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Pleasing The Unpleasable Is Taxing

Need advice- rude family members or am I overreacting?

Having a birthday dinner at my home for my sister. Invited are my husband, my uncle (father’s brother) my sister, sisters fiancé and myself.

My father, who usually hosts but cannot because he is a lifelong hoarder and has destroyed the house and is unable to have us over because now apparently the kitchen is also destroyed and unusable, calls me with a list of requested foods for the dinner-which will be an order out or delivery because I don’t have time to prepare a meal on this particular day with my work schedule. My father even goes as far as to direct me to where to order from because “my sister will like it” and initially wants me to order from a sushi place to which I explain the takeout for sushi in our area is not good, and I will gladly take my sister out for a fancy sushi dinner another time.

I should also note that my father refuses to eat dinner out at restaurants due to his agoraphobia issues. Otherwise I would have moved the entire party out to a restaurant and had a wonderful sushi dinner and have no issue paying for the entire thing myself.

My father then directs me to another restaurant, 15 miles away, and says I MUST order from there because the food is better than at the same restaurant 5 minutes from the house. Same family, same chain, same name. I let him know that I will not have the time to travel to pick up the food, buy a birthday cake (which I have agreed to do already) and beverages and be able to have the event in a timely manner. My father specifies items he would like-pasta, chicken parmesan, etc. that he likes from the restaurant. He also refuses to pick up the items or assist in any way in getting them to my home outside of paying for them. My uncle has also refused to pick anything up for the event as was my understanding by what my father related to me.

I let my father know I simply cannot make the trip, and since now nobody is helping me put the event together, I will order the same items from a local place which is equally as good and have them delivered. It is easier and everybody is happy. My father asks for specific items to be ordered. I oblige. In a separate phone call to my sister, she asks for specific items to be ordered. I ordered everything that was asked for and did not want nor request anyone to help in paying for it. I am happy to have gatherings that allow for my family to come together to celebrate. We all agree and set a time to meet at my home. I get the cake, beverages, etc.

My uncle drives my father to my home, which is a “pay for parking” a fee of 3 dollars a visit because it is a community lot. I let them know in advance I will reimburse them for the 3 dollars. My uncle calls me telling me the gate guy did not accommodate him with a space located by the front door, and now he cannot find his way up front (?). My sister then has to go downstairs to the parking lot and personally escort my uncle upstairs because he states “he cannot find the way to the door”. I am upstairs preparing and setting out the foods that just arrived, setting the table and slightly stressed over the phone that keeps ringing because my uncle wants special parking treatment and this should suddenly become my problem when I am hosting him to my home.

Everyone finally arrives, I have special settings for each guest/family member, 6 in total. My uncle proceeds to pop onto the table a bag containing sushi for himself and my sister. My sister tells my uncle that she already told him NOT to order sushi and it was ok because I ordered her special items from the Italian place. Sister eats sushi with uncle-no extra items were ordered for the group from the sushi place-not that I would want to mix sushi and Italian but the point is I thought it was very rude to bring separate meals and I was absolutely furious. I kept my composure and remained the wonderful hostess and said nothing about the sushi.

The special items that were requested by my father and sister were not touched. The adding on of these special items doubled the food bill. I asked if they would like to take them home with them to enjoy since they had requested them and now were untouched. They said no. So I went ahead and ate a few bites of the special requested items and now I have a refrigerator full of food that I didn’t want and paid for that nobody ate.

My sister also made several comments about her birthday cake-we know she does not like blue frosting. The frosting appeared to me to be rainbow when I purchased it…a small amount of blue frosting that I did not see was on the lower edging of the cake. My sister remarked several times how she did not like blue frosting. I said I know, I didn’t realize it when I bought it, I thought it was rainbow. She made comments until I finally said why are you complaining about the birthday cake I bought for you?

Honestly, any party, type of food or cake bought for me would be fine if it was done in a gesture to celebrate my own birthday. I feel I am dealing with several people who are just very rude and selfish and unappreciative of kind gestures. I am not waitress nor a special order eatery. I feel absolutely foolish and furious now that this event is over. Am I wrong? I feel used and trampled. I feel they are entirely ungrateful for the effort I put forth for family events while they sit back and behave poorly, arrive late and are otherwise a pain to deal with and difficult. Please advise how to proceed.

I feel I already addressed the issue with my sister. I am however very angry at my uncle for bringing special food to an event without even speaking to me about it first and without bringing enough for everyone to share. I am moderately annoyed at my father for asking for special items and then not eating them nor taking them home.

Thanks for listening. 1025-15

The answer to your initial question is obvious. You are related to people who feel entitled and are ungrateful.  It is discouraging to interact with people who cannot be pleased by any gesture we do or who demand that we jump through hoops to make them happy.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cyberwulf November 28, 2017, 4:05 am

    Don’t host them again. After all, all they did was complain about how you got everything wrong, so next time uncle or sister can host.

  • Aleko November 28, 2017, 6:21 am

    I would be inclined to give your father a free pass here. His urge to control what food items were served and where they were ordered from is surely part of the same psychiatric issue that causes his hoarding and agoraphobia, and he probably just can’t help it. Also, if he had always previously hosted the dinner, and you were consulting him on the menu, he may have felt at least partly in charge as some kind of co-host, and from the sound of it that sense of responsibility was making him quite anxious.

    You say the uncle had refused to pick up anything or otherwise help – but you also say that this was only communicated to you via your father, and you just can’t know what your father actually asked him to do. Maybe, for example, your father asked him to go to the restaurant 15 miles away that he originally wanted you to order from? If so, it was quite reasonable to refuse. And your father may still have been telling him that he wanted your sister to have sushi on her birthday, so he brought a small amount to keep his brother happy. The parking kerfuffle was annoying, to be sure, but anxious people make other people anxious; he may have found driving your agoraphobic father so stressful that he just had a brain-f*rt when trying to find your entrance from the back lot.

