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“That’s How We Rudely Do It Around Here”

I’ve been living in my fiance’s state for almost a year now. His family isn’t really all close, most have moved away, so I haven’t really met too many people family-wise or his parents’ friends-wise… it’s just been our friends. Recently, my mother-in-law asked me if I wanted to go to this baby shower with her in a couple weeks. At first, I said that I didn’t really feel comfortable just coming since I wasn’t invited. She said oh no, don’t worry, just come, no big deal. I asked her to make sure with the hosts that it’s okay just in case there’s a sit down lunch or something and they need to know numbers. She said once again that no, don’t worry about it, “that’s how we do it up here”. I told her ok, just wanted to be sure, because I had been to another baby shower up there (a friend’s) and it was almost like a mini-wedding- meaning I would have never brought someone with me just out of the blue. I have no idea who this shower is for, it doesn’t seem like my mother-in-law is very close with this person because when I inquired information she just said, “Oh so and so’s cousin’s daughter”, type of answer, so I feel really weird about this. She insists that I go with her. Do I go? And if I do, do I buy a present? I feel kind of weird asking her to put my name on any card that’s from her, but I also don’t have tons of money to go spend on someone that I don’t even know, don’t even know what gender the baby is, and I wasn’t invited in the first place.  Help? 0124-14

I wouldn’t touch this invitation with a ten foot pole.   If you had been wanted at this shower, you would have received an invitation.   And your future mother-in-law’s claim of “that’s how we do it up here” could be nothing more than a declaration of her own bad manners she’s willing to justify using a debate fallacy known as Argumentum ad populum.   It’s a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it. In other words, the basic idea of the argument is: “If many believe so, it is so.”   It may be true that many of your future mother-in-law’s friends and acquaintances rudely presume upon a hostess with more added guests but that doesn’t make it good manners.


{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Charliesmum February 17, 2014, 7:59 am

    Do not go. Aside from the fact that it sounds like it would be really awkward for you, I am sure you would not want to be the inadvertent subject of a later submission to this site as the rude person who came to a baby shower despite not knowing the mother-t0-be at all!

    I agree that your MIL may be working under the impression no one cares if she brings along unexpected guests, possibly because no one has ever called her on it.

    I have an Auntie who didn’t like to drive anywhere alone, and she would bring along a friend of hers for company – bridal showers and the like – which might have been fine but she didn’t ask if she could do so. She just did. Eventually, of course, we realised that would happen and planned accordingly, but it still rolled a few eyeballs.

    In the end I say trust your instincts on this one.

  • Angeldrac February 17, 2014, 8:16 am

    Admin, I disagree entirely with your argument, as I had many times when you have drawn the conclusion that manners are an absolute. They are not. Manners differ from family to family, community to community, nation to nation.
    It may very well be “how’s it’s done” in Op’s new circle, HOWEVER, I DO agree with your suggestion not to touch this invitation as I think it is evident that OP is needs more time to discern for herself as to whether “that’s how it’s done” in this situation or if that is just MIL’s skewed interpretation.

  • hakayama February 17, 2014, 8:26 am

    Without delving into my abhorrence of the aberration of all things known these days as “showers”, I am wholeheartedly siding with ADMIN. And not only because of the quoted argumentum ad populum*, but also because it involves “interesting” in law dynamics.
    The MIL to be might have all kinds of reasons why she wants you to go with her: she wants to show you off, she’s not feeling too secure walking in alone into a situation where she doesn’t know that many people, etc.
    While at times it is very noble 😉 to be someone’s social crutch, in this case there’s also a very distinct possibility of testing your “malleability”. Y’know, the case of the “queen bee” imposing her will on the little young, possibly insignificant, worker of a DIL.
    Please do not start this relationship with a precedent of pleasing someone at the expense of your own discomfort.

