Author Topic: Christmas host from E-hell  (Read 23371 times)

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shutterbug

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Christmas host from E-hell
« on: May 16, 2012, 11:45:14 AM »
Hi, new here and this is my first post.  This is also probably the most egregious example of bad etiquette I have ever personally experienced.  Here goes.

Background: My brother met his girlfriend (now, unfortunately, his wife) in early 2010.  She moved in with him that summer.  Both she and my brother are perfectionist, OCD type people although she is 10 times worse than my brother.  For the first 9 months, she appeared to not want to get to know my family at all.  She avoided our family events, limited the amount that my brother had previously entertained at his house and was in general rude at the events she did attend or *allowed* to happen.  I chalked it up as a social disorder and tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.    /bg

My brother, J, has a large, centrally-located house and is often the one in our family to host large holiday gatherings.  He has always seemed to enjoy this and is the first to offer up his house. It was our first Christmas after my brother moved in his new girlfriend, whom I will call Bertha.  My brother's gatherings have always been very casual and informal and we've always been made to feel very welcome there.  J and Bertha offered to host our large extended family's Christmas potluck gathering.  I have lots of second cousins who all have multiple young children.  Unfortunately, that side of the family often disregards the potluck aspect of celebrations and doesn't bring any food, let alone enough to feed their families of 5 and 6 people. 

When my cousins started to arrive sans food, it quickly became apparent to me and others that there would not be enough food for everyone.  Also, my husband and I are vegetarian and someone had made delicious meatballs that had me craving the veggie version (Bertha and others had also not made many veggie options, so there wasn't much for me and the husband to eat).  My husband and I made a run for the store for veggie meatballs and to make a simple pizza bread and veggie tray so that there would be extra food for everyone.  I got back, prepared the pizza bread and made sure to clean up my mess and pack away my extras as I know how OCD J and Bertha are. 

Later that evening, I was engrossed in talking to family when Bertha approached me and said something to the effect that my mom was in the kitchen cleaning up my mess and it wasn't really fair to make her do that.  Confused, I went to the kitchen to see my mom cleaning up a general mess, not mine necessarily.  I told her what Bertha said and offered to help.  She waved me out, saying she enjoyed taking care of the hosting duties.  I found out later that my "mess" involved some Parmesan cheese left on the stove when someone removed the pan I had used to make the pizza bread (it was one of those pizza pans with holes in it to allow for aeration and the cheese sprinkled through).  The pan was left on the stove because there was no other room to put the pizza bread overflow. 

Sometime later, I saw my brother standing off to himself with no one else around.  I went up to him and tried to explain that I had no idea there was even a mess made, that the pan had been left there due to no room, etc.. He became very nasty with me and said that I had no right to prepare any dish at his house and that I had left my bags of leftovers on the counter.  Again, I tried to explain that my two bags (in which I neatly packed all my materials) were left there due to no space and that I had only gotten the extra food to accommodate everyone.  He continued being rude and nasty to me, saying I was messing up his house and that he and Bertha had to clean up after my mess and it wasn't fair to them, etc.. I told him that we didn't feel welcome in his house and so we were going to leave.  His reply?  "Good, I don't want you here anyway." We left.

My mom told me later on that my brother was very frazzled that night because my cousins pushed their children downstairs with no supervision and that they were smearing cupcakes on the wall and carpet.  Bertha was also apparently constantly on him all night not to allow any messes.  I don't know why he took it out on me, but to this day he has never really apologized for his actions.  I hosted our immediate family's Christmas at my new house this past Christmas and didn't care if people prepared dishes here or made a normal "mess" -- I consider it all part of being a good hostess.  I tried to have a good relationship with my brother and let bygones be bygones, but recently have had to limit contact with him after he has consistently refused to treat me with even basic respect. 

TheVapors

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2012, 12:40:06 PM »
Welcome to the board =)

Ahhh... family. I have two difficult brothers that I no longer share a relationship with. I understand. It's hurtful when they say terrible things. You want to try and reach out, and keep things nice, because it's family.

I don't have perfect advice, but I have to say that over time, my life has been better without them. They're negative, they're manipulative, and sometimes I still feel sad for what might have been in another universe, but I do feel free of them in this universe. And that's worth it.