    You already dealt with your sister’s whining like a little kid about the cake frosting, and from the sound of it she took that on the chin. Then again, she may already have been pretty stressed by an event that was supposed to be in her honour: she must have been picking up very stressed vibes from you. It seems she had asked the uncle *not* to get sushi, but here he was turning up with some, ‘just for himself and her’; quite possibly she only ate some not to seem ungrateful.)

    In your place, if I could find the strength I would have another crack at hosting a family dinner the next time the occasion arises. But I suggest you should:

    1. Not ask ANYONE for menu advice, but just decide for yourself what you’re going to serve. It’s clear that you know enough of their tastes to provide a dinner they will all enjoy, since by your account, everyone quite happily ate the meal that you had planned and the ‘specials’ they had requested were actually not wanted at all. So why bring trouble on yourself by involve them in planning the menu at all, let alone inviting them to make special demands? If your father should attempt to ‘help’ in menu planning, kindly brush this aside with ”Don’t worry about it, Daddy, I’ve got it all under control”. He may well be positively grateful to have all feeling of responsibility for the meal gently taken away.

    2. If you would like help from anyone, make specific requests directly to him/her. Then you know and they know exactly what was asked and what was agreed or refused. (And that’s a good general rule in life, even when you don’t have reason to fear that anybody in the group is vague or likely to get creative.)

    3. If anybody volunteers to bring something extra, feel free to say no if you don’t think it will be suitable. And – while people’s mileage may vary on this – if they don’t consult you but turn up with something as inappropriate as sushi as an addition to an Italian meal, I think that in a family setting it’s not unreasonable for the hostess to say ‘Well, that’s very kind of you, Uncle dear, but that really won’t taste good alongside the lasagne at all. I’ll just put it in the fridge and you can take it home with you.’ Your dinner, your rules.

    You may find that everybody is happier and more grateful for your efforts if you just tell them what you’re going to do for them all instead of asking them. If they still give you grief, give up!

    • Cyberwulf November 29, 2017, 5:02 am

      How wonderful that this was all the OP’s fault.

      • Lerah99 November 29, 2017, 10:15 am

        Wow, @Cyberwulf looking to earn King/Queen of Sass award.

        @Aleko seems to be giving the OP’s family the benefit of the doubt, especially because the father has obvious mental health issues. It seems that Aleko is giving a “Maybe they didn’t mean to be terrible; one thing simply snowballed into another” possibility.

        Some of us live happier lives by assuming people mean the best. And hoping that their terrible behavior has an understandable, if still unacceptable, root cause.

        Now, the OP knows her family best. She knows if this is a case of uncontrollable anxiety / poor mental health or them just being kind of thoughtless jerks.

        Either way, it is up to her to decide if the trouble is worth the time spent with her family.
        She can’t wave a magic wand to fix them. All she can do is decide what is worth and isn’t worth her efforts.

    • Nenetl November 29, 2017, 9:52 am

      Like Cyberwulf says, this kind of comes off as excusing the behaviour of all parties except OP, even if that was not your intent! My issue with your comment is how you ‘gave a free pass to dad’ because of possible psychological issues. Mental health may be a reason but it should not be an excuse. I have many mental health issues and they make me do things I don’t wish to, act in horrible ways, but at no point is it a free pass. It is a reason for my behaviour but I should accept and own up to my issues and try work through them, but it is not an excuse to act anywhere from entitled to outright violent.

      • Crochet Addict November 30, 2017, 2:48 pm

        I agree- mental health issues don’t excuse behavior. They can cause it, but it’s not a free pass. I have anxiety, depression, and CPTSD. I have friends who have what I have, plus bipolar and personality disorders. We support each other, but we also recognize when one of us is doing something mental-illness based. As we joke, our crazies match. My friend that has periods of psychosis has taught everyone in her family to recognize the early signs and to take appropriate steps to ensure her safety and their safety. It seems like in your family, there’s a lot of issues that don’t work well together. So, ideally, your father would get help for his issues if he isn’t already, your sister and uncle would not add to the stress, and you’d have peaceful gatherings. I’d suggest gently calling things out “Dad, I’m confused why you asked for these extra items but didn’t eat them. I’m sending them home with you, and please reimburse me X amount of bill.” “Uncle, I’m not sure why you brought sushi when we already had decided on takeout from restaurant X. I’ll put it in the fridge so you can take it home with you. Don’t let me forget.” I love that you asked your sister why she was criticizing her cake. It’s a step in setting behavioral boundaries. It might make things easier- my anxiety issues sometimes result in me not wanting to leave the house, but I have to. I do way better if I’m having an anxious period and I know when the event will end, for example. Maybe talk to your father and see what would make him comfortable (and less aggravating). Unless your family is a mass of boors. In which case, they can celebrate whatever whenever with whoever, just not you.

  • TracyX November 28, 2017, 8:01 am

    Drop the rope next time it’s one of their birthdays. Someone else can play host to the self-absorbed horde.

    • mark November 29, 2017, 7:45 pm

      Exactly, obviously this isn’t working out. It’s ok to stop and say nothing.

  • Zhaleh November 28, 2017, 8:50 am

    When I started to read the letter, I was thinking, next time, listen patiently to all the requests and then ignore them and serve what you would have served had no one made requests.
    My thought was, once they saw their specific food wasn’t there, you would all go on to enjoy each other’s company anyway.
    They all eat this stuff often and can get it when they want, otherwise they wouldn’t know about it, so I figured they’d get over it.
    As I read on, I realized they are not there to enjoy each other’s company, or they are unable to.
    I hope the OP does not allow this sort of thing to happen very often, because if so, his/her well being is at stake. (I’ll stick with female pronouns because it’s irrelevant what the gender of the OP is).
    One has to deal with unpleasant family members, and often diisfunctional ones, but one still has to protect ones own well being.
    So OP, while there is not likely anything you can do about your Uncle and your dad, I hope you have a nice bottle of wine hidden for when they go, and you can put your feet up and drink the wine and watch some wonderful movie, Harvey, Brigette Jones Diary, The Gods Must Be Crazy, something that will make you laugh and just be thankful you can put away the crazy until next time.

