ASK AMY

The Fresno Bee - - Life - Con­tact Amy Dick­in­son via email: [email protected] dick­in­son.com. Read­ers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also fol­low her on Twit­ter @ask­ingamy or “like” her on Face­book.

DEAR AMY: Over the hol­i­days my wife and two young chil­dren were with my wife’s fam­ily (her mom, dad, sis­ter, broth­erin-law and their two chil­dren).

My sis­ter-in-law in­sisted that we or­der take-out in­stead of hav­ing a home­cooked meal. We or­dered in, and she paid for the meal.

Days later my father-in­law sug­gested that he and I should give her money for the meal ($47 each). I’m an­noyed by this for a few rea­sons: I have pur­chased sev­eral more ex­pen­sive take-out meals at fam­ily events and have never asked for (or been of­fered) com­pen­sa­tion.

This is also an ex­am­ple of an in­creas­ingly fre­quent sit­u­a­tion where my father-in-law ef­fec­tively dic­tates how my wife and I spend our money. For my son’s birth­day, he of­fered to cover half of the cost of mu­sic les­sons. It was a lovely idea but it also sad­dled us with an ad­di­tional ex­pense (I ended up pay­ing for all of the les­sons).

In my view, if he felt my sis­ter-in-law needed to be re­paid, he could have made the point at the time of the meal, or he could have cho­sen to take care of it him­self.

This is also an ex­ten­sion of a per­ceived dif­fer­ence in eco­nomic po­si­tion be­tween my wife and I, and her sis­ter’s fam­ily. As a re­sult, they tend to be treated more gen­er­ously by my in-laws. It is fine for them to treat their chil­dren how­ever they wish, but I don’t be­lieve that also con­scripts me to fol­low suit.

Am I just be­ing petty and cheap?

Son-in-law

DEAR SON-IN-LAW: Your father-in-law’s sug­ges­tions may sound like com­mand­ments, and you may feel pres­sured be­cause he is your father-in-law, but you are an adult and you can make a choice to get on board – or re­spond re­spect­fully: “Thanks for the sug­ges­tion. This is gen­er­ous of you. But I’ve picked up the check any num­ber of times; my the­ory is that these things even out in the end.”

You say that this has be­come a per­sis­tent is­sue; be­cause it seems you can ac­tu­ally af­ford to be more gen­er­ous, you should choose the path that causes you to feel the best about your­self. You can try to an­tic­i­pate, par­tic­i­pate and learn to tol­er­ate this ex­pec­ta­tion – and come off as mag­nan­i­mous and gen­er­ous – or you can po­litely push back and tol­er­ate the uncer­tainty that ac­com­pa­nies won­der­ing if you are be­ing stingy. Be­ing righ­teously cor­rect (as I sin­cerely be­lieve you are) doesn’t al­ways com­pen­sate for feel­ing petty.

DEAR AMY: Wow, I iden­ti­fied with “Grunged,” who is stuck with dis­gust­ing house­mates.

When I last roomed with two guys and a gal, we de­vel­oped a so­lu­tion.

We agreed to and re­ferred to it as the 24-hour rule.

If one made a mess in the kitchen and did not clean it up within 24 hours, the dishes landed on that per­son’s pil­low at the end of that pe­riod. It cured all fu­ture kitchen cleanups.

Grunge So­lu­tion

DEAR SO­LU­TION: This would be hard to im­ple­ment in a large house­hold where all were sep­a­rate renters. But it’s a great so­lu­tion among friends.

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