Pass­ing the hat feels like pass­ing the buck


Dear Amy: Over the hol­i­days my wife and two young chil­dren were with my wife’s fam­ily (her mom, dad, sis­ter, brother-in-law and their two chil­dren).

My sis­ter-in-law in­sisted that we or­der take­out in­stead of hav­ing a home-cooked meal. We or­dered in, and she paid for the meal.

Days later, my fa­ther-in-law 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 take­out 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 sis­terin-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 me, 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 Son-in-Law: Your fa­ther-in-law’s sug­ges­tions may sound like com­mand­ments to you, 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: I re­cently ran into an old friend. We’ve known each other since child­hood, and dur­ing our years of friend­ship, our level of close­ness has fluc­tu­ated.

Over the past 10 years we fell out of touch, due to fam­ily com­pli­ca­tions, a re­turn to school and a divorce (on my part), and work (on her part).

I was happy to see her re­cently, and she seemed happy to see me. Be­cause we were both in a rush, I asked if she was on Face­book and she said yes.

I promised to con­tact her that way.

When I went to her Face­book page, I no­ticed her “add friend” but­ton was grayed out.

I “waved” at her through Messenger, which is all I can do with­out a re­sponse from her.

I have heard noth­ing back, and she has not at­tempted to con­tact me.

I’m not sure if I’m be­ing snubbed, and don’t know what to do next. — In the Gray In the Gray: Your friend’s “add friend” but­ton might be in­ac­tive be­cause of her own pri­vacy set­tings. She might not re­al­ize that you are try­ing to add her as a friend. She might not re­al­ize that you are out there in the cy­ber fog, wav­ing wildly.

Give this one more try. Send her a card or an email (if pos­si­ble). Say, “It was so great to run into you again! Here’s my con­tact in­for­ma­tion in case you want to re­con­nect.” And then leave the con­nect­ing up to her. 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 Grunge So­lu­tion: This would be hard to im­ple­ment in a large house­hold where all were sep­a­rate renters. But it’s a great so­lu­tion among friends. Amy’s col­umn ap­pears seven days a week at wash­ing­ton­­vice. Write to [email protected]­dick­in­ or Amy Dick­in­son, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, N.Y. 13068. You can also fol­low her @ask­ingamy.

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