  • Shoegal November 28, 2017, 9:04 am

    Buying the sushi – was inexcusable and extremely rude. I would be annoyed and extremely irritable after that dinner. The sister never should have ate it – and should have taken her special items home. I hope someone goes through all the trouble for the OP’s birthday.

    • Calli Arcale November 29, 2017, 12:24 pm

      Yeah, I can’t think of a valid reason for that misunderstanding since he only brought enough for himself and OP’s sister.

      The whole family sounds obnoxious. I’d refuse to host again, and maybe just take sister out for lunch next year.

  • Michelle November 28, 2017, 9:06 am

    OP, I think your feelings are entirely justified. You went to a great deal of trouble and your family certainly did not appreciate it. At this point, I would refuse to do any other hosting and let the chips fall where they may.

    Don’t let them try to guilt tactic of “but we’re family”. If they want the “family” together, dad can clean out his home or your sister or uncle can host and they can do all the organizing and catering to special requests.

    • Queen of the Weezils November 29, 2017, 11:26 am

      Isn’t it amazing what we excuse or ignore because it comes from family? Blood relationship doesn’t give you a free pass!

  • LadyV November 28, 2017, 9:22 am

    OP: I know it will be difficult, because you seem to enjoy entertaining, but do not EVER host a party for these people again. I MIGHT be willing to cut Dad some slack, since he appears to have a variety of psychological issues. There’s no excuse whatsoever for your uncle, and your sister should have told him that she was going to eat the food that had been specially ordered for her and NOT the sushi he had been told not to bring. The fact that she didn’t do so makes her rude as well. Next time, take your sister out to dinner and let the other relatives do whatever they want to celebrate her birthday.

    • Queen of the Weezils November 29, 2017, 11:28 am

      If I were the sister, I would have been temped to *sample* the sushi as to not seem ungrateful but also eat the specially-ordered Italian items. It’s kind of a no-win situation for her, since the uncle was so rude.

      • Devin November 30, 2017, 10:41 am

        Totally agree with you. If the options are day old sushi or day old Italian, I’ll go day old Italian any day (I’d argue it’s better in many cases). The sushi would have come off as less rude if it had been plated and shared as an appetizer.

  • Dippy November 28, 2017, 10:05 am

    the whole lot of you seem to not like one another.

  • Pat November 28, 2017, 10:07 am

    If you want to keep entertaining these relatives it’s time to set some boundaries. When someone directs you to do something, say “Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll consider it.” If someone criticizes the food selection etc. say “you can do it your way when you are the host/hostess.” If someone brings unwanted food to an event, but it in the fridge and say “I’ll eat this later” or “You can take this home with you.” Time for some polite spine.

  • PJ November 28, 2017, 10:30 am

    I say you take this as a lesson learned.

    The host chooses what to offer, and the guests choose whether to accept or decline. Of course you accommodate the guest of honor, which you tried to do. And, sure, you do what you can to help out when your uncle isn’t capable of making the whole trip by himself. The blue frosting was an honest oversight and Sister was very ungracious; most adults (and children for that matter) can just eat around the frosting if they don’t like the particular color.

    If questions like “what are we having” lead to a rabbit-hole of unreasonable requests from Dad, then be a broken record with “I’ve got it covered.” Maybe your dad feels left out of the hosting because of his mental health, but that’s his issue to deal with. He’s a guest, and doesn’t get to dictate the menu to the host. Personally, I’d work on avoiding the whole discussion with him.

    The surprise sushi is tougher. I think I’d say “Sister will love it– I’ll grab some Tupperware and stick it in the fridge so she can take it home with her! Now, for dinner, we’re having….”

    But in the end, don’t be afraid to take control of the terms of your hosting and let your guests know that you’ve got it covered and aren’t entertaining other suggestions.

  • Princess Buttercup November 28, 2017, 10:53 am

    The “I demand special food” does not bring good memories.
    Far too many times we’ve had gatherings with friends where pizza was the menu. There would always be someone who insisted that they _must_ have some sort of pig on the pizza. If it didn’t have pig, they wouldn’t eat it. Note, hubby and I don’t eat pig at all so they are demanding a pizza that we absolutely cannot partake in. So we get cheese for most of the group then one pig pizza for the demanding individual. Then the one who absolutely wouldn’t eat it unless it had pig would proceed to eat one or two slices of their pizza and lots of the cheese pizza. The pig pizza ends up mostly in the trash…

    As such I’ve learned to answer any unnecessary menu demands (if they actually can’t eat something then sure, but it’s possible to know if a request is really important or just being demanding to be special.) with, “you’ll find out the menu when you get here!”.

    Also, when people bring food I take it to the kitchen and plate it for everyone to share. So the sushi would have been passed with everything else. If Uncle complained then I’d say, “oh, if this is just for you then you should take it back to your car to enjoy later because everything here is for everyone to eat”.

    • Dee November 29, 2017, 12:34 pm

      Princess Buttercup – Who is hosting these “gatherings”? It sounds as if there isn’t any one particular person who is host, and if that’s the case, your inclination to refuse someone their favourite topping is confusing and meddlesome. If you’re the host, then you can simply tell everyone it’s a vegetarian pizza party and deflect the complaints from there. Of course, a good host actually WANTS to serve his guests foods they like and pizza is a peculiar food in that it is meant to be customized for individual tastes.

