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Don’t Put In An Email What You Wouldn’t Want To See On the Front Pages Of The Telegraph

Several readers sent me a link to the following story from the UK in which a prominent stepmother sent a scathing email to her future daughter-in-law blasting her for her apparent lack of manners.   The recipient of the email then forwarded it to a few friends who in turn forwarded it and the email went viral.    News articles here and here.

My first reaction after reading this was, “Good grief, have we, as a culture, become so enamored of reality television that this would be considered newsworthy?”   Second thought, “What kind of pathetic news outlet would deem this to be newsworthy?”   Didn’t anyone else feel somewhat sullied just reading about this?  It’s like we communally all decided to debase ourselves by being crass voyeurs.

I decided to not post the full text of the email because I do not want to perpetuate the idea that publishing what should have been private is somehow OK.   I’m not going to delve into the content of the email either since it is clearly a case of different and dueling perspectives and we’ll never know the truth of what really happened.  I will, however, address the matter of writing such a missive and how one receives it.

This story really demonstrates, in quite spectacular clarity, the old adage that one should never write in an email what you would never want to see published on the front page of your local newspaper.   We’ve all done it however.  Everyone of us has written something in a chat, letter or an email that probably would have been better said in person or not at all.   We all have a hope that private communication stays private between the sender and recipient but the reality is that once it leaves your hand, you no longer have control over its dispersal.

Confronting someone about their ill manners should be done face to face, in person and only as a last recourse.  Particularly with family and future in-laws, only the most egregious, long patterned behavior should be addressed.  Everything else should be overlooked as a practical expression of the belief that  “love covers a multitude of sins”.    The key motivation should be to encourage them to see how certain behaviors are actually detrimental to themselves and their relationships.   Confronting someone merely to assuage your own sense of discomfort or offense often will not have the desired effect of actually influencing someone to change.

Receiving a scathing email or letter will certainly tempt one to share the contents with co-workers, family, and friends.   Why?  To receive validation from others that we really are not as bad as the letter writer claims we are.  We want our damaged ego stroked back to normalcy by people telling us how evil that email/letter writer is and how we didn’t deserve to be treated this way.

But what of the consequences?  The bride’s father encouraged her to take the “moral high ground” and ignore the email from her future mother-in-law.    Sending the email displayed a  lack of discretion, unkindness and selfishness by the MIL but the bride confirms to the world that she is just as unkind, selfish and devoid of discretion as her future MIL is.  She held the power to choose whether this debacle ended in her In Box or whether it was perpetuated beyond her immediate family.   It’s retaliatory rudeness at its stupidest because while MIL’s email was private, the bride’s actions exposed everyone in the family to international ridicule and shame.   Both women displayed a profound lack of foresight to see how their actions would affect the family relationships.   In other words, in order to preserve the hope of better relationships in the future, sometimes the best response in the here and now is to do NOTHING.

Years ago when my husband and I were first married, he received a long letter from a then young adult relative who bitterly complained that after marrying me, my husband now had very little time to spend with him.  It was a letter written with a lot of angst, jealousy and selfishness.   My husband wisely filed away the letter never showing it to me or anyone else.   It would surface years later during a decluttering project but by this time, the author had matured, gotten married and promptly started having children (thus experiencing firsthand how time consuming it can be) and the relationship between us and him had strengthened and solidified into something positive and productive.    His family is a great blessing to us.

For the Withers/Bourne families, there are now a huge, nearly insurmountable barrier to familial harmony and the children born into this family dynamic are to be pitied.  Such a shame.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Just Laura July 12, 2011, 8:55 am

    I read this a while back, and while I agreed with the frustration of the MIL that the bride-to-be seemed to have a thank-you note problem, I felt that the MIL shouldn’t go around beating people with the etiquette stick. She is not Miss Manners nor Emily Post, and even they don’t carry a stick.

  • Flora July 12, 2011, 9:00 am

    I’d like to know more about the situation before I judge the daughter-in-law’s actions. Did she forward it to only a few close friends looking for validation and advice? If so then I think that the so called “friends” were the rude ones to pass it on. If she forwarded it to everyone in her in box as a step towards revenge, then I agree she’s just as rude as her mother in law, possibly worse.

  • coralreef July 12, 2011, 9:01 am

    In French, we say “Manquer une occasion de se taire.” I would make a rough translation as “To decline an opportunity to shut up.”

