The Accidental Hostess

by admin on April 15, 2014

This is a story about how I inadvertently found myself on the path to Etiquette Hell.

I was pregnant with my son, and well into my second trimester when my mother-in-law decided I should have a baby shower. Now, I am not a fan of showers of any kind. I did not have one for my first child (from a previous relationship), and I certainly had no intention of having one for my second. MIL insisted that relatives had been asking her when the shower would be, and that since my other child was older and a different gender a shower was perfectly fine. She said she would take care of everything and all I had to do was show up, and it would be a great way to see some of the relatives I wouldn’t otherwise get to visit. I should have listened to that little voice telling me this was a horrible idea.

Over the next few weeks my MIL was in contact, asking me who I wanted on the guest list. I gave her some names, but truthfully, I was hesitant to put any of my friends through such an afternoon. Then came the requests for game ideas. I had no idea, but I looked up some different games online that I thought might be fun, and sent them along to MIL. Next she wanted to know what would be good to have for food. Once we settled on that, she asked if I could call and order the sandwiches and cake since she lived several hours outside of town and it would be easier for me to order the food and pick it up.

It was through one of my invited friends that I learned that the shower was being held at my house. I called MIL and asked her what was going on. She said that she couldn’t find a suitable location for a reasonable cost, and since everyone already knew where I lived, it was the best option. She didn’t ask or even tell me that this was the arrangement!

I’m sure you see where this is going by now.

By the time the day of the event finally arrived, I had put together a guest list, researched games, ordered and picked up the food, and had my house commandeered as the location. I had spent hours cleaning and preparing my house for guests. MIL didn’t come to my town until the evening before the shower. She dropped a bag of decorations at my door and said she had to run and do some last minute things, and that she would be by in the morning to set things up.

The next morning came and I got up early to be ready when MIL arrived. By 11:30 am there was still no word from her, so I started in putting up the decorations and setting out the chairs. Hubby was taking our older child to a movie but he helped until it was time to go. I set out the food and got the music ready. By this time a few of the guests had arrived. Still no MIL. She finally rushed through the door, saying that she overslept and then had to pick up some last minute items. She poured a couple of bags of chips into bowls and that was her contribution to the set-up.

When it was time to play games, MIL insisted that I take over as host and give the directions. I wasn’t comfortable with this at all, but she refused to do it saying she didn’t know anything about the games, and I knew more people here than she did.

So when the baby shower was finally done, I had taken care of the guest list, games, food, and prepared and run the whole event. I basically became host of a party for myself that I didn’t even want in the first place. I cringe to think of how many etiquette rules I violated with this one event! 0407-14

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Lo April 15, 2014 at 7:54 am

Nothing but sympathy from me! I’m a pushover myself and I have a really hard time saying no to parental figures. I’m the type to follow through once I’m in over my head, stew in silence over it, and hold it against them forever and a day. I would chalk this up to a lesson learned and make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Anyway, if everyone had fun then I wouldn’t sweat etiquette rules violated. You did the best you could in a bad situation. You’ll never let it happen again.

For the record, a good time to say no, if you couldn’t manage the first time, would have been when she informed you it was going to be at your place. Then it IS your party and you can cancel your party. After all, you did 90% of the work.

Now you will be in a better position to ward off future attempts to impose on you, knowing that they’re going to happen.

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The Elf April 15, 2014 at 11:43 am

And at what point do you say “no”? Aside from not agreeing to the shower in the first place, everything else is at least sort of reasonable right up until the invitiations were already out. It’s a little harder to cancel then!

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starstruck April 15, 2014 at 1:32 pm

you say no the first time she asked you to do anything for the shower that she is supposed to be throwing. ordering food, inviting people and planning games? the answer to all is no.

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starstruck April 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

with the exeption of providing names of her friends and family ofcourse. :) thats the only thing the mom to be should have to do.

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Lo April 15, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Well, as I said in my post, if you cannot say no to the shower, the time to say no is when she tells you the venue is your place. You have control over what happens in your own home. Even if invitations are sent out, that is a place to put one’s foot down. That would be the place that I would work up the courage to do it if I were in OP’s position.