      If you are regularly referring to pork as ‘pig’ then I can see where your attitude would inspire someone to order pork just to get a rise out of you. It’s rude to denigrate someone’s preferences in front of them. It’s also childish.

      I go out of my way to buy specialty seafood products for family members who adore them. I hate just about every kind of seafood, and some kinds I’m not supposed to eat at all. I hate the smell. I hate the exorbitant prices. I won’t touch fish skin with my bare hands at all and I loathe touching shrimp and lobster shells. In my own home I wrinkle my nose and grimace when (playfully) offered seafood. But I’m so happy to be able to procure (and sometimes cook) these products for loved ones and watch them enjoy the fare. And that’s the point, isn’t it?

      • Cherita December 1, 2017, 2:57 pm

        >If you are regularly referring to pork as ‘pig’ then I can see where your attitude would inspire someone to order pork just to get a rise out of you. It’s rude to denigrate someone’s preferences in front of them. It’s also childish.

        If Princess Buttercup is buying this food, I stand behind her right to refer to its ingredients in whatever way she sees fit. As a vegan, I’d consider the friends who insist on adding pig (as if they can’t enjoy one meal without it–and then they barely eat the item ordered by their request) to be the rude ones. If you don’t like the reminder that what you call pork came from a pig, that’s on you. How is requesting pig ingredients to “get a rise out of” her any less rude or childish than what you consider denigrating their preferences?

      • Queen of the Weezils December 6, 2017, 12:55 pm

        We joke in our house that pig is the magical animal because it has so many kinds of deliciousness. (And it is a Simpsons reference, so bonus!) We also joke when we have multiple kinds of pig on the table. I don’t see an issue with it. Pork is pig meat. So is ham, bacon, boar, chitterlings, gammon, trotters, head cheese, fatback, many kinds of sausage and hot dogs….. Anyway, I think Princess Buttercup is using “pig” not only to slam that kind of meat, but also to be inclusive. If she objects to a pizza with sausage, someone may not understand that it is also an objection to a pizza with ham. People shouldn’t be upset at calling pork pig. That’s exactly what it is. Tasty, tasty pig.

  • Dyan November 28, 2017, 11:04 am

    that would be the last dinner I would ever host…nope you complain never again

  • kgg November 28, 2017, 11:17 am

    OP, I hope you have people in your life who *do not* act like this. I’m so sorry your hard work went unappreciated. I think the lesson you learned is to just take your sister out for her birthday (should you choose to do so) next time and be done with it.

  • Dee November 28, 2017, 11:19 am

    OP – Who, exactly, was hosting this party? You say you were happy to pay for the whole thing, but then you say your father is ‘only’ helping by paying for the food. And then you say that your uncle doesn’t even want to help pick up the food for the event. If you were, indeed, the hostess of this event, then you wouldn’t have any expectations of any of your guests to either pay for or pick up the food or do any work involved. You do all the work and pay all the costs. That’s what hosting means. And then you don’t take any requests from anyone, either, as you are the one directing the entire event.

    So there’s part of your problem right there. When you require others to host with you then you are also asking for their input and complaints.

    Uncle was not bothering you with phone calls when he said he couldn’t make it to the front door. He was asking for help. A good hostess would find the means to assist her guest in that situation. Your sister helped uncle so all worked out well.

    Your father’s hoarding is a mental health issue. He’s ill. His illness is a pain in the keester to all who know him. But that part of his life has nothing whatsoever to do with your hosting a party. Other than that, it is quite clear that your family has some serious etiquette and boundary issues, including you. You can’t train others but you can certainly train yourself. In your case, however, I would not host another gathering for family in my home; if you still want to throw a party for family then a restaurant gathering would probably be the only way to do it. Pick the restaurant, pick the menu that will be offered, and let others choose from there. I’m sure they will find fault with it anyway but if it means that much to you to host something for them then you will have to endure some pain.

    Or you could just plan events for friends who don’t have these kinds of issues. Be sure, however, that you are a good host, and don’t expect others to take any part in preparing for the party. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself the only one in attendance.

    • Op November 29, 2017, 4:19 am

      Perhaps I should clarify that these very specific requests were made with no offer of execution outside of OFFERING to pay. I did not expect nor request money. I paid for all items served for dinner.
      I arranged for all items to arrive at my home.
      I should clarify that my uncle was making these food demands as well and would not assist in picking up the specific items he was demanding. I could not meet his demands because I couldn’t get to the other location. Both uncle and father were demanding specific things in regards to the dinner that I simply could not accomplish in time. So the compromise in my head was at least if specific demands were being made, i.e. restaurant location, that someone might assist by picking the items up as that was my issue….that I couldn’t get there.
      My uncle was at the front door…with the door man. He needed no assistance.
      Maybe my wording could have been better. I tried to keep it as short as possible.

      • Dee November 29, 2017, 12:19 pm

        I understand that you tried to be succinct in your original submission. Your additional comment here clarifies things well. But I do think it’s a mistake to allow anyone the power to make changes to your arrangements if they offer to pay. This gives people, such as your family, further ammunition to control and complain that they don’t need. Unless you know the person well that they demonstrate none of the traits your family has, do not allow anyone input on your event. Invite and then defer when the questions/demands arise.

        I think this is the major etiquette reason for hosts to be the only ones doing the work at and paying for an event. It’s an equal measure of protecting the guest from unexpected demands AND protecting the host from a guest’s unreasonable demands.

        In your case, however, if you don’t find your family can relinquish their demands of you, then perhaps it’s best to not entertain them at all. If they want to know why you never have them over anymore then be honest and tell them that since they never find your hosting acceptable, for the sake of everyone’s happiness it’s best you not put them in a position of discomfort by being their hostess. And please find good people to associate with, to allow you to share your generosity with others who appreciate you, and to allow you to partake in their hospitality. The best remedy for you may just be to spend as little time as possible with your toxic family and as much as possible with healthy friends.

