DEAR AMY: I am the youngest of a pretty big family. My siblings and I are all in our 50s and 60s now. We have never been particularly close. Once I moved 1,000 miles away, I was no longer invited back home, even for holidays. When my father died more than a decade ago, we all got together at our old vacation spot and held a memorial. When my mother died, most of us went back to the same place for another memorial. Neither of these gatherings were all good or all bad. Some petty family stuff came up. Some very nice moments occurred. This year the oldest of my siblings died. I drove out to his house to take care of things, even though we were the least close of the siblings. His kids want the family to get together for another memorial gathering. Frankly, I don’t want to go. I didn’t know him well. He was extremely rude to me the last three times I saw him. He was rude to my son. Our children don’t know one another. I don’t want to spend time with any of these people. Three of my nieces are also getting married. I don’t want to set the precedent that my children and I will travel for even one event. Our kids are adults. It is far too late to pretend we ever were or ever will be a tight-knit clan. I’d prefer that my kids not have to endure this weirdness. I’m tempted to just ignore the invitations. Should I respond, “Sorry, we are unable to make it,” or should I add details?
Youngest of Nothing
DEAR YOUNGEST: You state that you don’t want to get together with family because you don’t know them. But you don’t know them (partly) because you don’t get together with them. This now extends to the next generation.
It is your right not to see family members. You shouldn’t blame them for trying to get to know you and for including you, however.
There is no reason to pretend that you are a big happy family, but seeing people every few years might answer questions, resolve issues, and basically create connection.
Do not speak for your children. They might be interested in meeting their cousins, and might benefit from doing so.
The way to respond to a polite invitation is to thank the person for inviting you, adding, “I’m sorry I won’t be able to come. I hope you have a wonderful time.”
DEAR AMY: I just got engaged to a wonderful woman. When it comes to choosing groomsmen, I have six spots to fill with seven people to fill them with. I’m torn between including a buddy I’m currently closer with vs. a loyal friend whom I’ve known for a while but who lives on the West Coast. The wedding will be in the Midwest. I’ve made the choice to go with the buddy I’m currently closer to, but how do I handle my other friend, who might have some expectation of being asked? Do I just invite him to the wedding as a guest, or do I address the issue with him?
DEAR ALMOST: There is one category of wedding guest never highlighted in the etiquette books: “Almost-attendants.” You can spot these passed-over bridesmaids and groomsmen by their taffeta-free outfits, carefree attitudes, and overall look of sheer relief.
These almost-attendants have not spent hundreds of dollars on outfits, showers and parties. Their wallets, friendships, and sanity are intact on the wedding day.
Send your far-flung friend an invitation. If he asks (or if you feel compelled to explain), you can say, “You’re living so far away, I’m going to give you a break and not ask you to be a groomsman. We would be honored if you could make it to the wedding. I can’t imagine getting married without you there.”
It would be thoughtful for you to include him as an honored guest, inviting him (and his date) to the rehearsal dinner and any friends-and-family brunches the day after.
DEAR AMY: I am glad you strongly cautioned “Worried” to “lock down” her social media, after her sister connected with Worried’s abusive ex on Facebook. I wonder if you went far enough. Worried should probably “unfriend” her sister, to remove this online connection altogether.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Even when people believe their social media is completely private, there are loopholes and workarounds. I think you’re right.