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The Elf April 16, 2014 at 7:18 am

I agree that’s where MIL really stepped over the line is when she said the venue was the Mom-To-Be’s own place. However, at this point invitations had already gone out. She found out first through a guest. While Mom-To-Be could have canceled at this point, it’s much more awkward and difficult to do so. Not impossible, but either you scramble for an alternate location or you cancel entirely and call everyone, and either way you’re doing a lot of work.

Seems to me that at that point Mom-To-Be was between a rock and a hard place. I don’t blame her one bit for just sighing and going through with this, assuming MIL was at least going to be there for the set-up/clean-up and act as the hostess.

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Enna April 19, 2014 at 6:38 am

I would have cancelled the party when I learnt it was going to be at my place – I would have no problems in telling MIL that that was unfair and unreasonable. At least OP knows now to be careful of her MIL.

LizaJane April 15, 2014 at 8:06 am

Oh honey, I do feel for you. If only you’d stopped after providing names for the guest list. But really, your MIL shouldn’t have been throwing the shower to begin with. Now you know how she rolls and can steer clear of her future endeavors.

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Dominic April 15, 2014 at 8:08 am

I’m not sure OP violated any rules so much as was pushed into a position of finally being unable to stop what should have been stopped much earlier.

At the first indications that MIL was not actually going to do the work required (when OP was asked to come up with games and food), her response could have been, “I’m sorry, that will not be possible. I guess we’re going to have to cancel the event.”

Definitely upon hearing that the event was, unbeknownst to OP, being held at her house, a strong “That will not be possible” message should have been issued, and the MIL left to either cancel or figure out something else.

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Enna April 19, 2014 at 6:39 am

This is also a good point.

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Ryuugan80 April 15, 2014 at 8:11 am

Honestly, I think you’re okay in this situation. The way I look at it is: you may have pulled the trigger, but she was the one who taped the gun to your hand and strapped a bomb to your chest. You may have committed some ehell crimes but are not (ultimately) morally responsible for them in full. It’s very easy to get caught up in something when it starts off as tiny little tasks, because she’s -so- far away and it’s just this one thing, right?

If nothing else, you know better now and can pave the path towards your redemption with these mistakes.

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Leah April 26, 2014 at 10:03 pm

And receive your 72 male virgins? ;)

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Samantha rose April 15, 2014 at 8:16 am

Wow, you did all the work for a shower you didn’t want and mil gets to claim that “she” put it all together for you.
I would take this as a warning for any future “events” she wants to “throw”.
Good Luck

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Dear! April 15, 2014 at 8:22 am

Wow! This is a first…. even for Ehell.

I’m curious….
1. Did ML at least pay for the items for the event?
2. What happened after?

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AIP April 15, 2014 at 2:06 pm

LOL! You know that hope is never rewarded when it comes to the like of MIL ;)

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Margaret April 15, 2014 at 8:27 am

Don’t worry about it – MIL is likely to take all the credit for the wonderful shower she threw for you. And you were so ungrateful!

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cece April 15, 2014 at 8:41 am

Ugh, OP. I’m irked on your behalf. From the info you gave us, it sounds like you handled it as well as can be expected, but I think you learned an important lesson about your MIL and events going forward.

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Shalamar April 15, 2014 at 8:57 am

Sounds to me like you did fine, OP. If anyone deserves a whack from the EHell Stick, it’s your mother-in-law. I hope she’s redeemed herself since, but I somehow doubt it.

That reminds me a bit of when my then-fiancé, now-husband were getting married. We had something called a “social”, which is a traditional party in Manitoba. The idea is that the happy couple rent a hall and arrange for food and drink, and the wedding party helps with the setup, decorating, and general looking-after. Our wedding party mainly consisted of our best man and matron of honour, who happened to be married to each other. They didn’t show up at the social until it was just about to begin (and all of the work had already been done). Their excuse was that they’d wanted to borrow the husband’s dad’s truck (not sure why), but when they showed up to take it, the dad had gone on a fishing trip. (The gall of him! Using his own truck like that! Some people have no consideration, am I right?)

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EllenS April 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

I think MIL needs a whack from the Ehell stick, the boundaries stick, the consideration of your DIL stick, the responsibility-shifting stick, and the truthfulness stick!