I say nothing about them. My mother might bring up what they're doing, or my other brother might mention them in some offhand way. I nod politely, tongue firmly clamped between my teeth, and when they're done speaking about the older brothers, I change the subject.

The best you can probably do is to continue being polite when you must see J & Bertha at other family gatherings, and choose never to see the inside of their house ever again. Though, I suspect after their terrible hosting and general off-putting attitude that you'd never want to go inside after that one Christmas.

BeagleMommy

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2012, 12:59:36 PM »
OP, welcome to the board.  I have a very tense relationship with my SIL.  She has a lot of emotional baggage and my brother feels that it is his responsibility to keep her calm.  Our family ends up walking on eggshells around her a lot of the time, but I refuse to give her the option of saying to him "You're family did (insert perceived insult)".  He has enough to deal with.

I would say remain polite when you have to be around your brother and Bertha, but you don't have to go out of your way to please them.

RiverSong

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2012, 04:54:17 PM »
While I can understand your desire to be helpful, I would be upset too if I was hosting a party and someone else took over without even consulting me.

You hijacked the hosting duties by buying food and preparing it in their kitchen without so much as a by-your-leave. They had every right to be upset over what you did.

I do think that they reacted badly to everything going on, but they were not unjustified in their feelings.

Kaypeep

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2012, 05:27:03 PM »
I have to agree with the PP that you were in the wrong here.  Unless your brother or SIL asked you to go out and get more food to feed the troops, I think you overstepped.  Yes, your intentions were good but if your bro and SIL are OCD as you say, you put a crack in their controlled plans.  Mess or no mess, just being in the kitchen doing your thing without consulting me first would be enough to upset me if that were my house.  I think the right thing to do would have been to just eat what you could, or not, and leave early and get something to eat afterwards.  Or, ask them "Can I help with anything?  Cooking? Cleaning?  Store run?" and let them decide how to best use you as a resource.

Sharnita

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2012, 06:26:42 PM »
I think beyond that the cousins needed to be called on their rude behavior long ago.  The fact that they keep showing up without food and their kids smear food in the house is unbelievable.  It sounds like the rest of the family accepts it and your brother feels obligated to put up with it and to host because of his house size and location.



doodlemor

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2012, 09:10:06 PM »
Welcome to the board,  shutterbug.

No wonder your brother and SIL were so upset.  It sounds like the *raised by wolves* group of relatives needed to be set straight long ago, as stated by Sharnita.  I suspect that the large, centrally located home of your brother will no longer be used for family gatherings, due to this group/pack of people.

There is no way that I would have let people behave like that in my home, if I were SIL.  I would have sent the children out of the cellar to sit beside their parents, or stated that no children could be down there without their parents.  If SIL had been assertive enough to stand up to the wolves  perhaps she wouldn't have been so angry, and put so much pressure on your brother. 

It does sound like the hosts completely lost control of the party.  In your kind attempt to help, you were unfortunately identified with the wolf pack.

Time can be a healer.  Perhaps in the years to come SIL and BIL will loosen up a bit, especially if they have children.  It sounds like you are trying hard for a reconciliation - I hope that things work themselves out.


jedikaiti

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2012, 09:24:26 PM »
While I can understand your desire to be helpful, I would be upset too if I was hosting a party and someone else took over without even consulting me.

You hijacked the hosting duties by buying food and preparing it in their kitchen without so much as a by-your-leave. They had every right to be upset over what you did.

I do think that they reacted badly to everything going on, but they were not unjustified in their feelings.

Then Bertha should have gone out for more food - and food that everyone could eat - herself. Since she was busy shirking her hostess duties and going bonkers over a few shreds of parmesian, OP was just fine in my book. It also sounds like hosting duties are pretty loosely defined in the OP's family, and Bertha is just uptight. I wouldn't go over there again while she's in the picture, and instead invite the family over instead, if that's an option. And if Bertha wants to avoid the gatherings, call it a bonus.
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RiverSong

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2012, 09:44:14 PM »
While I can understand your desire to be helpful, I would be upset too if I was hosting a party and someone else took over without even consulting me.

You hijacked the hosting duties by buying food and preparing it in their kitchen without so much as a by-your-leave. They had every right to be upset over what you did.

I do think that they reacted badly to everything going on, but they were not unjustified in their feelings.

