Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I could use some advice on how to handle a source of family irritation regarding our son-in-law during holiday meals. "Patrick" works in the restaurant business and often works late hours and some holidays. Over the years we've accommodated his schedule by rearranging ours. We've started the festivities later in the day or even moved the day so we can celebrate together. Nevertheless, on the day of celebration with family, all goes well until there is a lull in the activities. At that point Patrick will stretch out on the couch and fall asleep. If we all want to play a game or visit or do some other activity as a family, he'll opt to sleep rather than join in. In the beginning we bought into the excuse that he worked late and is tired. Now it just feels rude. It is hard to not take his behavior personally. My daughter is caught in the middle, but doesn't like it any more than we do. I'd like to have your help with what we can say or do to address this ahead of time.
Elephant on the Couch
DEAR ELEPHANT: You cannot prevent someone else from doing something they always do. What you can do is let your son-in-law know that this bothers you, by saying, "'Patrick,' we know you work very hard, but when you fall asleep on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner we have a tough time partying around you. We'd love to spend more time with you -- awake." When this happens, ask your daughter to please rouse him and get him to a bedroom, where he will be out of everyone's way.
I'm not sure how she is "caught in the middle." If he is dominating your celebration by snoring on the couch and you don't like it and she doesn't like it, there is no "middle." He cannot possibly justify his choice to nap in the center of your holiday, other than to say, "Hey, I'm tired." If you are too intimidated to respectfully ask your son-in-law to be a more engaged family member and if your daughter is too nervous to walk him to a bedroom, then you all have a bigger problem than his lack of respect for your holiday.
DEAR AMY: I have a friend who eats out a lot. She never misses an opportunity to text me a picture of her meal, cocktail or dining ambience. She used to send out group texts of this nature and I never responded. She now sends them to me singularly and I'm still not responding. I think it is immature -- and an affront to whomever she is dining with. I know she reads your column and I'm hoping she sees this in print and recognizes herself. How can I handle this?
DEAR READER: I wonder if anyone actually enjoys looking at pictures of other people's meals? One article I read about this trend indicated that for some people, photographing their food is more than an annoying choice -- it's a compulsive habit. When they do this they are saying, "I eat meatloaf, therefore, I exist." Your friend might be in this category of compulsive sharers.
Perhaps you could ask her, "Can you tell me why you text pictures of your food to me? When I get these texts I'm never quite sure what to think. I always love to hear from you, but I don't really like to get a text from your entree." You can block your friend's ability to send texts to you -- go to your "Contacts" list and look for options. She would still be able to call you but you wouldn't receive these texts and she wouldn't be aware that her texts are blocked.
DEAR AMY: "Confused in Georgia" was married to a woman with an adult daughter from a previous marriage. He wondered about how he was identified. I had an identical situation. The term "stepparent" has some negative consequences -- I was somewhat relieved not to have to refer to myself this way.
Not Really a Step
DEAR STEP: I wish we could remove the negative stigma for stepparents.