  • lkb July 12, 2011, 9:04 am

    Bravo Admin! I agree that our tell-all culture has gone too far. I did not read the links to the stories — I don’t want to know.
    A certain actress who has lost a phenomenal amount of weight (kudos for that) but wrote a book that outed all the very sordid details of her marriage to another celebrity. My opinion of her and her husband has shrunk heavily because of it. She did not seem to think of their offspring or of her parents or other loved ones who now must go through life not only knowing what their daughter did, perhaps realizing that it may have been due to their lack of parenting, but realizing everyone who picks up the book (or watches the talk shows pushing it), also know, even those who were simply looking for diet tips.

    There used to be something called shame. There used to be something called privacy. There used to be something called fraternal correction. There used to be something called sin. Sigh.

    In the case cited in the OP, I can’t see how this new family relationship cannot be irretrievably broken. If all involved are indeed able to forgive and move on, they are better people than I am. I hope and pray they are.

  • Wendy July 12, 2011, 9:19 am

    My father’s long-time live-in girlfriend sent me a letter like this once. She basically listed all of my flaws at that time – that I was late for meet-ups with them, that my home was not very tidy when they came over, that I borrowed too much money from my dad, etc. These things were true, but those were some difficult years for me, and my father chose to help me out financially. Still, it was very hurtful to be called out by her in a 2-page letter, full of nastiness and coldness. Prior to getting that shocker in the mail, I’d thought we had a decent relationship, though I didn’t have much in common with her. I called up Dad and asked him if he’d seen this letter, as it was only signed by her – he said, “Well yes, I read it and then I mailed it myself.” Gee thanks, Dad…. I tried writing back to her to apologize, to make amends, and fix things between us. In response, I received another snotty letter. She ended up passing away about a year after that letter… my Dad said that every so often, she would mention how things weren’t still resolved between her and I. I pointed out to him that I TRIED – I apologized sincerely, I didn’t know what else I could do (I was 21 or 22 at the time, and much more naive about the world).

  • Jay July 12, 2011, 9:20 am

    I think the story demonstrates that when someone is so certain of her own impeccable manners that she criticizes someone else (in writing, no less), that she shows her own lack of class most clearly.

  • B July 12, 2011, 9:21 am

    I don’t see how the bride is as unkind as the MIL. Yes, she forwarded the email to friends, but as you say, we have all done this. Not a smart thing to do, but a very human reaction. She had no way of anticipating it would “go viral.”

    I’ve recently been experiencing some in-law drama of my own. I suppose I’m glad to have kept my venting to in-person discussions with friends, but I do think that venting served a purpose.

  • Louise July 12, 2011, 9:27 am

    I don’t blame Heidi for forwarding the e-mail to her friends. I would have been hurt and angry to receive such a missive, and the easiest way for me to share that with my friends and receive their consolation is through e-mail. I see the argument that it’s best to do that in person or over the phone to prevent this sort of debacle, but that’s not always practical (yes, even by phone). I don’t think it’s unkind or selfish to want consolation from your friends. Did Heidi show a lack of discretion? Maybe. But I think the fault lies with the friends who forwarded the letter on rather than with Heidi who, as far as I know, shared it with just a few.

    Now, if the bride-to-be forwarded the e-mail in the spirit of “my mother-in-law is !@#$ nuts,” I think that was unwise, and yeah, I can see how it would retaliatory rudeness if your sole purpose was to show the world how !@#$ nuts your mother-in-law is. But if it’s because she’s hurt, she gets a pass from me. And I do think it’s latter because, when she had her time in the spotlight, she didn’t take advantage and rant about her mother-in-law. Now that would have been unkind, selfish and showing a lack of discretion.

    This wasn’t a letter written out of youthful jealously and ignorance, this was way more spiteful. The mother-in-law isn’t going to grow up and change her world views. These are her world views. I’m glad the admin’s husband was able to ignore the letter he got, but I think it’s apples and oranges. And I think Heidi’s father’s suggestion to ignore the e-mail is one of those easier-said-than-done nuggets of wisdom. (And he didn’t take his own advice, he said freely to the media that he didn’t like the mother-in-law.)

  • Mjaye July 12, 2011, 9:30 am

    I am guilty of passing along such an email. My mother’s sister lives in FL while we are in PA. She is extremely wealthy and keeps it that way by never spending a penny unless she is held down by government agents. She writes to me and my siblings stating she is coming up to see Mom and we need to pick her up at the airport, drive her around, let her stay over one of our homes and buy her the special food she needs. Why she needs the special foods is unknown since she is in perfect health.

