DEAR AMY: I am a 35-year-old woman. I live in the same town as my parents. My sister lives nearby. She married young, while I traveled and enjoyed the single life. My parents spent a lot of time with my sister and her husband. They shared dinners, vacations and holidays. I have generally not been invited or included, as these were “couple things,” though I fail to see how Christmas is a “couples-only” event. I usually just made other plans, and so now I have a great network of friends I spend special occasions with, and consider them family. Here’s the issue: My sister is now getting divorced, and I am now in a steady relationship. All of a sudden, the invites are flowing in from my parents. It’s nice to be asked, but the thing is, I don’t really feel any desire to go. Am I being mean if I don’t accept their invitations? An occasional dinner is OK, but for big holidays I would rather go see the same people I have being seeing for the past 20 years.
Ms. Suddenly Popular
DEAR POPULAR: Declining your parents’ invitations isn’t necessarily mean, although when you do so, you are deliberately refusing an opportunity to connect with them.
On the other hand, not being invited to family gatherings (including important holidays) because you are single . . . now, that’s also mean.
I’m not a big fan of using “couples-only” labels as an excuse to exclude people. As a veteran single gal, being the only “party-of-one” was no big deal. Like you, I was happy to be with the people that were happy to include me, whether my date was a tall, dark stranger or a full-bodied Merlot.
You don’t mention how your parents are handling your sister’s divorce. Is she still welcome at these events, even though she is no longer part of a couple? I certainly hope so.
Your folks shouldn’t be too surprised if you’re not itching to spend time with them now. Think of this as an opportunity to reach out to your sister. She is going to see how disheartening it can be to experience loss on many fronts.
DEAR AMY: I am getting married in a few months and so many aspects of the wedding have become dictated by others. One aunt has asked me if she could wear an ivory-colored dress. I explained to her that I would prefer it if she found something else, because my dress is ivory. Etiquette states that guests should not wear white. Even after I told her “no,” she continued to seek permission from other family members because she “really wants to wear that dress and hasn’t had an opportunity.” My wedding dress was one of the few things I had explicit control over and now I feel like every aspect of this wedding has become someone else’s vision. I do not think I am being unreasonable in expecting my aunt to find something else to wear. I hoped you could share with your readers how their actions can affect the wedding couple.
DEAR WHOSE: Breathe in. And out.
You have politely answered your aunt that she should find something else to wear. She asked you in the first place because she senses she is treading very close to a fashion “don’t.”
But, you don’t own the color ivory. This fact is one more thing about your wedding that you cannot control.
Which brings us to the tough truth about weddings: Weddings would be perfect, if only it weren’t for other people.
After all of the warnings about her attire, what if your aunt still shows up on your wedding day looking foolishly bride-ish? Prepare for this inevitability, and realize that it doesn’t reflect poorly (or at all) on you, but on her.
I know it’s a challenge, but one of your jobs as a bride is for you to be gracious to your guests, even the ones that look a little foolish or commit a faux pas.
Your aunt can’t ruin your wedding day unless you let her. Focus on all of the great things you have to look forward to — your uncle Bud having too much to drink and making everyone pull his finger, for instance.
DEAR READERS: Sometimes people who dispense advice run out of answers. If you’ve ever been curious about the life behind my advice, read my new book, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home” (2017, Hachette).