    * I was raised by parents with whom that was never a good argument. So statements such as “but Ma, everybody does this/nobody does this” got shot down with a simple “YOU are not everybody”. THE END. ;-/ 😉

  • Lo February 17, 2014, 8:45 am

    A variation of this phrase, “that’s how we do it” has been used in my own family culture to excuse a lot of rudeness over the years.

    Never believe it. For all you know your MIL could be *that* guest that who always shows up with another person in tow and everyone rolls their eyes and puts up with it because no one wants to call her on it.

    There is no way to wrangle another invitation on your mother’s part that is polite. Unless the hosts ask you directly, and they won’t because you don’t know the mother-to-be, you really can’t go.

    It’s nice your MIL wants to spend time with you Seize hold of that and offer to take her to lunch on another day instead.

  • DGS February 17, 2014, 9:11 am

    I wonder if MIL (who is being quite rude by insisting that OP attend with her without an invitation issued for OP) doesn’t know the cousin or the daughter that well herself and feels uncomfortable attending an event where she won’t know many people. Rather than use that as an opportunity to meet new people or become closer to members of her extended family or politely refusing the invitation if she is not interested in doing so or would rather not attend an event where she does not feel 100% comfortable, she’s implicating OP in her pact of boorishness. I second Admin’s recommendation and would politely decline.

    • hakayama February 17, 2014, 1:07 pm

      Yes, DGS: “…politely [BUT FIRMLY] decline”.
      I suspect that many of those individuals, whose improprieties are met with eye rolling, very seldom hear the word NO with regard to their demands.

  • Cecilia February 17, 2014, 10:52 am

    I would *not* go. To avoid upsetting your future MIL, maybe you can remember an appointment you forgot about when you said you would attend with her. Or, since it is the cold & flu season, you might not feel well a day or so before the shower and you would not want to give something to the MTB and the other guests.

    Anytime someone uses the “that’s how we do it around here” excuse, politely declining is the best answer.

  • WMK February 17, 2014, 11:20 am

    I don’t go any place where I have not been invited. Do not go.

  • Thistlebird February 17, 2014, 11:42 am

    Besides all this, it doesn’t sound like *you* are all that excited about going to this shower–I wouldn’t be either, going to a shower where I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t sure I’d be welcome! There is really no reason–even if it somehow turns out that *is* how they do it around there–for you to go to a party you are not invited to and don’t really want to go to!

  • HollyAnn February 17, 2014, 12:59 pm

    I’m going to go against the trend and say that I don’t see that much of a problem with this invitation from MIL. Many baby showers are casual affairs, especially if they’re hosted in someone’s home and there are no issues with restaurant seating or bills. If MIL says it’s a casual occasion where extra guests are welcome, I don’t see any reason to doubt her. This could be a nice opportunity for bonding with future MIL if you go together.
    If I was in OP’s place, I would buy an inexpensive gift and attach my own card saying “From Jane Johnson (Mary Smith’s future daughter-in-law)”. This way the hostess would know who I was, and I wouldn’t feel like I was mooching since I had brought a gift. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? OP discovers the event is more formal than MIL said, she spends a couple of moderately uncomfortable hours at the shower, and then she doesn’t have to think of it again. Meanwhile, MIL will appreciate that OP came with her (maybe MIL is shy about going alone). And in the future, OP will know not to accept any second hand invitations from MIL again.

    • hakayama February 18, 2014, 7:09 pm

      “Bonding” with a FMIL can happen at other times. Frankly, judging by the quick first impression of THIS particular FMIL, she would be the last person I’d care to bond with. On any level. 😉

      Without going into the irrelevant logistics of “assigned seating” vs. “elastic walls”, each of which is fraught with pitfalls, I’d like to address the issue of “what’s the worst that could happen”.
      If the LW allows her FMIL to coerce into attending, regardless of whether the event is casual or formal, the hours spent at the shower most likely WILL be less than enjoyable.
      Add to them the days and hours of uncomfortable anticipation.
      Add to those days and hours the days and hours of uncomfortable regrets and reminiscing about just every minute after minute after tedious minute of fake smiles, mind numbing small talk with people LW is not likely to ever see again in this life again, topped off with what I understand is the standard fare of dubiously entertaining games…

      @LW: It’s YOUR LIFE. Take control of it and hang on whenever you can.