    So, my brother emails her and says he will be on vacation most of the time and cannot be her servant for the week. My sister has two small children and explains between work and kids, she cannot be her servant. I wruite back with a list of car rental places with the phone numbers as well as local motels/hotels with the phone numbers.
    My aunt writes me back an email so hateful that I immediately share it with my siblins, cousins and friends. To this day, and this was about 12 years ago, my friends still laugh about this letter. I only wish I still had a copy.
    I know it was wrong of me to put the letter out but feel no guilt whatsoever. This is the same aunt who yelled at me when I was 5 and having an asthma attack that I was faking it because I wanted to leave her home. She had a cat and we find out after that I was allergic. And she has not changed since then.

  • SilverOrb July 12, 2011, 9:38 am

    I can understand the impulse to send the letter to one family member. I might do that. You are upset, wounded… Hoping someone will tell you that you are in the right. Once the first family member sides with you, the rush hits, and snowballs. Both may be wrong… But I would think a “classy” and “worldly” woman like Mrs. Bourne would know better than to send the email in the first place.

  • Raven July 12, 2011, 9:51 am

    I read about this a while ago, and I have to admit, I love the fact that this is out there – not for the FDIL, because I feel bad for her, but because people like the FMIL need to be taken down a peg. For all the FDIL’s “sins,” the FMIL has now done much, much worse. All her money and finishing-school manners apparently couldn’t prevent her from being rude, hurtful, passive-aggressive, meddling, and an outright snot.

    People think they’re untouchable, and they’re not. I’m sure FDIL is not perfect (who is?), but I would be completely humiliated to receive such a letter from my in-laws. I’m sure FDIL didn’t mean for it to get spread all around the entire world, but once you put something in writing, it’s out there. Think twice before writing. Think twice before condemning. Don’t be a b*tch.

  • A July 12, 2011, 9:59 am

    Couldn’t have said it any better! My first thought when I saw the articles was that no one told either of them how rude it is to point out others’ rudeness.

  • Ann July 12, 2011, 10:00 am

    While I feel the MIL’s pain, someone who expects good manners, really should exercise them herself.

    It’s called “smile & nod”. Repeat as necessary.

  • Kelli July 12, 2011, 10:07 am

    It amazes me that people think they have the right to correct and criticize anyone they deem necessary of ‘correcting’. I received a 15 page email from my half brother about 10 years ago, telling me I had no right to act as the heir and oldest child in my family since that was HIS role. He followed it up with 10 pages of explanation of why my dad was such a horrible person (his words, not mine) and that we were all brought up to hate him because he was gay (not true, we don’t like him because he is an ass). He broke off communication with our dad in the 1960s and even though my dad attempted a reconcilliation, he made it clear in the 1990s that he wanted nothing else to do with us. He said some really hurtful things and I kept the letter in case there was any argument over what was in Dad’s will. I never showed it to my dad or mom and I never responded to him.

    I did get a bit of satisfaction this year when my dad passed away at 95. I wrote his obituary and mentioned my half sister and her children, plus my own sister and I as his children, but intentionally left my half brother off the list. Well–he made it very clear that he did not consider himself part of the family.

  • SHOEGAL July 12, 2011, 10:21 am

    I actually saw the news story and email when it was reported. I didn’t actucally take sides – but felt that the mother in law might have still said what she felt to her future daughter in law if she felt so strongly just not in an email. Their relationship was never going to be a smooth one unless she got it off her chest.

    The daughter in law was wrong to forward the message – it could have been quietly discussed with close friends and family. She could have gathered advice and then made a decision about what she ought to do with it, if anything.

    Now, I think this will be very difficult to fix. Everybody was wrong – acted poorly – there are no winners here.

  • karma July 12, 2011, 10:35 am

    My husband read the email/article to me at the time. I remembered thinking that the MIL handled it poorly, but so did the FDIL.

    The FDIL’s manners as described were indeed atrocious. Not. Okay. However, I’d suggest that the MIL should have taken her son aside and said, “Dear, your bride-to-be has atrocious manners. Before the two of you return to our house or to anyone’s house socially, please help her to correct these areas.”

