedding needed a bridal consultant, it was this wedding! In addition to the mess over the receiving line, limos did not return for members of the groom’s party and members of the bride’s family did not circulate with the other guests. When photos were taken, every female relative had a picture taken with the bride except her new mother-in-law — me. To say that her mannerisms are offensive is an understatement. The bottom line seems to be that she has no class, manners or breeding. We love our son but how do we deal with this ill-mannered daughter-in-law?
DEAR SARAH: You could start by exhibiting an ounce of class, manners and “breeding.” (You could also join this century, where people, thankfully, don’t usually talk about “breeding” and disrespect another’s culture of origin.)
You sound like the mother-in-law from hell, and I’m tempted to say that the two of you deserve each other, but because you are the older (and one would hope wiser and more mature) of the two, I need to remind you that this woman is your son’s wife and possibly the future mother of your grandchildren, so you are going to have to do what you can to make this relationship work.
You really need to get over the fact that the wedding didn’t go the way you would have liked and make an effort to make the best of this relationship, because you really don’t have a choice, and also because that’s what well-mannered and classy people with good “breeding” do. (November 2006)
DEAR AMY: Yesterday, my girlfriend “Lori” and I went to lunch at a local restaurant. Two guys were heading for the same restaurant and were slightly ahead of us, but when they got to the door, they held it open for us and allowed us to enter the restaurant first. We smiled, I thanked them and as soon as I entered, I stood back to allow them to get in line ahead of us, because I figured that was their rightful place and they shouldn’t be penalized for having been courteous to us. This didn’t become an issue until it was apparent that they got the last outside table and Lori and I would have to eat inside. That was when Lori got irritated with me and said I shouldn’t have let them “cut” in line ahead of us. I told her that they would have been in line ahead of us if they hadn’t stopped to hold the door for us, and I didn’t think they should be penalized for it. The restaurant was crowded and it was obvious these two guys were on their lunch break, whereas neither my friend nor I work, so I felt that we could afford to wait a little longer than they could. I still feel that I did the right thing, but Lori keeps laughing at what a “chump” I was. What do you think? When someone holds the door open for another person, does the door holder automatically give up his/her place in whatever line is inside? What if there is a whole group of people entering at once?
DEAR CONFUSED: Let’s diagram this situation.
On second thought, let’s not.
You are a nice person.
Your girlfriend is a jerk.
You performed an act of kindness.
She laughed at you for it.
My only concern is that if you continue to hang out with her, her harsh assessment of you might turn out to be correct. Don’t be a chump! (June 2006)