      @All of us: TIME is the “stuff” life is made of. Let’s not squander it on unworthy undertakings.

  • Challis February 17, 2014, 1:04 pm

    don’t go!!
    there aren’t even any pluses in the ‘yes, attend’ category.
    many people don’t even want to go to the showers that they ARE invited to, much less ones that they are not.
    I agree with Lo– something along the lines of, “gee, MiL I sure would love to spend some time with you, how about brunch next Sunday instead?” might be your best bet.

  • Yet Another Laura February 17, 2014, 1:48 pm

    Trust your instincts and do not go. I’m hearing warning signs all over the place. I’m betting that your mother-in-law is not planning to run your presence past the hosts at all.

  • Library Diva February 17, 2014, 2:27 pm

    I agree with everyone’s advice about not going. Since you’ve already said no once, when this arises again, tell your MIL that you’re sorry for the confusion, when you said you weren’t comfortable going to an event where you didn’t know anyone, you thought that was the end of it, and you’d planned to go skydiving/attend a concert/take that goat-milking class/etc with friends, but can you get together with her on Sunday, the two of you, maybe for brunch? In that way, you’re not rebuffing her overture of friendship, just vetoing that one activity (thanks to the posters on the MLM thread who suggested this tactic!)

  • Jewel February 17, 2014, 2:28 pm

    ADMIN is right; don’t go. The embarrassment of being an uninvited guest will haunt you for years — maybe just in your own conscience, but possibly also in comments made by others in the family when word gets around about you (and your MIL’s) actions.

    Some years ago, my cousin extended an invitation to me unbeknownst to the actual hosts. She had been invited by her husband’s cousin and wife to their apartment to watch the city’s July 4th fireworks show. The apartment was in a prime location for viewing. My cousin decided the “more the merrier” and invited me to come with her. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to turn her down. She just didn’t understand my reluctance to attend no matter how I tried to explain it to her that guests don’t circumvent the host’s control over who is invited to their gathering.

    Over the years since then I’ve heard many mildly worded, but pointed, comments from mutual acquaintances that her tendency to overstep like this is well known and not at all appreciated. Sadly, she remains oblivious.

  • Jewel February 17, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Hakayama — I tell my kids, “I’m not everybody’s/nobody’s mother, but I am YOUR mother and the answer is ‘no’.” 🙂

  • NostalgicGal February 17, 2014, 10:54 pm

    Decline decline decline…

    It’s a slippery slope, you didn’t get the invite directly, and you don’t want your MIL to continue to add you to things. Do it once and she’ll assume it can be done again. And again. And again.

    Grow the spine and starch it now. “I’m sorry but I will not be able to accommodate that request” is the gist of it.

  • Vikya February 18, 2014, 2:51 am

    I agree that LR should not go to the shower. But perhaps the future MIL is thinking of the shower as a way for the LR to get to know some extended family members. Not the best way to go about it because of the potential rudeness factor, but maybe her heart is in the right place.

  • Girlie February 18, 2014, 10:53 am

    Hi.. the DIL here. I made the huge mistake of caving in and going to the shower.. HUGE HUGE mistake. My MIL kept claiming that it was casual and no big deal, so I thought fineee. Mind you, she was also bringing my SIL, who is younger, so she wasn’t going alone (so it’s not that she was going alone). I didn’t buy a present because I didn’t think I should have to- I figured my MIL would at least buy something at least a little bigger (she didn’t), but I at least bought the card and she told me to put all our names on it. When we arrived to the restaurant, everything was decorated cutely and it was definitely a formal baby shower (thank god I dressed appropriately and went against my MIL’s “oh it’s casual” note). We walked in and only the 2 hostesses greeted us with an exclaimed “oh wow! We had no idea you were coming!” which put me to realize my MIL had never even RSVP’d. I was mortified. Thank the LORD it was a buffet lunch and not a plated one. The Mom-to-Be almost completely ignored me, the Dad-to-Be (who came in for some reason and stayed? it was all women) said hi to everyone at our table except the 3 of us and barely anyone else spoke to us. My MIL knew people, but the thing I’ve noticed around here is that everyone knows everyone but no one cares. Anyways. I learned my lesson trying to make my MIL happy.. but NEVER never again in this way. It was completely and utterly embarrassing.