    There is nothing wrong with the FMIL having the expectation that her guests will behave civilly at the home and at the table. There is nothing wrong with a spouse helping their own spouse to learn table/guest/social manners. (Heaven knows many of us do all the time with our significant others.)

    The FDIL was a fool to put that email out there for the world to view. If she truly behaved as the FMIL wrote, why in the world would she want to publicize that? Were I her, I’d be embarrassed and apologetic that I’d been such a horrid guest. I’d prefer *no one* ever know the extent of my faux pas as I worked to correct my manners. I guess the FDIL figured that she’d punish her MIL, however she succeeded in humiliating herself in equal portion.

  • Ashley July 12, 2011, 10:40 am

    I have basically ignored this entire story from day one for all the reasons admin mentioned. It’s not newsworthy. It’s a family squabble that manifested itself in a rather odd manner, nothing more. The whole thing reminded me of people who have fights via what they decide to post as their status on Facebook. Why, why, why hash ANY of that out online when it just makes you look stupid?

  • Pixie July 12, 2011, 10:45 am

    The problem with the letter the that the future MIL is over stepping her bounds and trying to parent the bride. If she is a rude house guest, don’t invite them over anymore. If they notice this trend, you can then explain your actions. If the bride makes a fool of herself at her own wedding, let her. If she is really so bad she will ruin things for herself.
    As far as forwarding the e-mail to friends, understand that part. I don’t understand the friends continuing to forward it. I just don’t.

  • Margo July 12, 2011, 10:55 am

    I agree with Lorna & B that Heidi was far less blameworthy than her MIL – I haven’t seen anythign to suggest that she deliberately sent this to more than a few friends, or that she was responsible for it going viral.

    It was incredibly rude and mean-spirited for MIL to send something like this – even if she had *some* valid points they were far outweighed by the many very personal comments and critisisms (including comments about the vulgarity of the weddingvenue chosen, for instance!)

    Of course, it would have been better if the mail had not been made public, but I do feel that MIL brought it on herself.

  • AS July 12, 2011, 11:10 am

    Like some other commentators said, I too think that this wasn’t the bride’s fault (unless she sent it to the whole family and friends). She probably sent it to some of her close friends, possibly the bridesmaids, and her father for support. I’d have done that too. It is especially hurtful when MIL says things that she’ll have a hardtime to incorporate herself into the new family. Whoever forwarded it further are the ones to be blamed. Then, shame on the press to catch up on this news and publish it.

    I think the father’s advice to be silent is the best way out. Ironically though, he himself broke the silence by speaking to the press – but he might have been afraid of the press blowing it even more out of proportions.

    This is a story blown out of proportion.

  • Meegs July 12, 2011, 11:11 am

    Karma, you wrote “The FDIL was a fool to put that email out there for the world to view”

    But the FDIL was not the one who put the email out there for the world to view. The MIL is the one who did that.

  • Hemi Halliwell July 12, 2011, 11:24 am

    I agree with Admin & Ashley- this is a family issue that should have been kept in the family. The MIL should not have written a email- she should have discussed it in person- and the FDIL should not have sent it to her friends. If she was upset she could have told her friends about it and they could have consoled her just as easily.
    I, too, have been guilty of forwarding or participating in an email that I should have just ignored. Luckily, it never went “viral”. Every single thing you do or is done to you, does not need to be shared with the world. That’s one of the many reasons I do not watch “reality” television. I so wish they would do away with it.

  • Miss Miaw July 12, 2011, 11:38 am

    After reading the email, I lost any respect/sympathy for the MIL around

    “One could be accused of thinking that Heidi Withers must be patting herself on the back for having caught a most eligible young man. I pity Freddie”

    It’s one thing to find another persons manners/lifestyle lacking. It’s quite another to presume that the bride is some sort of gold digger who has been on the lookout for a ‘fine catch’ like it’s 1830 and all that matters is the grooms prospects. It assumes the bride has no love for her groom and is only after his cash, and a higher social standing (again, back to the 1800s). Generational differences may explain some of the clash here, but the MILs acertaion that the bride somehow ensnared the groom are beyond reasonable.

  • counselorm July 12, 2011, 11:47 am

    I provide training on email etiquette. The only redeeming value of these stories is providing me (and others like me) with an excellent illustration when training people on effective (and ineffective) use of email. I hope I need to use this illustration for a long time and it is not quickly replaced by a new story.

