Unwanted In-Laws and Current Events, Vol. 8, Issue 8

March 22nd, 2009 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

We live near my husband’s brother, who is constantly inviting or letting my mother- and father-in-law invite themselves.  We (my husband, two kids, and I) are always faced with the “threat” of their every other month visits.  These visits usually last at least five days.  The events involved are excruciating to me.

What should I or my husband tell my brother-in-law and his parents to make them understand this is totally inappropriate?

We have invited them one time in seven years.  All the other visits, which have been every other month for the last seven years, have been them inviting themselves and no one saying anything.  Or my brother and sister-in-law inviting them for some reason.

Bear in mind that I have a special needs son who is 11 and my daughter is very active; she is six.  I home school my son as of about two weeks ago.  We live in the country and my husband could be losing his job.   Things are not perfect right now but it doesn’t help to have people in your face that you would rather not see at all - ever!

Dear Daughter-in-Law:

You are correct to note that someone has to say something about this situation to solve it. Nearly everyone thinks that etiquette has a way to make problems disappear without them having to say or do anything. Unfortunately, since humans are involved, that’s not possible. And Etiquetteer knows, to his sorrow, that the longer one seethes silently, the worse a problem becomes.

First of all, and this is true in any marriage, if it’s his family, he does the talking, not you, and vice versa. On the other hand, you may find out that your husband isn’t as opposed to these frequent visits as you are. Etiquetteer can’t assume that he shares your revulsion for his family, although he may. Etiquetteer predicts a frank conversation between the two of you. Whatever the result, it’s his family, and he has to deal with them. 

Etiquetteer hopes that your brother-in-law is not actually inviting people for multi-day visits into your own home! Only you and your husband have that privilege. 

All you have the power to change is your own participation and, in consultation with your husband, the participation of your children in these visits. If members of your husband’s family want to get together outside your house, that’s not your business. But Etiquetteer sees no reason for you to join them more than once over the course of five days. 

Now, how are you going to change the expectations of your in-laws, who are used to seeing you and your children a great deal after seven years? Etiquetteer recommends that you start not being available. Oscar Wilde created “Bunburying” in The Importance of Being Earnest, the subterfuge of leaving town to visit a fictional sick friend (in this case named Bunbury.) Etiquetteer doesn’t think you need to go to those lengths, but you can create special activities with one or both of your children, or your own friends, that keeps you from joining your in-laws. Send your husband alone with the excuse that you’d already made other plans, or he can bring the kids and say you “need some time alone being worn out taking care of the children.” If he doesn’t want to go either, he can tell his brother that all of you have other plans, every night of the week, if necessary. 

You have probably already figured out that your in-laws are with you for life, until death or divorce severs your relationship with them. Rather than rely on those two courses (the first immoral and illegal if you arrange it, the second painful for your children), Etiquetteer very much hopes that you can stake out your own territory in your family life.

 

Etiquetteer has seen a lot in the news over the last week worthy of notice and comment:

Etiquetteer has seen a lot in the news over the last week worthy of notice and comment:

Etiquetteer applauds the Bill Duncan Opportunity School of Lakeland, Florida, for suspending Jonathan Locked, Jr. for deliberately disruptive flatulence. Unfortunately Young Master Locked’s father is appealing the suspension, apparently believing that the punishment went too far. Etiquetteer cannot agree, and regrets that Mr. Locked isn’t using this suspension to teach his son to respect the authority of teachers and school principals, respect for education and his classmates, and of course Perfect Propriety. Etiquetteer can only hope that the Locked family eats fewer beans after this unfortunate, um, outburst.

In Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, a pastor and a congregant got in trouble with the law for shooting an arrow in church during a service. Reading the article Etiquetteer certainly got the impression that the pastor is more devoted to using props to illustrate the Word than the Word itself. This sort of sensationalism, plus the way the pastor evicted an objecting congregant, violates every sense of Perfect Propriety to Etiquetteer.

Also in church news, Etiquetteer was very interested to read about the innovations of Rev. Anne Gardner’s iSermon Sundays at Phillips Academy. Certainly technology and References to Popular Culture will follow us everywhere, and Etiquetteer really has no objection. What raised Etiquetteer’s hackles was the fact that Academy students were eating breakfast in the pews during church! Forgive Etiquetteer for sounding just a bit old-fashioned, but eating in church is NOT approaching worship of the Deity of One’s Choice with Perfectly Proper undivided attention. Stop it at once!

Etiquetteer could not but agree with the Daily Telegraph’s list of ten first date faux pas. 

Finally, Etiquetteer was both touched and amused to read the obituary of Stella Trafford last week. “The Grande Dame of Boston Parks,” who was unafraid to wield a hoe or take on City Hall, received from her stepdaughter what Etiquetteer thinks is the ideal epitaph for a Working Lady to the Manner Born: “She died with her pearls on.”

Etiquetteer has a new address for all your etiquette questions, queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.


An Unwanted Houseguest, Vol. 5, Issue 12

April 2nd, 2006 . by Etiquetteer


Dear Etiquetteer:Twenty years ago, the man in my life was named in a paternity suit and couldn’t deny the possibility. I threw him out, and we have had limited social contact since then (once every six or seven years). Not too long ago he showed up at my front door because he was ‘in town and looked me up,’ apparently hoping for a place to stay. This would have been awkward enough if I had been home, but I was traveling on business, and the door was answered by my housemates. They felt obliged to extend hospitality to this man on my behalf, but fortunately called me first. I explained to him, very apologetically, that it would be a terrible imposition for me to ask my housemates to put aside their plans for the night, and that he would simply have to make other arrangements. He did, and I have not heard from him since.While I have no reason to believe he was in physical or financial distress, was it rude to turn him out like that without making sure? Should I call him to find out if he is OK? If I had been home, how much hospitality would I be obliged to provide? I am curious to hear how he is doing, but I think I would prefer some advance notice to prepare myself, and perhaps explain things to the current man in my life. These spontaneous sorts of things always seem to work out well in the movies, but my life is more complicated than that. What should I do?Dear Survivor:“When you assume,” as one of Etiquetteer’s best friends is tiresomely fond of pointing out, “you make an ass of you and me.” Your Former Love showed bad planning and poor taste by showing up at your door, suitcase in hand, without warning of any kind. Etiquetteer cannot fault you for declining to offer him overnight hospitality. Had you answered the door to him yourself, you could have said “Oh, I’m sorry, but it won’t be possible for you to stay tonight” and nothing more. If he’s so ill-bred as to ask why it’s not possible, add no more than “Well, I have plans that make it impossible.” They could be nothing more than a pedicure, but he doesn’t need to know that.If you felt safe with him, you could have invited him inside for a beverage and brief conversation, but only if you felt safe. Etiquetteer still has visions of Ike Turner molesting Tina in that parking lot in What’s Love Got to Do With It? And please fight down the urge to call and check up on this guy. The whole thing sounds like you’re well rid of him.

Dear Readers: Etiquetteer made a trip to Manhattan not too long ago and was amused to see this sign outside a synagogue. Etiquetteer couldn’t agree more!

 

 

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