  • Elizabeth February 18, 2014, 10:54 am

    You haven’t been invited. Your MIL is not in a place to invite you.

  • Enna February 20, 2014, 1:25 pm

    I agree with admin and everyone else who is saying don’t go – you haven’t been intvied directly and if the host does not know you are coming that could have reprecussions for you even if it isn’t you fault you were led astray so to speak. Could it a a gift grab?

  • Waterlight February 22, 2014, 12:35 am

    I was in almost exactly this situation about ten years ago–not for a baby shower, but for a party. A (now-ex) friend manipulated me into going to a party I didn’t particularly want to go to by saying it was rude to turn down an invitation when I didn’t already have plans. (When I said I hadn’t been invited, she said SHE was inviting me.)

    The two hours or so I spent at that party were two of the most uncomfortable hours I’ve ever spent. It was pretty clear from the way the hostess treated me that she hadn’t wanted me there–and Now-Ex Friend lied and told her I’d insisted on coming!

    I think it says something here that even ten years later, I still have a bad taste in my mouth about the incident.

    Based on my experience, I’ll be singing “Don’t go” with the choir here… and though this is probably not strictly EHell-approved, I recommend “having plans already” if FMIL brings the shower up again.

  • HET February 22, 2014, 2:28 pm

    I agree with the “don’t go” folks, and I second the poster who mentioned TIME as a precious commodity.

    To that, I’ll add another point for OP to watch out for: whether your FMIL is *that person* who always brings uninvited guests, or whether she is correct when she states “that’s just the way we do things around here,” OP, observe carefully! For if you in fact marry her son and remain in this region, YOU will soon be the bride/MTB/fireworks-viewing party host who will be stuck dealing with the future uninvited and unexpected guests of your MIL and/or your other friends who “do it this way ’round here.”

    Best wishes on your impending nuptials!

  • EllenS February 22, 2014, 3:39 pm

    1) LW has already told future MIL that she is uncomfortable going uninvited to a party, especially where she doesn’t know anyone.
    2) Showing up uninvited -especially to an event that is supposed to be for close friends and family, is rude. Period.
    3) Future MIL is pressuring LW to do it anyway, and taking her objections as points to be argued, rather than reasons for her refusal.

    MIL has demonstrated that she has a poor grasp of boundaries and respect for others. Do not take her word for what is “acceptable” anywhere, and do not go to the shower.

  • Dear! March 6, 2014, 3:32 am

    Run away!

    My sister does this to me all the time. She invites me, with good intentions, to events when I don’t know the hostess, the hostess doesn’t know me, and I’m not sure if she can handle another guest. And it makes for a very uncomfortable evening. I never want to be “those people” who are tolerated with a smile, but are really a burden to those hosting an event.

    The strange part….my sister hates it when her friend (a girl who would think nothing of inviting 2 or 3 people to attend an event with her, sit down dinner of not) does the same thing to her, and thinks it’s rude. lol.

  • Leah March 30, 2014, 2:36 pm

    I was in a very similar situation a few years ago, except that it was a wedding shower, not a baby shower, and I honestly can’t even remember who invited me. It would have been a friend, not family, as I had just recently moved to that city and barely knew anyone there.
    BIG MISTAKE. It actually turned out to be sort of a bachelorette party/wedding shower, very informal, complete with gifts of lingerie from many of the attendees. It was embarrassing to watch someone I didn’t know open those kinds of gifts in a church basement, and I don’t think I even saw her again after the party.

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