  • B July 12, 2011, 11:52 am

    One thing that really struck me about this incident is that there seemed to be quite a mismatch between what the FMIL expected of her houseguests and what the FDIL thought was expected of her. Based merely on the text I’ve seen, it’s not at all clear to me that the FDIL was doing anything rude knowingly. (Helping herself to food before the hosts? I have never heard that one.) If both parties had had some kind of discussion about house rules or family customs or whatever, it all could have been avoided.

    My own personal in-law drama is in part related to a houseguest situation. My partner and I were apparently not great guests, according to the feedback we recieved afterward. I, in particular, not having been in the family long, had no clue I was doing anything wrong. I was just acting the way I would when staying with my own family and trying to follow along with my partner and his family. In the aftermath, what really bothered me was that they were expecting me to follow rules without ever telling me what they were. Yes, there are common rules of etiquette, but customs also differ, as do upbringings, etc. etc. I might have been raised in a barn (so to speak), but I’m perfectly happy to learn to do better.

    Why couldn’t the FMIL try to assume good intentions on the FDIL’s part and try to gently guide her toward better manners?

    And more broadly, as a future houseguest, should I just read up on all possible rules of etiquette and try to be on my absolute best behavior? Or is it fair of me to tell my hosts I could really use an overt explanation of what they expect of me?

  • Gloria Shiner July 12, 2011, 11:58 am

    This just reminded me of my former mil criticizing me as being etiquette-challenged because I made the bed with the top sheet right-side-up rather than upside-down. Guess I should be glad that was in pre-email days!

  • Louise July 12, 2011, 12:12 pm

    @ karma

    “The FDIL was a fool to put that email out there for the world to view. If she truly behaved as the FMIL wrote, why in the world would she want to publicize that? Were I her, I’d be embarrassed and apologetic that I’d been such a horrid guest. I’d prefer *no one* ever know the extent of my faux pas as I worked to correct my manners. I guess the FDIL figured that she’d punish her MIL, however she succeeded in humiliating herself in equal portion.”

    1) Please explain how forwarding a disdainful e-mail from your mother-in-law to a few friends is the same as putting it out there for the world to view and an attempt to publicly punish her.

    2) In light of the fact the mother-in-law thinks it’s “unfortunate” her stepson fell in love with the bride and suggests she go to finishing school if she wants to assimilate, do you really think the mother-in-law’s portrayal of the bride is accurate or perhaps is coloured by her prejudice?

  • Xtina July 12, 2011, 12:22 pm

    Man, that’s pretty awful from both sides. For a person to attack another person over perceived bad manners is bad enough on its own, but for this kind of private family matter to be made public is every bit equally bad. To be fair, we don’t know how bad Heidi’s manners really are, if the MIL is particularly sensitive, or how it went viral (i.e. at the hands of Heidi herself or via unscrupulous friends), but the big takeaway here is that it would have been best for all parties concerned to address their concerns in person, in private, and in a more mature manner than this. Such conversations can be (and probably need to be) had and can be quite constructive, with one or both coming away much better equipped for it if it is conducted correctly.

    Agree wholeheartedly—this is yet another reminder how written communications can really backfire on a person, especially when it’s so easy to pass things on to people you don’t even know and eventually, the whole world. Censor yourself—truly, everyone has been guilty of passing things along to a friend that should have remained private, but perhaps were lucky that their friends saw fit not to pass it any further. Remember once something hits the internet—it’ll be there forever in some form that someone can Google!

  • Lace II July 12, 2011, 12:48 pm

    I agree, everyone was in the wrong here: The mother-in-law for writing it and the new bride for handling the insane criticism so poorly. Let’s not call anymore attention to this whole silly affair. Oh wait.

  • aje July 12, 2011, 1:01 pm

    I am very very careful with what I say on facebook or the internet. I have found that if someone is very rude to you (e-mail/tweet/fb) it’s actually better to respond very politely and calmly- usually giving yourself a good hour or two so that you know your response won’t be in the moment. If someone says something very crass to you online and you respond politely, they’re normally ashamed and end up responding politely- but they’ve already demonstrated their foolishness, so you can celebrate inwardly that you managed to outwit them. 🙂 Yaaay.

    I liked your story about your husband and yourself’s relative. It’s hard to see far when you are young. I had similar feelings of abandonment when my friends got married. But now that I’m older I understand it better. Everything is a learning process… it’s a shame this family didn’t figure it out before it went viral.

