DEAR AMY: I have been “best friends” with a never-married woman for 25 years. She does not like to cook and, consequently, eats poorly. My husband and I invite her to join us for a meal at least once a week, if not more. We enjoy her company and I know she gets lonely. She is very well-off financially, which brings me to my question: How can I stop feeling resentful that she never reciprocates by occasionally treating us to a meal out? Not only does she never host or treat us, but she never even brings a bottle of wine to share when she dines at our house. A couple of years ago she offered to pay for a steak dinner (that we had invited her to) at a restaurant. When the bill arrived, she gave my husband money for the steaks and we ended up paying the bar tab (she also drank). I feel petty parsing our friendship in this way, but I’m starting to “keep score” and I don’t like that.
Hospitable to a Point
DEAR HOSPITABLE: Feeding a friend more than once a week exceeds the average bounds of hospitality; it seems you have veered into territory that might be more like family than a typical host/guest relationship.
There are multiple solutions that might help you mitigate your growing resentment.
You can talk to your friend and simply ask her to bring over a bottle of wine, a dessert or ingredients for her favorite meal. This only requires that you be brave enough to ask for what you want.
Assign a job — whether it is meal prep or cleaning up. This would engage her more in your effort (and might teach her some kitchen skills).
Cut in half the number of dinners you host for her (this should cut your resentment in half).
Alternatively, you can simply choose to always be generous. Understand and accept that this is built in to your relationship with this person, and simply make a decision to feel good about it. Your generosity is something laudable about you, and so you should celebrate it.
DEAR AMY: My 28-year-old daughter is getting married. Her father and I divorced when she was 7. The past 10 years, I have done well financially. Her father is OK, but has poor spending habits. He offered to pay $3,000 as his part of the wedding bill, but sent her a check for $2,000, without any explanation as to the difference. I am picking up the other $47,000 for the wedding, including catering for 125 people that comes to $150 per person. He has 20 family members coming, so I’d like to ask him to cover their dinners, which would be an additional $1,000. I was going to suck it up and take it in stride, until I found out he just got new vehicles. I put his name on the invitation, as he is hosting (regardless of funding). Part of me says to ignore it and pay, and the other part of me resents this. Your thoughts?
DEAR MOB: My first thought is that a 28-year-old woman (and her future husband) should be personally handling the awkwardness that arises from being shorted by her father.
Her choices could be to ask him where the rest of his promised money is; shave down their (impressive) budget by $1,000; or ask you to bridge the gap.
Because your daughter does not seem to have assumed any financial responsibility, you will have to either confront your ex, or pick up the bigger tab. If he promised more than he delivered, it seems logical that someone should at least ask him about it.
DEAR AMY: “Carol” wanted to judge parents who let their young children be entertained with “screens.” I would ask everyone to remember that you are seeing only one small part of that child’s day. My daughter was so active that my boss called her “the electron.” I spent hours every day playing with her, chasing after her, talking with her and doing all of those “good parent” things. I also spent the first two years of her life trying to figure out some way to keep her seated and quiet at (family-friendly!) restaurants, with zero success — even coloring books and games triggered happy shrieks and (loud) chatter. So when I discovered Elmo could buy us 30 minutes of blessed silence, I could have kissed the furry little guy.
Dear Laura: Exactly. But hands off Elmo — he’s mine!