  • pennywit November 28, 2017, 11:22 am

    This sounds like a whole set of relatives with some sort of mental issues. That’s no excuse for their behavior, of course. And no obligation on OP’s part to host them.

  • DGS November 28, 2017, 11:24 am

    UGH. I am sorry, OP. You were thoughtful, gracious and kind, and your relatives acted like complete boors. Lesson learned: no more hosting of these folks for you.

  • Vic November 28, 2017, 11:47 am

    I would refuse to host the next event. If that means everyone is on their own because no one will step up, so be it. Plan something just for you. Last Christmas, after 20 years of being the one to take on the entire burden of hosting, I finally realized it wasn’t any fun to make all the food, including special orders, and then listen to criticism for something I didn’t include even though I was left with enough leftovers to feed my own family for over a week. The breaking point for me was when 2 of the dishes I had been requested to make sat untouched during the meal, only to find out that the requester had planned all along to just take them home for their meals for the coming week. So, I had now become a takeout restaurant. So, instead of hosting Christmas last year, I made a big pot of chili for my daughter and I. We lazed around the house all day and then went to a movie that evening. It was so relaxing we decided that was going to be our new tradition.

    • Tan November 29, 2017, 7:16 am

      Someone had you make something for them to take home? I hope it was returned to your fridge because you already have plans for the leftovers.

    • Queen of the Weezils November 29, 2017, 3:57 pm

      We call this our “no-pants Christmas”. I. Love. It. Takes all the pressure off. I get together with family before/after, sometimes in January.

    • Lilac November 30, 2017, 2:57 pm

      I always make a big pan of lasagna and the only two sides that are needed are salad and some sort of bread. Someone else brings dessert. Easy. Leftovers are delicious. My mom did the same when we were growing up. Weirdly enough, tons of my friends have jumped on the lasagna at Christmas trend. Not because of me. It just seems to have become a thing where I live. None of us are of Italian descent to any significant degree btw. Most people in my state are German or Scandinavian. Lasagna is just easy and delicious 🙂

  • Gena November 28, 2017, 11:54 am

    I find it odd that they would ask you to order special dishes and then not eat them.

    However, the rule is – you are the host, you decide the menu. You are not obligated to provide your sister with every one of her desires just because it is her birthday. Now, if it was my sister, I might try to make an effort to serve her favorite dish, if possible, but I wouldn’t make a major production out of it.

    I see people make a huge deal out of food all the time. Such as, “it’s my birthday so I insist we all have lasagna because it’s my favorite”. The way I look at it – you can pretty much have lasagna anytime you want.

  • tessa November 28, 2017, 12:02 pm

    You sound like a wonderful sister and relative to have. Your sister, dad and uncle are all too self absorbed to see it. I’m betting that when your birthday rolls around, they all have other plans or forget it entirely. Do what you are comfortable with and have the time and energy for. Yeah, they are rude.

  • JD November 28, 2017, 12:32 pm

    OP I’m sorry but your family is RUDE. The next “family dinner” you should have is you and your husband enjoying a meal by yourselves, just the two of you.

  • Otterpop November 28, 2017, 12:44 pm

    I feel furious for you. Going forward (should you feel brave enough to host again) invite your guests, set a menu and logistics in writing and and stick to your plan. Any special accommodations are someone else’s problem. If anyone complains flutter away to speak to another guest. Do not be a conduit for their dissatisfaction. No one has enough time or energy to give to do-nothing, impossible to please, whiners.

  • lakey November 28, 2017, 12:48 pm

    It sounds like you have some extremely difficult relatives to deal with. You can’t change other people. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that they are like that. Either limit your time with them or change the type of visits you have with them. You now know better than to invite then to anything where you provide a meal.

  • staceyizme November 28, 2017, 12:51 pm

    Your dad has control issues (and it appears that your uncle and sister do too). Whether these stem from anxieties and conditions of various kinds is irrelevant. When your uncle brought sushi, you should have put it away at once. Your sister’s comments over the frosting should have been ignored and nobody should be calling you (but you can turn off the phone). In the end, it’s better to be tone deaf to their preferences because they are going to be a bit fussy in any event. Throw the parties you want to throw, in the way that seems best to you. Decline those that you don’t want to throw, in the way that seems best to you. And don’t let people get away with bringing items for one or two when a group is being served. Feel perfectly free to whisk food away, turn it away at the door, or portion it out for all those attending. Nip behaviors in the bud where you can, ignore those you can’t and don’t give in to the drama llamas.

  • Multi-Facets November 28, 2017, 12:59 pm

    Honestly, I would refuse to host ’em ever again, if they were that boorish.

  • Swamptribe November 28, 2017, 1:03 pm

    I also have a difficult family. My father and two sisters are all hoarders. Since husband and I moved back to our home state, I have tried to host family get together. This includes one sister who decides she has medical conditions and can’t eat certain foods (kind of like those people who insist they eat gluten free but order the bread and or a beer to go with their meal). They usually sit around the living room, one sister using my internet, my Dad watching sports (and turning up the tv) or napping. My other sister likes to regal us with all her problems.

    On several occasions I have prepared an elaborate meal only to have they call me less then an hour before to say they aren’t coming because one of they doesn’t feel well. I’ve called to invite them to a meal; they will wait until last minute to confirm. The only way to guarantee they will show up (and be pleasant) is to have one of my children from out of state in town.

    I just pretty much stopped hosting family meals. On Thanksgiving I called my Dad to wish him a happy holiday, he wished me a happy holiday, then hung up. Husband suggested we try Christmas since we both have the day off but I’m over it.

    • staceyizme November 29, 2017, 11:30 am

      I’m so sorry that you’ve had this experience! Family can be difficult and your decision to no longer host the unappreciative, unavailable and uncommitted makes perfect sense to me! You will very likely have a more relaxed (and hopefully a merrier) Christmas!