  • Serenity July 12, 2011, 1:03 pm

    After reading more about the e-mail, I think the future stepmother-in-law was more in the wrong. Heidi has diabetes which is why she requested more food, could not eat certain things, and had to request food at a time when the family was not eating. I do not think she should have to risk her life to make the stepmother happy. Stepmother seemed angry that Heidi publicly aired the fact that she has diabetes. Apparently this embarassed the stepmother. Heidi showed the e-mail to only a few friends, her parents, and future husband. It was one of them that decided to share the e-mail with the public. I do think it was impolite of Heidi not to send a thank you note, but that’s about it. I don’t feel that the stepmother was trying to correct Heidi’s manners, but was attacking her quite visciously.

  • The Elf July 12, 2011, 1:04 pm

    “Good grief, have we, as a culture, become so enamored of reality television that this would be considered newsworthy?”

    Yes. Absolutely. And it isn’t just the nightly news and reality television. Blogs like this feed our desire for drama and schadenfreude. There is a right way and a wrong way to feed it. You, and most media outlets that cater to this sort of thing, preserve anonymity unless the person has put themselves out there (like the wedding website a week or so back). We can snipe, snark, and suck up all the delicious gossip while keeping damage to people’s lives to a minimum. This British “newspaper” did not follow that same rule, and as a result of this publicity the marriage is probably going to be more difficult that most.

  • AS July 12, 2011, 1:18 pm

    BTW… (adding to my previous comment because I just read the original letter out of curiosity) – if FDIL actually is guilty of doing what the MIL said, she might need to look into it. It is not okay to behave badly when you are a house guest. But FMIL could have taken it up with FDIL directly.

  • Chocobo July 12, 2011, 1:40 pm

    If anyone here ever gets a letter like this, I know it may be tempting to forward or share with others. But I think the most satisfying thing to do is to burn/delete it, then pretend as if you never received it. In the long run, it will be much greater torture to the letter writer to wonder whatever happened to it, whom you shared it with, and whether it was appropriate after they’ve cooled down. Think of all the entertainment at dinner watching them sweat!

  • Nicole July 12, 2011, 2:26 pm

    Not sure what the big deal is. The accusations in the email are of little things. The email is bitchy, but in the obnoxious way of parents and in-laws, not in a particularly evil way. Forwarding an email to your friends when you want sympathy is pretty normal, too.

    Not sure why it went viral, don’t find it particularly interesting.

  • kulthoum July 12, 2011, 2:29 pm

    From reading the original article, it seems that FDIL sent the email to a few of her friends, who then spread the email to others, etc. until it became viral. I don’t think FDIL could have anticipated what would happen when she decided to share the email. True, she should have kept it to herself or told her friends about it in person, but I understand the urge to share such a hateful letter with those close to you. My reaction would probably be about the same-I am very close to my friends and regard them as family, so it would be natural for me to share the email with them, rather than immediate family members.

  • kristin July 12, 2011, 2:40 pm

    I have to admit that I was curious and went find the email to see exactly what was said. I was rather disturbed to find that much of the FMIL’s complaints were to do with FDIL’s diabetes – needing to eat soon after taking insulin, needing a specific diet, etc. Based on this, I’m going to have to side with FDIL. Anyone who would harass someone because of medical needs belongs in the deep recesses of Etiquette Hell.

  • babs July 12, 2011, 2:45 pm

    I was horrified at the email (which I suppose was meant to be shared by the bride’s close friends/family only, as if… “look what I’m marrying into!”) It was so mean spirited, and to cause that type of rift right before the wedding, knowing that everyone was going to be thrown together and how awkward the whole sordid episode would be. Surely the future MIL would expect the bride to share this with her mother, which would pit the families against each other at the worst time ever. At the same time, it made me wonder what and how many offenses the bride committed on that visit to just tick her future MIL off so badly! But… I was very young when I got married, and so was my husband’s brother and his new bride – right out of high school. My husband’s aunt was horribly difficult to get along with and I used to praise God that I wasn’t stuck with her! My MIL used to tell her sister when she would complain bitterly about her (very sweet) DIL, “But remember, WE are the adults here!” Some things have to be chalked up to immaturity and just not knowing any better. A lot of things like manners and responding in the right way are learned with age and experience, as most of us here know. Even if the future DIL had a major manners deficiency, the MIL needed to hold back her disgust and address any issues she had with the bride after the they were married. Way, way after the marriage!