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gb April 15, 2014 at 5:48 pm

“Likes this”

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Anne April 16, 2014 at 5:51 am

I think that the “stick” should be upgraded to “club”.

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Bibianne April 16, 2014 at 11:31 am

Agreed!

MamaToreen April 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Club? Try Steamroller!

OneUp April 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

Too late…I’ve already upgraded to tac nuke.

Dee April 15, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Did the MOH and Best Man agree to throw this party for you? If they did, then they were out of line for not living up to their commitment; if not, then I can see where they would stall arriving until the work had been done.

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flora April 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

Oh wow, how incredibly awkward. While I feel for you, I have a hard time standing up to relatives myself. You really should have just said no thank you, especially when you discovered it was at your own house and she didn’t even feel the need to ask you? That was a good time to say no. No, we’re not doing this. Canceled the event and just enjoyed the rest of your pregnancy.

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INeedANap April 15, 2014 at 9:04 am

And all this while in your second trimester (and if “planning” took a few weeks, possibly third)?? This woman clearly does not remember being pregnant.

My aunt tried to pull a fast one on my mom years ago for a baby shower just like this. She played lazy, and kept telling her SIL that oh, she forgot to send a guest list! She’ll do it straightaway. And kept stalling until she finally gave birth, knowing the SIL wouldn’t do anything.

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Mya April 15, 2014 at 9:08 am

I don’t think you can be condemned too harshly here. It sounds like you were railroaded by your MIL. Learn from this experience and straighten your polite spine where your MIL is concerned and cultivate the repeated use of the phrase ‘I’m sorry, I cannot accommodate this.’

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lakey April 15, 2014 at 9:10 am

Is this an isolated incident of is MIL like this other times? I have a sister who loves attention and getting credit, with minimal effort. She lives a couple of hours drive away from the rest of our family. She once decided to have a celebration with our family for her son and his new wife who had gotten married previously in a very small ceremony. She tried to get me to set the thing up. I gave her the phone number of the restaurant she had in mine and told her to phone them.

As far as OP having to order food, figure out games, and so on, there are this things called phones and internet sites. Tell the offender to use them. I learned at a job I had, not to let people put their own work off on me. You need to have a couple of lines ready, especially when you know ahead of time that certain people tend to pull this stunt. “I’m not going to be able to do that, but here are a couple of (stores, restaurants, businesses) you could check with.”

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Kamatari April 15, 2014 at 9:22 am

To me, you don’t deserve to be in Ehell. Your MIL is the one to blame in this situation. It would have been nice to connect the dots sooner, but hindsight is 20/20 after all. Some people want points for effort, even if it’s just coming up with an idea and less than wholeheartedly carrying it out. She decided to take on something before she understood how much work went into it, then made you do all the work.

There’s a big list of things MIL did wrong. First and foremost is the fact that she didn’t respect your wishes and forced you to allow her to do something you didn’t want in the first place. The ball wouldn’t have started rolling if this hadn’t happened. Second, she made you host your own party, regardless of whether you wanted it or not.The third big no-no was using your home as the location without your permission. Making you come up with games and food, pick up the food, and clean and decorate your house as a whole was awful as well. It’s not even awful, it’s a slap in the face. She should have been actively working to put as little burden on you as possible. You probably had many other things to do besides inadvertently planning and hosting a party. Did she make you pay for everything too?

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DGS April 15, 2014 at 9:35 am

OP, I am certain that your guests could see your discomfort and fatigue (I can’t imagine going through all that right now, as I have a toddler and am pregnant again and am working full time – planning a party at my house sounds about as pleasant and entertaining as having all my teeth pulled without anesthesia). And whilst you probably should have spoken up and set a clear boundary by calmly and politely saying “Thank you very much for the thought, but I absolutely do not want to have a shower” and repeating it over and over again like a broken record, it sounds like your MIL is a bit of bulldozer who flattened you into doing what she wanted you to do which was host your own shower. It may be a great idea to address this with your husband and come up with a joint strategy on how to reign her in, especially if you are not a naturally assertive individual. Another idea is to have a clear and concise policy on the types of social gatherings that could inadvertently land you in etiquette hot water – no showers (which means no showers, unless it’s the bathing kind), no direct marketing parties (e.g. no Pampered Chef, no Stella and Dot, etc.) When asked, the response is, “This is not something I’m interested in doing,” followed by a bean-dip.