  • Dawn November 28, 2017, 2:19 pm

    At the end of the evening you should’ve stood up and said, “Newsflash. I’m never doing this again. Never ever. Never.” And then don’t.


  • lkb November 28, 2017, 2:56 pm

    I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with this, OP. Family, can’t live with them, can’t shoot them. LOL.

    No adviice to give, except to say you should not offer to host them again and refuse to be “Voluntold” to do so. If they complain, feel free to bring up what happened here. (Perhaps your father deserves some slack as it seems he’s already demonstrating mental health issues (hoarding/agoraphobia etc.).

    As to confronting them about this: that depends on your comfort zone. I have a somewhat similar problem with some family members and I have yet to find a situation in which I can do so without either ruining a holiday/celebration etc. or stating my concerns without completely blowing a fuse, which would do no good whatsoever. So I stay quiet, smile and nod, and seeth inside.

    Please know you have my best wishes. It ain’t easy.

  • NostalgicGal November 28, 2017, 3:27 pm

    After this if any further event comes up, I’d make sure I had a doctor’s appointment, dental work, or something equally important and uncancelable that evening. To back up the “I’m sorry but I can’t accommodate that request”. As said, once bitten, twice shy, and you have every right to duck from now on.

  • Maggie November 28, 2017, 3:27 pm

    Just curious – is your sister the “golden child,” or do they make that much of a fuss over your birthday as well? Not that it excuses them from rude behavior – but it would help to know the family dynamics here.

    • Op November 29, 2017, 4:27 am

      I skip having a birthday anything with my family because it invites more drama. As my father’s birthday is four days later, I say we can celebrate together and I host his birthday dinner. My sister does not offer to host. This is fine and I do not mind doing it. It’s geared towards him, and that is fine by me. My husband and I do our own thing together for my birthday.
      My family has odd observance of birthdays.

      • Queen of the Weezils November 29, 2017, 11:34 am

        “My family has odd observance of birthdays.”

        I can tell! Honestly, I’m not much of a birthday person. Over the years, I’ve taken to doing my own thing, and am just as happy without a gathering or party. My husband always wants a get-together for his birthday (Plus his birthday happens to fall in a month where we usually have great weather, so it’s perfect for a casual bbq. Mine…. does not.) Since we already had one party that year, I don’t feel the need to host another. So, for my birthday, I sometimes take the day off work and have a “me day” doing something I want to do (and eating where and what I buy/cook for myself). My best friend and I happen to have birthdays close together, so we usually do a road trip in that month to some kind of interesting museum or something and plan to eat lunch somewhere fabulous. My husband takes me out to the restaurant of my choice or makes a meal on the night of my actual birthday, just for us. Perfect! And not a whiny relation in sight.

  • Lisa November 28, 2017, 3:50 pm

    Don’t host again.

    And tell your sister that blue frosting is colored by food coloring and doesn’t taste any different than any other colored frosting.

    • Otterpop November 29, 2017, 8:44 am

      Very, true…and good point. That particular complaint showed there are some control/mental issues going on here. Say your phrase, shrug and carry on.

      • staceyizme November 29, 2017, 11:34 am

        Good catch! It’s fine to prefer other colors but if you’re over the age of seven, you probably shouldn’t perseverate about the color of your frosting…

    • Shawna Rose November 30, 2017, 5:37 pm

      Different food colorings are colored by different chemicals, and I’ve always found blue to taste particularly nasty. However, since it was a rainbow cake, there were plenty of areas that were not blue.

      • staceyizme December 1, 2017, 4:11 pm

        Shawna Rose:
        Your experience is a good reminder! My favorite bakery recommends avoiding strong colors because they can have a bitter taste. But if the blue is medium to light and only part of the cake, it would seem to be harmless…

    • LizaJane January 10, 2018, 7:57 pm

      THANK YOU! !!! I was reading all the comments to see if anyone pointed out this.

      To me, it’s the most ridiculous part of the entire thing.

  • Harry November 28, 2017, 4:37 pm

    Please do yourself a huge favor and find your spine. Mine goes into hiding once in a while so I understand your frustration. Once your spine is intact, you will then be equipped to tell people such as you mentioned, that no, I’m sorry, I won’t be able to accommodate that request, and then go ahead with what you are willing and able to do.

  • Agania November 28, 2017, 5:11 pm

    OK lesson learned. Never celebrate a family member’s birthday at your place again. They are unappreciative, entitled and rude. Acknowledge birthdays with cards and gifts but no hospitality. Maybe in future you can take birthday person out for dinner one on one but no family gatherings. It’s just not worth it. If birthday person wants to gather to celebrate their birthday then tell them to organise it and everyone pay their own way in lieu of a gift. I know it’s not etiquette approved to do it this way but you do what you can to keep your sanity intact

    • Devin November 29, 2017, 1:36 pm

      I agree with your first point, do birthdays one on one. Sister wants sushi take her for sushi and call it a day. Dads birthday, invite just him over for a quiet dinner, which sounds like what he prefers. Alternatively, send cards and be done. Everyone here is an adult and shouldn’t expect much more than that.
      Don’t suggest sister plans her own party. I imagine OP getting drug into planning more than she wanted to if she doesn’t grow more of a polite spine.

  • Rose November 28, 2017, 5:59 pm

    Proceed like you learned something from this experience. Don’t make that mistake again; you are a host, not a catering company.

  • Ange November 28, 2017, 7:30 pm

    Well now at least you know not to bother going to all that trouble again. It’s a shame but it will be a big load lifted in the end.

  • Miss-E November 28, 2017, 7:44 pm

    First of all, who has such strong objections to blue frosting but not any other color? There is literally no difference in taste, only in color!