  • LS July 12, 2011, 3:17 pm

    Nothing in the FMIL’s letter was unreasonable.
    Her house, her rules.

  • Hemi Halliwell July 12, 2011, 3:34 pm

    I went back and read through the article because of a few comments I saw posted here concerning the FDIL’s health and the line about having “caught a most eligible young man”. It seems the MIL thinks the FDIL is some sort of heathen woman trying to snag herself a rich man. Considering she had some questionable behavior as a young woman, according to one of the articles, and is most likely not the eptiome of etiquette all the time, she should back off and keep her thoughts (email or otherwise) to herself.
    Some people are not brought up with or taught rules of eitquette. Maybe the FDIL did not know it was rude to have seconds without being invited to or to sleep later than the hosts. If she is diabetic, there are things she can not eat because of her medical issue, not because of being etiquette deprived as MIL assumes. My step-father has diabetes so when I invite him over for a meal, I make sure there are plenty of things for him to eat. Would the MIL prefer the FDIL to go into insulin shock or a diabeteic coma so as not to offend the MIL’s over sensitive feelings?
    When I go visit family or friends, it is never an issue if I like sleep a little later or have a second helping of a yummy dish. I think sometimes perceived etiquette blunders are actually over-sensitive types trying to use etiquette to prove they are “better” or have more “class” than others. Just my opinion.

  • danielle July 12, 2011, 3:45 pm

    This seems like something that is going to be happening more and more in the future, recently while in Las Vegas I came across a t-shirt that said “what happens in Vegas stays on Facebook”
    As far as I am concerned (and yes I can be a b!tch) if you can’t handle the consequences of living in this extremely digital age where everyone and their little toe is considered newsworthy move to the mid west and look into joining an Amish community because that’s the only way you will be exempt from having to read/see everything about everybody.

  • Leah July 12, 2011, 4:04 pm

    I find it interesting that this was only one of THREE that were sent to the girl on the same day. There is no mention in this particular one of the girl’s behavior traumatizing the family dog.

    A person with diabetes must be very careful regarding what, when, and how much to eat.

  • SillyMe July 12, 2011, 4:23 pm

    Dear Admin:
    I am being 100% truthful and sincere, but today’s posts stopped me from doing something incredibly foolish, and helped me decide on handling a situation of more than poor etiquette in my family, but meanness and spite. Thank you, as I’ve decided sometimes the best way to show that behaviors and dynamics are unacceptable is to simply refuse to engage in them, and hold one’s head high with a simple “I’ve always been taught that was not the way to treat people you care about” and move right along. I know this is off-topic, but this site, while not meant to be Dear Abby, has been helpful to me more than once. But perhaps not more helpful than today.

  • Bint July 12, 2011, 5:23 pm

    I laughed so much at some of the MIL’s complaints. The one about marrying in a castle being only for celebrities…no, it isn’t. It’s incredibly common here because we have tons of castles for civil ceremonies and they’re great venues. Duh. She made a total prat of herself.

    Confused by this one…”This British “newspaper” ”

    The Daily Telegraph *is* a British newspaper and seen as quite an upmarket one. It isn’t a tabloid and it’s got the best cryptic crosswords around. It’s got some trash in it like all papers, but just because it repeated an internet sensation doesn’t mean it’s entirely trashy. The story probably resonated so much in the UK because this woman is exactly like a comedy character we have called Hyacinth Bucket – her incredible snobbery and stupidity in it are just like Caroline Bourne’s. She is a hangover from Downton Abbey days and many people were fascinated to see that dinosaurs still exist after all. She probably thinks the sun still never sets on the British Empire, for heaven’s sake.

  • karma July 12, 2011, 5:48 pm

    Meegs and Louise:

    Let me attempt to answer your comments:

    Meegs wrote, “But the FDIL was not the one who put the email out there for the world to view. The MIL is the one who did that.”

    I answer this way: the MIL sent it to the FDIL. It was between the two of them and should have stayed there. The moment the FDIL sent it to a third party, it became fodder for others. If the FDIL had simply kept the email to herself, deleted it, etc., the world would not know these women’s personal issues. Therefore, the fact that it “got out” is singlehandedly due to the FDIL’s decision to display it to others.