I’ve gotten a lot of attempted guilt trips (I say attempted, because I don’t respond to passive-aggression or guilt-tripping, which disarms the one inducing the guilt) for not hosting direct marketing parties. There are quite a few acquiantances that attempt to make extra money by selling anything and everything, from dubious weight loss remedies to kitchen gadgets to candles and anything in between. Since my DH and I, both busy professionals, have a large home with a big kitchen and family room, I do get asked quite a bit to host those parties, and I get told that I am not being supportive of housewife who is just trying to make some extra money to support her family. My response is to ignore that remark. It is not a party if someone is asked to come to my house in order to listen to a sales pitch and buy a useless, overpriced gimmicky tchotcke. A party is when I gather people I like for the simple pleasure of enjoying delicious food and one another’s company, not when I impose on people to buy a product. It may not win you popularity points, but it is okay to say ‘no’ sometimes.

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Jazzgirl205 April 15, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I like giving parties but these direct marketing things seem like I’m prostituting my hospitality. I do attends these things at other people’s houses, though.

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SingActDance April 15, 2014 at 9:51 am

Ouch. Sounds like a lesson learned. Just say no! By agreeing to make a guest list, come up with games, and arrange food, you sent the message that you were on board.

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Otterpop April 15, 2014 at 9:55 am

Oh how terrible for you, and I’ll bet exhausted from pregnancy too. Please don’t tell us you paid for everything as well and MIL took all the credit! Lesson learned: MIL will railroad you if given the chance. Don’t give in again.

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Glitter April 15, 2014 at 10:15 am

You kept your cool (at least you didn’t mention having a melt down and throwing everyone out, which is what I would have done) and handled a bad situation the best you could. I think that’s good etiquette. And if your guests know you, they know you aren’t one to throw showers for yourself. Especially since you already had a kid and didn’t do it that time around. I think you’re safe from the flames of ehell.

And next time “No, I’m not having that party” and refuse to give in at all.

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Shyla April 15, 2014 at 10:57 am

Your MIL is a piece of work. I would say no the next time she wants to have any get-together like Christmas. I think I’ll absolve you of your etiquette violations as long as you sent thank you notes. You did not want to be a gimme pig. It’s very hard when you have a pushy relative that you think you have to keep happy. Please work on your polite spine. You’ll need it since the baby is her grandchild.

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Harley Granny April 15, 2014 at 11:02 am

Oh my goodness, what a pickle of a time we get into not to upset the Mother in Law.

Hopefully those in the know will realize that none of this was your doing. I’m hoping your husband will step and and explain to his mother just where she went wrong.

My MIL showed up to my surprise bridal shower an hour late and complained to me about the invite. lol

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Calli Arcale April 15, 2014 at 11:14 am

You got blindsided, OP, and I have to wonder whether your MIL has done this sort of thing before in order to “host” without any of the effort. Once guests are invited and told to meet at your house, you were in a very difficult position, and I don’t blame you for carrying through. It was your MIL who is to blame, and if I were you, I’d just take this as a lesson learned in the sort of “host” she is and politely decline any future offers of parties from her. I hope the party turned out okay in spite of her. ;-)

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JD April 15, 2014 at 11:14 am

Wow, oh, Wow. Well, technically, all kinds of rules were broken. Your mother-in-law broke most of them, though. She shouldn’t have put on the shower (unless it was for family ONLY), she shouldn’t have shoved all the decisions over to you, she shouldn’t have commandeered your house — without telling you, no less — and she should have taken care of set up, games, clean up, etc. The biggest rule you broke, in my opinion, is not listening to that little voice and putting your foot down. However, as a fellow victim of trying to go along in order to not hurt someone’s feelings, only to have it blow up on me, I can understand.