    This reminds me of a time I hosted a potluck with a bunch of friends and one couple with many dietary restrictions showed up with a takeout bag of sushi for themselves. They refused plates and silverware (I have fancy lawyer chopsticks) and just ate right out of the containers. So there we are at the table: everyone eating off my nice china, sharing food and they are digging into their plastic trays.

    • Cyberwulf November 29, 2017, 5:18 am

      Goodness, how dare they bring food for themselves so you don’t have to prepare something special and then not dirty any of your plates while eating it.

      • staceyizme November 29, 2017, 11:39 am

        I think that’s actually quite rude. If they have dietary restrictions and they would like to bring a dish to share, that makes sense and should offend nobody. If, however, no one else could partake of the meal they brought except themselves? They’ve reneged on the cohosting feature of a potluck and are guilty of breaching basic hospitality since they agreed to attend a cooperative meal. Refusing dishes and silver is just hostile and shows no respect for the kindness of the person opening their home for the meal. This couple is just a social nuisance in this particular context and showed no consideration for anyone’s comfort but their own. (Which is absolutely fine, but then stay at home, for Heaven’s sake!)

        • NostalgicGal November 29, 2017, 9:50 pm

          If I go to a potluck I bring something everyone can eat, and my own food because of all my dietary restrictions and allergies. So yes, I did bring food to share. I also have to be most careful of what I eat so I prepared my own portion so that I could control every aspect of the preparation and ingredients. If you are using fancy plates, I will be happy to step to the kitchen and decant my food onto a plate to ‘fit in’. If there are other courses (I usually just bring a main course for myself) I will set my plate down and wait until the main course(s) are served up to dig in. And in the case I am unable to eat with the rest I will still sit to the table and participate in conversation and it doesn’t bother me in the least, go ahead and eat and enjoy.

      • Miss-E November 29, 2017, 2:27 pm

        A) the plates were set to be eaten off of, it was a sit-down meal. B) it’s rude to show up to a potluck with only enough for yourself. C) I had already arranged allergen-free food items for then, which I told them when I invited them to the party

        • Tan November 30, 2017, 8:14 am

          My partner has a bad nut allergy and often prepares her own food and eats it. People may say “I’ve arranged an allergen free dishes” but shes not buying it as three times she’s bee told that at a party only to have ended up in the hospital because (1) someone probably didn’t wash their vegetable board between dishes, (2) food was served buffet style and some probably dipped the wrong spoon or something fell into the wrong container, and (3) we don’t know (that friend still insists she bought nothing with nuts in that day. On another occasion she was handed a slice of nut-free fruit cake… covered in icing resting on marzipan. If it’s rude not to want to risk death then so be it.

          • Miss-E December 1, 2017, 2:41 pm

            I get your points but they don’t apply to this situation. I’ve known these people for 15+ years, they do not have anaphylactic reactions, just gut sensitivities. They also ate from the other dishes brought by the other guests. So, yes, it’s rude not to use the flatware I lay out for them.

          • Miss-E December 1, 2017, 6:53 pm

            Also, I highly doubt your partner brings her own dishes and just plunks them down on the table without so much as one word of explanation to the host.

      • Reaver December 10, 2017, 3:16 pm

        The point of a POTLUCK is to bring a dish and SHARE it with people, not to just bring your own box of take out, you can do that at home.

    • Miss-E November 29, 2017, 2:28 pm

      Lacquer not lawyer lol

      • staceyizme November 29, 2017, 11:28 pm

        I didn’t catch the whole “dietary issues” possibly referring to food allergies. But sushi as a “safe” food? Not buying it! Shellfish have mercury, the sauces will have wheat/ msg/ who knows what else and fish that are destined for sushi are often not carefully sourced. If they are dealing with other digestive or food issues, this year’s case of sea lice in salmon would especially deter consideration of sushi. They sound like the “gluten free” crowd who will run a restaurant kitchen ragged to serve them “gluten free pasta” prepared as if for a celiac patient and then devour the bread basket (or a “diabetic” who agonizes over the grams of sugar in her salad dressing and finishes her meal with a Texas sized slab of chocolate cake, or the “vegetarian” who absolutely cannot have animal products whether dairy or protein but “forgets” that the bacon part of the bacon wrapped asparagus appetizer comes from an animal. Don’t get me wrong, people should eat what they want and they don’t need the excuse of an illness or a lifestyle objection to make their point. But for the love of little green apples, if you’re going to claim “allergies” to dairy/ gluten/ msg/ sugar/ eggs/ peanuts or whatever, maybe don’t inhale two pounds of food that violates that stated allergy. (Especially wheat/ gluten and peanuts, which require separate and wholly clean prep tools due to the severity of potential reaction for some.) Maybe I’m wrong, but I think your guests put one over on you in addition to being rude, because I can’t conceive of even high quality sushi as a “safe” choice for most people struggling with “many issues” related to food/ allergies/ digestion.

        • Dee November 30, 2017, 12:10 pm

          Staceyizme – I get your points – all valid – but as far as diabetics go, they are to count carbs in a meal, not sugar. So if a diabetic wants to treat herself on a special day she can severely limit her meal carbs in exchange for a dessert. Probably not a “Texas sized” piece of chocolate cake but that depends, too, on the recipe, and some large desserts are far lower in carbs than smaller desserts. What I’m trying to say is that, for diabetics, it’s not all or nothing. And I don’t know the math on it but insulin dependent diabetics may also be able to adjust their dosage for a particular meal, to a certain extent. So, again, low carbs during meal and the rest during dessert could be quite acceptable on an occasional basis.

          • staceyizme December 1, 2017, 4:22 pm

            Dee- My point wasn’t to get into somebody’s plate, metaphorically speaking, but more towards people who needlessly/ deceptively frame their requests for changes to a meal at the home of a friend or relative (or a restaurant) in terms of life and death when it’s clearly not.