    Louise wrote: “1) Please explain how forwarding a disdainful e-mail from your mother-in-law to a few friends is the same as putting it out there for the world to view and an attempt to publicly punish her.”

    Do I really need to “explain” this? When you take your private communication and show it to others, (friends or not) they discuss it, talk about it, tell others, and it leaves your realm of control. It’s a very simple concept. If you don’t want others to know, don’t tell it, show it, and definitely don’t forward it!

    Louise wrote: 2) In light of the fact the mother-in-law thinks it’s “unfortunate” her stepson fell in love with the bride and suggests she go to finishing school if she wants to assimilate, do you really think the mother-in-law’s portrayal of the bride is accurate or perhaps is coloured by her prejudice?

    It doesn’t matter what I think about the fairness or unfairness of the MIL’s feelings. Either the MIL lied about the FDIL’s actions, or she told the truth. (The only people who will know are those who were there.) This isn’t about fair or unfair. It’s about two women who both handled their affairs in such a way that they each came out looking like idiots.

  • Mary July 12, 2011, 5:55 pm

    “After reading more about the e-mail, I think the future stepmother-in-law was more in the wrong. Heidi has diabetes which is why she requested more food, could not eat certain things, and had to request food at a time when the family was not eating. I do not think she should have to risk her life to make the stepmother happy. Stepmother seemed angry that Heidi publicly aired the fact that she has diabetes”

    I absolutely agree. This is what disturbed me the most.

  • Lexie July 12, 2011, 6:23 pm

    It was a soft news day, I guess.

    I believe that the MIL could have done half a dozen other things before this email and that sending such an email was a poor decision. You never ever put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want the world to see, let alone something so nasty and mean-spirited. I can only imagine that this has affected the MIL’s business and friendships, because I frankly cannot see a scenario where this email doesn’t show the MIL for who she really is.

    I feel that the Bride should have changed all names in the email before sending it on to friends – like the infamous Marnie Thanksgiving email. I think the Bride’s friends should be shamed for feeling they had a right to send on the email. The Bride shouldn’t have sent the email, but she may have been looking for support and commiseration whilst the friends devalued her confidance and turned it into this hoopla.

  • Ista July 12, 2011, 7:13 pm

    Yes, we are in a world where this is newsworthy. Apparently folks speaking on cell phones on trains is also newsworthy.
    I was horrified that FMIL attacked FDIL for having, speaking about, and treating diabetes. Whomever shared the email with the media may have overreacted, but that girl definitely needs support for her disease treatment right now. I don’t know about the rest of the email…will admit that some of it sounds cultural and the activities wouldn’t even be blinked at in my neck of the woods.

  • Melly July 12, 2011, 7:40 pm

    LS, sure her house, her rules but wouldn’t a gracious host accomodate a guest’s diabetes? Frankly I find it disturbing that this woman would rather her future daughter in law risk her health. Safety trumps etiquette.

  • Liz July 12, 2011, 7:56 pm

    People tend to live up to your expectations. It’s sounds like MIL never thought that FDIL would ever be good enough for her precious little boy before even meeting her, so she wasn’t.

    There’s a big difference between discreetly correcting someone’s behaviour and outright insulting them, saying that she’s an attention seeker, that she’s a good candidate for ladette to lady…

    …AND criticising her parents for not having enough money to pay for the wedding?! WELL, excuse me! FDIL should be so sorry that this economy is terrible, that perhaps her parents lost their jobs. REALLY any one who is not as wealthy as MIL should apologise profusely for that fact, I mean HOW DARE some one be poor! Even if FIL and MIL are covering the cost of the wedding, she should not be whining about having to cover it because the FDIL’s parents can’t -when money is given like that, it’s meant to be a gift, as in no strings… if you can’t/don’t want to give it, then don’t! Don’t give it and lord it over people. THAT is tacky.

    Also, demanding thank you notes? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Why doesn’t MIL stop inviting her over, and go over to her place and practice all those helpful etiquette tips towards the FDIL, isn’t that a better way of getting the point across? Lead by example, not retaliatory rudeness.

    I’d have thought that MIL would be old enough that even in private you shouldn’t say something that you wouldn’t want every one you know to hear. Any thing you post or send on the internet can absolutely come back to bite you, private e-mails can be used in court. Besides the FDIL didn’t send it to every one she knows, she sent it to a few friends and then it went viral, the very nature of “viral” being that its out of control.