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Pam April 15, 2014 at 11:16 am

I would like to send you a virtual pat on the back. You were put into a bad position, but you still went to the effort to clean your house, get the food and make your guests comfortable! No pat for your mother-in-law. Yikes.

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Dee April 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

You were suckered in, and hopefully your guests will realize that and let you off the hook, guiltwise. You intuition had it right the first time. This is why close relatives are not supposed to host showers; it’s supposed to be a friend’s decision whether to do so, and without really any input from the guest of honour. After all, the guest of honour isn’t the hostess (she absolutely should NOT be!), so she shouldn’t be weighing in at all. That also protects her from the fallout of a poorly planned party.

One thing that is interesting to consider for those who hate showers and don’t want one is the community of support that can be initiated by having a shower. It gives a chance for all sorts of maybe not-so-close people to get together for a common purpose – to celebrate a big change in someone’s life. Valuable relationships are often started because of these events and it makes one wonder how often a potential and wonderful relationship has not blossomed because of a lack of a shower. Especially in the case of a new baby a shower can do a terrific job of bridging generations and relations that can really help a new mom.

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Shalamar April 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I’ve thankfully grown a spine since I first met my MIL. I tend to refer to her as the irresistible force, and I’m the immovable object. She’s very good at steamrolling people until they do things her way, and I must frustrate the heck out of her, because I’m extremely stubborn and I simply refuse. That, or I smile sweetly and say “Good idea!” and then do things my own way.

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Jessie April 16, 2014 at 9:44 am

Haha you have one of those too Shalamar? Before I came into the mix people seemed to just LET my MIL steamroll everyone and everything! We had some reality checks when she realized I wasn’t going to roll over and take it like everyone else.
I like your “Good Idea” line! Mine is usually “Maybe! There are a lot of good ideas here!”

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Wild Irish Rose April 15, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I think your MIL is the one who belongs in e-hell, not you. What nerve!

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David April 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm

OP, I don’t think you should be in trouble Ehell-wise, but your MIL definitely should be. To bulldoze you into having a party, then have you actually do all the work while she basks in the glow of “look what I did for my Daugher-in-law!” is just rude and entitled.

I hope that you and your husband have decided that she no longer is involved in any decisions about events involving your family.

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Justine April 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

This happened to me once. Just once! Then lesson learned. No more showers or parties of any type from MIL. My MIL too. It becomes our problem when neither one of us wanted it in the first place.

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starstruck April 15, 2014 at 1:30 pm

For me this one is easy. you should have told her no on her first request. you agreed to let HER give you a shower. when she asked you about food, you should have said no.When she said your house was the party location, no again. you could have even used the pregnancy as an excuse to say you just weren’t up to it. planning games , inviting people and decorating? no , no, and no.

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dee April 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Time to grow a polite spine and learn to say “NO” to this monster-in-law. She may have been testing you out to see just how much steamrolling she could get away with. Next thing you know, you will be cooking a holiday dinner for 25 people that she invited.

Just practice, “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.”
And get your fiance involved too!! He should be on YOUR side.

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Teapot April 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm

And when, pray tell, did dear MIL plan to let you know that your home was the venue for the shower? When the first guest rang the doorbell? Oh, that’s right. She wasn’t there yet, she was out picking up the chips! Ehell isn’t holding a place for you, but MIL’s seat is waiting.

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ohboy April 15, 2014 at 3:04 pm

An easy way to say no is to simply not get back with someone on requested information. If she persists, you say, “oh I really don’t have the time” or “I was going to get to that, but I’m too busy”….after awhile MIL gets the idea, or she does it herself (I would think) I guess if people just showed up and nothing happened-no games – no food, the guests would only blame MIL and not you. I have the BEST friend, who when people INSIST she do something (that she knows she doesn’t want involved in) just puts the cutest little grin on her face and says “nah….I pass”, it must work cause I’ve never seen her do anything she doesn’t want to do.

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JeanLouiseFinch April 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Obviously MIL’s “sins” not yours. This experience was not wasted since it sounds like you learned a lesson about how your MIL operates. Look on the bright side, at least she didn’t write a tacky poem soliciting further gifts and e-mail it to everyone who was invited to the shower!