          • NostalgicGal December 18, 2017, 10:48 pm

            Staceyizme, I so hate ‘allergies of convenience’. It makes it harder for those of us that have legit true issues.

      • Melissa November 30, 2017, 12:57 pm

        Thank you so much for clarifying that because I was like, what in the world are lawyer chopsticks?! Super fancy ones that are good enough for attorneys to use?! Thank you for the laugh!

  • Dorothy Bruce November 28, 2017, 8:09 pm

    I think you have learned a lesson for future holidays. Since your family members were ALL ungrateful for the work you did to make it a great get together and holiday, stop doing it. Drop the rope because no matter what you do, it won’t be appreciated.

    Next time, tell them that they are throwing the party, buying the food, and you should just stay home.

  • gramma dishes November 28, 2017, 8:16 pm

    Please tell me it is your plan to never host these people again. Problem solved.

  • Claire November 28, 2017, 9:55 pm

    You sound like the convenient family doormat. You can’t change them, but you can change yourself and how you react to their entitlement.

  • Queen of the Weezils November 29, 2017, 11:24 am

    This whole thing is drama queen after drama queen! Accommodating one is hard enough, but this is crazy! I just wouldn’t host again. Ever. If you want to celebrate your sister’s birthday, offer to take her – maybe with her fiance – out for dinner and call it a day. She can order the dessert she wants.

    I truly don’t get the blue frosting thing. I am puzzled as hell about that. Blue frosting is just white frosting with food coloring in it, which is flavorless. And – maybe I’m going out on limb here – if she really objects to it than maaaaayyybeeee she could just eat around that. The cake under that blue should be just fine. I’m not a fan of frosting in general, so this is what I do with every cake. It’s not only a puzzling objection, it’s a “problem” with an astoundingly easy solution. Whining about it to you is uncalled for.

    Your father’s agoraphobia/hoarding/food control issues explain some of his behavior, but it does not excuse it. This is his problem to deal with, not yours.

    I can’t explain the uncle at all. Bringing food to a party (unless it is potluck, presented as a gift, or otherwise cleared with the host) always struck me as incredibly rude. I have this problem with my own family, and the topper was when BIL + family showed up to Thanksgiving with McDonald’s, because “that’s all the kids like to eat”. I was furious.

    • Lerah99 November 29, 2017, 2:52 pm

      “the topper was when BIL + family showed up to Thanksgiving with McDonald’s, because “that’s all the kids like to eat”.”

      I try to imagine a situation where my parents would allow this.
      Like, tiny me throws a fit that I’ll ONLY eat chicken nuggets and nothing else!!!
      And then….
      Nope, it never ends up with me getting chicken nuggets. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to ensure child me never got another chicken nugget for years and years.

      It would have never, ever resulted in me getting fast food when one of my relatives had cooked all day. If anything it would have gotten me a quiet word about proper behavior and consequences for poor behavior. And my mom would have been on me like a hawk to make sure I didn’t sulk or cause problems at Thanksgiving.

      I’m so sorry your BIL and his spouse have completely abdicated their adult responsibility when it comes to raising their children. Yes, in the moment it is always easier to capitulate to the kid’s demands. But they are doing those kids no favors.

      • staceyizme November 29, 2017, 11:41 pm

        That’s so sad that he’d give them McDonalds on a special occasion instead of taking the time to share food with them that is home prepared regularly (if that’s truly all they will eat).

      • Queen of the Weezils December 6, 2017, 12:59 pm

        I agree, Lerah99 and Staceyizme. I don’t get it, either.

  • at work November 29, 2017, 1:58 pm

    I invited my husband’s parents and siblings to dinner and at least three of his sisters brought their own food. I was young, and bewildered. When I stammered out “But, I invited you to dinner!” my mother-in-law nonchalantly commented that the girls “don’t like anything.” They descended on my microwave like vampires on a blood bag and I just stood there, amazed, watching them. That day I learned that once you’re “family,” anything goes and I shouldn’t expect what I would call normal guest behavior, ever.

    • staceyizme November 29, 2017, 11:48 pm

      They might have tried to teach you not to expect it, but your husband should have insisted on it since they’re his siblings.

  • Lady Phoenix November 29, 2017, 3:46 pm

    Next year, I recommend having a nice lunch out with the sister. If you HAVE to host, set up the menu yourself and ONLY ask for input in regards to food allergies or medical diets.

  • Maggie Nell November 30, 2017, 1:56 pm

    So……what is your father doing about his agoraphobia issues? There are plenty of therapists who counsel via SKYPE these days.

  • Sylvia December 1, 2017, 8:06 pm

    Your father needs some help, and your sister should be helping you to help him. He may not accept any help, but at least give it a try. Not sure of uncle’s problem. To keep your own sanity, forget about family dinners for a long while.

  • patter December 2, 2017, 10:43 am

    I have agoraphobia issues myself so I just don’t go out unless absolutely necessary. But I understand not everyone is able to do that.
    I would announce that you want to host and leave it at that. Don’t open any discussions about menu options. You will have it all under control. If you do want help than I would do the phone route.

  • Emmy December 3, 2017, 11:54 pm

    The whole blue frosting thing is odd. It is just frosting with food coloring. She should have silently scraped it off or ate around it.

    I would agree with the others to not host any more family dinners.

  • Amanda January 6, 2018, 1:05 am

    The frosting thing is real, at least for my family. We discovered a sensitivity to dark/bright colored icing after my two year old’s birthday party which featured a rainbow cake. Two days of rainbow colored hell from both ends later, bright red, blue, green and yellow dyes are a no no now for the whole family. Some people are sensitive/allergic to the chemicals used in the dyes on a lot of store icings. And yes, you can scrape the icing off, but who wants cake without icing? As it was the sister’s cake I could see her disappointment if she wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy her treat. While it does not taste any different it can wreck havoc on some people’s systems.