DEAR AMY: I am having in-law troubles. About five years ago I asked my sisters-in-law if we could move the annual Christmas family gathering from a Sunday to a Saturday so that one of my kids could attend. He lives quite a distance away and would have to miss work on the Monday after if he attended the party. None of the others would miss a day of work because they live locally. The response was: “No, this is the day we always do it.” Each successive year, I made this request when the advance email came out, and I was repeatedly refused. This year I did not even get an email, but I was informed earlier than normal of the event by my niece. I am depressed and demoralized by the exclusion of my child and by being excluded from the conversation. I have asked my partner to approach his siblings but frankly I am not sure what will change. Do you have any suggestions?
DEAR LEFT OUT: I sympathize with you — really I do, because nobody likes a sister-in-law exclusion story better than yours truly.
But you are not hosting this party. Someone else is. You made your request to change the day for the sake of one person’s work and travel schedule and were told no. Asking the same question every year and always getting the same answer is the very definition of social madness, and it is starting to reflect poorly on you.
Holiday parties involving groups of people do tend to become set in stone. It is really not for you to say what change might be easy for others. Others in your in-law family group might have in-laws themselves on the other sides of their families that are vying for holiday attention. So changing a holiday party by one day might throw off scores of other people.
It is a shame that your son can’t ever attend this party. You and your husband might make some headway by offering to host it one year, and giving Saturday a try.
It is not always easy to be a sister-in-law, especially when you feel that a special social bond has not been extended to you. But this might be one of those times when you have to realize and accept that you are not a family member with voting rights, but one of many guests. You should not enter this season determined to be hurt.
DEAR AMY: Several weeks ago, while under the influence of alcohol, a (former) friend of my husband’s posted some insulting and untrue comments about him on the website of a social group to which we all belong. The site’s director spotted the remarks within hours and removed them, so they weren’t seen by a lot of people. Now, many weeks later, the individual has sobered up, but has not apologized, and in fact has told a mutual friend that he has no intention of ever apologizing. We find ourselves in social situations with him about every week or two. We want nothing to do with him, but at the same time, don’t want to make others in our circle uncomfortable. How do we handle this?
Unhappy in the Midwest
DEAR UNHAPPY: It would be wisest if your husband could contact this person directly and privately, and simply ask for an apology: “I was relieved when these untrue statements were removed from the site, but I am still concerned that you published them at all. I would really appreciate an apology from you so that we can all move on.”
If your husband makes this appeal and doesn’t receive an answer (or if the person responds negatively), then your husband should choose to be the bigger person and remain cordial, while keeping an arm’s length from the former friend when you are all thrown together. If you are always cordial and polite, then nothing about your behavior would make others uncomfortable. Any public discomfort should be on the person who created the problem.
DEAR AMY: “Watching Where I Step” didn’t want visitors arriving with extra dogs (they have two). We have four dogs. Our standard invitation says, “No dogs please, there are already too many dogs here!” We also say that with four dogs present, adding additional ones to the mix usually does not go well. People who know we love dogs often assume that means they can bring theirs, and so we take care to pre-empt that impulse.
Hazel in Virginia
DEAR HAZEL: Smart.