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Marozia April 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I’m sorry OP, but I don’t feel sorry for you at all. You caved in, and that’s what she wanted + for you to do all the work as well. Lesson learned.
At least she didn’t send out cheesy invites with tons of stores and asking for gifts of cash. You have to thank MIL for that.

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Daphne April 15, 2014 at 7:57 pm

I don’t think you did anything wrong and in fact, I would try to look at this obnoxious experience as a gift. You have received the rare gift of knowing early on in your marriage that you will NEVER EVER get involved with your MIL in this way again. I mean, just think of all the future aggravation she saved you by showing you who she really is straight out of the gate! :-)

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hakayama April 15, 2014 at 8:13 pm

I’m “signing under” most of the above. Poor you. Pox on MIL. ;-/
My condolences on having “that” MIL. Y’know, the manipulative, sugary, “helpful”, self-serving nasty hag. Probably stupid as a fence post, but very “street smart”.
My congratulations on a relatively easy lesson as to how that number needs to be dealt with: as seldom as possible, as far away as possible.
Please keep in mind the motto that many DILs need to have hanging in their kitchen:
“They are not your family. They are not your friends. They are your in laws.”
That female is DEFINITELY not your friend, and I suspect that she’s really nobody’s friend.
Let’s hope that from this incident her son did get some inkling of “mommy dearest’s” nature. If he did not, then you also have HIM to deal with.
Be glad that the harrigan does not live down the road.
Best wishes for you and your growing little family.
P.S.: My own in laws were wonderful people. It was their son/grandson/nephew that was “off”. ;-)

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Cat April 16, 2014 at 9:23 am

I think I once worked with your MIL. She would decide we would have an office party, make up a flyer giving the time and room, sign her name under “Your hostess with the Mostess”, and then, on one of the flyers write, “Please organize this.” and place it on a co-worker’s desk.
She would come to my office, ask me for ideas, and then write a memo with my ideas on it for our boss and add “Ideas by Marilyn”. They were never her ideas. They were always mine.
All I can say is, “Good luck with that one.” You can tell her no. Getting her to hear it-not so much.

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Michelle C Young April 18, 2014 at 4:30 am

Cat, next time she asks you for ideas, tell her you’ll think about it, and email your list of ideas to her.

Then *blind-copy* your boss on the email and wait for the fun reaction when he gets HER list.

For the OP, a similar technique could have been used. Send out an email to the people on the guest list. Since you provided the guest list, you should know how to contact them.

“Hey, friends. Marla just showed me MIL’s invitation to the wedding shower, and was I shocked to learn it was supposed to be at MY house. WOW! I had no idea! Obviously, in my current condition, that will be impossible, so I’m afraid I’ll have to cancel. So sorry for any inconvenience to those who planned to come.”

To those who say you couldn’t cancel once the invitations have gone out, I have only to add that many a divorce is caused by people who want to call off the wedding, but don’t dare do it once the invitations have gone out, so they get married, anyway, knowing it’s doomed to failure. It’s MUCH better to cancel, even at the last minute, than to go through with a horrible mistake.

But, OP, as the commenters at Mother In Law Stories dot com say, “It’s your Get Out of Jail Free Card!” Cherish it. You now have the perfect excuse never to accept any sort of “help” from her again, if you don’t wish to. And definitely tell your husband that.

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OneUp April 18, 2014 at 11:05 am

OP, I say this with love…but nevertheless, please have more backbone in raising your child(ren) than you exhibited with MIL. Remember, YOU are the mom! :)

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Angel April 22, 2014 at 10:19 am

The OP is a much nicer person than I am–particularly while pregnant. If I found out my mom or MIL was planning shower for me to be held in my own house I would have given her a very emphatic no on that one. Like a “hell no!” And you absolutely can cancel once invites have gone out–you send a notice letting guests know that it is cancelled. As long as you give them a couple days notice you don’t even need to provide an explanation–especially not for a baby shower. If I were one of the guests I would assume MTB was not up to it. Totally understandable! And if I were a close friend or family member and noticed the location of the shower was at the MTB’s house, you can bet I would be calling a mutual friend and double checking it–in my mind, that doesn’t seem right at all. And I’m sure a lot of people would think the same thing!

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