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Seat Wars

It’s that time of the year when Thanksgiving Day kicks off the start of the Holiday Dining Seating Wars.  Who gets to sit where?  Readers, how does your family handle seating large numbers for the meal?

I humbly submit this story about my stepmother (let’s call her Jane). Jane and my father married when I was a pre-teen and she has always treated me OK, but she always treated her own two children as a better than my sister or myself. When I was younger I took great offense to this and it hurt me deeply, it bothered my sister to the point that she stopped visiting my dad and stepmom.  (My sister lived with my mother and I lived with my father and stepmother). Now that I am older myself and have a child of my own I can kind of understand why Jane held her own children in higher esteem, I am not saying she was right to act as she did, but I understand it.

Flash forward to this past Father’s Day, my stepmother calls and invites myself and my girlfriend , my sister,  my two step siblings, the father of my stepmother’s deceased 1st husband, and my stepmother’s mother to dinner to celebrate Father’s Day with them. I accept the invitation and am looking forward to the evening.

When the day arrives we get there and my dad and stepmother make a big production about giving my stepbrother who has one child and another on the way a Father’s Day present, even so much as indicating that the present was enough cash for my stepbrother to buy a certain power tool he’d been lusting after. Now I thought it odd that they deliberately gave him a gift for Father’s Day in front of me but didn’t even have a card for me, after all I was a father too, but it didn’t bother me that much really, I chalked it up to him having a child on the way. I had brought a gift for my father and gave it to him, and a card for my stepbrother as well.

When it came time for dinner, served buffet style we began getting our food when Jane told us that there were not quite enough seats at the dining room table. This was the norm at her house, for some reason she never has quite enough seating and what usually happens is that my parents’ generation and their parents ate at the dining room table and my generation, and our children ate in the basement.  However this time was different, it wasn’t the entire family (I have a large extended family), and I knew that at Christmas and Thanksgiving there were frequently more people at the table then were at this gathering. Jane had put out enough seats for everyone but three.   My stepbrother, father and stepgrandfather (is that the right term?) were given priority seating, and my sister, myself and my girlfriend were basically given the cold shoulder and told there was room on the back deck or in the basement. My stepsister opted not to sit at the table and join us on the back deck, decent of her and quite frankly shocking considering my sister and she do not get along in any way shape or form.

I can’t help feeling hurt by this deliberate snub on the part of my stepmother, she could easily have rearranged the seating so that three more people could have sat at the table, or at least brought another table in to fit more people in, after all there was a table with chairs not being used in the kitchen. I haven’t confronted them about the issue, but I have decided that I won’t be visiting them often for family gatherings, the dining in separate rooms always struck me as odd, but this time she went too far and deliberately alienated my sister, myself and my girlfriend.   1110-10

{ 105 comments… add one }
  • Simone November 22, 2010, 3:07 pm

    @OP – It can be very frustrating when the family has pegged you at an early age as ‘the bad cook’ or ‘the stubborn one’ or whatever and refuses to move on from this label well into adulthood. There is no easy solution other than accepting it or tricking people into eating your food. Last Christmas did your GF consider simply looking at them like they were mad and saying “Nonsense, he cooks really well”?

    Anyway, I have to concur with the general thread of people suggesting that you distance yourself from these people. Nothing you have told us about them does not sound toxic.

  • Mother of a Bride November 22, 2010, 3:22 pm

    Wow, OP, I feel for ya! The weird thing is my MIL won’t eat my cooking either, but she’s heard others rave about it. That’s where I think her jealousy comes from. Like you, though, she doesn’t bother to sample my food, so how would she even know?

  • OP November 24, 2010, 10:30 am

    Simone – The GF did do just that, she told them that I was an excellent cook and had no idea where they got the idea I couldn’t cook.

  • jack March 20, 2011, 8:01 pm

    Shouldn’t it be your father that stands up for you?

  • Leah December 7, 2012, 3:50 pm

    “I never understood why, in a large gathering, you would want to segregate by generations. Those occasions, to me, always were a special time for me, my siblings, and others, to be able to appreciate different people of different ages in a social context.”

    I think Lynne hit the nail on the head here. It might just be that I grew up homeschooled, but I can’t STAND age segregation in social situations like that, at all. Growing up, I preferred the company of adults to kids my own age (I was ncomfortable with them and most of their wild behavior, and it wasn’t until I turned 16 that I really started to connect with people in my age bracket) but I really didn’t start to dislike the kids table until I was about 13, and I had to sit with my younger relatives while my older cousin got to sit with the adults (my sister and cousin were only a year and two years younger than me, and they were ticked off too); it was especially grating because my grandparents were in attendance that year, and since they live across the country from us, we really only get to see them every 2-3 years. Good news was that I only had to face the kids table when my family didn’t host, as my parents never had one once I turned 10.

    @ Jenna: Wow, if my family tried to pull that stunt on my sister and I (since we’re both in college) we would have flat-out left. 0_0 OMW.

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