My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half. We’re happily in love and plan to go to law school together after we finish college. Here’s the thing: I desperately want him to invite me home for Thanksgiving to meet his family. My family is wonderful, but it’s spread out and dysfunctional. His is stable and traditional, almost movie-like. I could always ask him. But in my mind, the invitation would mean so much more if it originated with him. Any thoughts?
Other than “plan ahead much”? Two things: Don’t Norman Rockwell your boyfriend’s family. When I was your age, my family looked stable and movie-like, too. Then, without a word of warning, my father killed himself with a rifle. Families are always more complex than they seem. By idealizing your boyfriend’s clan, you (inadvertently) limit the stories he can tell you about them.
As for Thanksgiving, only Disney princesses are always asked to dance. Just sitting back and collecting invitations is an outstanding fantasy. Who doesn’t want to be wanted? But getting the things we really prize — like that job promotion or meeting our boyfriend’s mother — is better accomplished by straight-up asking for them. Hints and trickery are cheap. Go with a calm, direct request. How can our boyfriends know our drumstick fantasies unless we tell them?
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
I have a co-worker who is great. But she often says things like, “If I’m not fired before then” or “If I’m still around.” We work for a small nonprofit. There’s very little chance of anyone getting fired unless a huge mistake was made. I’ve tried to assure her that her job is safe, but the comments keep coming. Is there another route to go?
Happily, there is always another route. Try asking her, “Is there a reason you keep saying you’re going to be fired?” Then hear her out. She may intend her remarks as charmingly modest or self-deprecating. If you are in a supervisory or mentoring role with her (or willing to be a busybody, which I sanction here), say: “You do a great job. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by constantly planting the seeds of your incompetence or temporary status.” Still, self-confidence is a hard trick for some of us to pull off. So engage her concerns. Don’t boss her around.
Sisters-in-Law, Still Strangers
My sister-in-law (my husband’s brother’s wife) has declined the last six invitations to events given by me or in my honor. Her excuses are not convincing: Traffic was bad so she had to turn around; her child was too tired for a 5 p.m. dinner. When I do see her at family events, she is cold to me, while warm to others. I’ve only had one brief conversation with her, so I don’t think I’ve done anything to warrant this behavior. How many more times do I let her decline before removing her from my guest list entirely?
I get that you’re pretty wedded to your reading of this story: Your sister-in-law is a wench who hates you for no reason, and you want my blessing to cut her out of your life as sharply as Babe Paley snipped Truman Capote from hers after he published “La Côte Basque 1965,” right? (If I were in your shoes, I might feel the same way. But I’m not, so I see a few more options.)
By your own account, your sister-in-law doesn’t decline the invitations; she accepts, then cancels at the last minute. This may make her an even bigger horror show. Or it may demonstrate a desire to attend that’s overtaken by anxiety as party time draws nigh. This also fits with your statement that you’ve had only one conversation with her. You may be extended family, but you’re still strangers.
Don’t get me wrong: Bailing at the last minute is rude. But before we declare her dead to you, invite her for coffee one on one. Say: “We’ve never gotten the chance to sit down together. Can we make a date?” If she refuses, I give up. She’s probably not crazy about you. (We can’t be everyone’s cup of tea.) But maybe she’ll say yes. And you’ll discover that banquets and strangers are the problem here — not you!
Boys Will Be (Glamorous) Boys
I knocked on my neighbors’ door to borrow their lawn mower. No one answered, so I opened the door to call inside. No one seemed to be home. But then I saw their 6-year-old son in the hall, wearing one of his mother’s dresses with a yellow towel on his head. I was stunned! So, I left quickly. Should I say something?
Are you honestly claiming never to have played in your mother’s closet or with her jewelry box? If so, you are the only boy I know who didn’t. Kids pretend! It’s practically obligatory — and signifies nothing, at least as far as you’re concerned. Keep quiet. Next time, wait for your neighbors to answer their door. (And for your information: That yellow towel was his lustrous blond hair.)