Then Bertha should have gone out for more food - and food that everyone could eat - herself. Since she was busy shirking her hostess duties and going bonkers over a few shreds of parmesian, OP was just fine in my book. It also sounds like hosting duties are pretty loosely defined in the OP's family, and Bertha is just uptight. I wouldn't go over there again while she's in the picture, and instead invite the family over instead, if that's an option. And if Bertha wants to avoid the gatherings, call it a bonus.

I would think that since the OP and husband are vegetarians that they would have brought a vegetarian dish to share, so they would not have been completely lacking in food, just options.

By this logic, then anyone who finds someone's hosting to be lacking in any way may then take over and do it their way? Yes, hosting was lacking, still not a call for taking over someone's kitchen and arbitrarily deciding what to do. She should have approached one or the other of the hosts and present the options, not decided to hijack it. If she truly could not stand the situation, she always had the option to leave.

trailgrrl

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2012, 10:41:02 PM »
Ohhhh Shutterbug.  First  ((hugs)).   Second I identify with your situation.  Third, they say the way to hell is paved with good intentions.

My brother lives a three hour drive away.  I am close to my brother and was close to my ex SIL.  We had known each other since they were kids.    To the point where I was encouraged to make myself at home in their home.  I was usually up before them and would cook breakfast for the kids, mine and theirs.   Auntie Trailgrrl visits are generally marked by pancakes and eggs with Chocolate Chip cookies in the evening.

However, brother is divorced now (and as much as I love SIL, trust me when I say this was a good thing) and has been for several years. He is now in a Long Term relationship and she has recently moved in.  His home is now her home as well.  I remember commenting to my mom that I need to remember to be more careful not to just use my brother's kitchen as an extension of my own.   I like his girlfriend, but I would be annoyed if she came over to my house and started digging through my kitchen and using my things without asking first.

With my Bro and my Parents we tend to make each other at home in our respective homes and if my brother ran out of food during a holiday, you bet your bippy, I would have been the first to run to the store to help out and get some more food, then prepare it.

HOWEVER, now I would not without first consulting his GF.

OP,  Your brother was rude, and mean.  But he was reacting to the situation I believe and I would no longer want to host moocher cousins.  My husband would have been livid if my cousins had acted like that.  But you also owe him and specifically his girlfriend an apology for overstepping, even though your intentions were made of pure gold.  I would phrase it like this.:

'Brother, I know that the last holiday was stressful for you and GF. People didn't behave well and although my intention was to help, I think I made the situation worse and for that I am sorry.'  Don't mention his nastiness.  This is about your behavior, not his.

I hope the reaction is positive.

whatsanenigma

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2012, 12:27:50 AM »

By this logic, then anyone who finds someone's hosting to be lacking in any way may then take over and do it their way? Yes, hosting was lacking, still not a call for taking over someone's kitchen and arbitrarily deciding what to do. She should have approached one or the other of the hosts and present the options, not decided to hijack it. If she truly could not stand the situation, she always had the option to leave.

I would agree with this if the party had been one the hosts were fully providing the food for, but if I read the original post correctly, this was a potluck. The OP responded to the fact that not enough guests reacted appropriately to the "potluck" aspect of it and therefore, there was not enough food.

So, the OP was expected to bring something.  The amount of the "something" was up in the air.  The OP ended up not satisfied with the amount she brought and then used the kitchen (in which nothing was being cooked at the time, as far as I can tell) to add more to her contribution of food.

So I kind of see this as going above and beyond as a potluck contributor.  The OP was not obligated to do what she did, but then I also wonder, is the host of a potluck obligated to somehow make sure everyone has enough to eat, if enough people come without an adequate food contribution? 

I would think technically, no, but it would be nice. The point of a potluck, to me, is that it's literally "pot luck", where you hope that everyone else will hold up their part of the unspoken contract in agreeing to attend a potluck and bring adequate food, but if they don't, then, you cannot blame the host.

So I personally don't see anything wrong with what the OP did, though it wasn't something she should have felt obligated to do.

Mental Magpie

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2012, 11:24:03 AM »

By this logic, then anyone who finds someone's hosting to be lacking in any way may then take over and do it their way? Yes, hosting was lacking, still not a call for taking over someone's kitchen and arbitrarily deciding what to do. She should have approached one or the other of the hosts and present the options, not decided to hijack it. If she truly could not stand the situation, she always had the option to leave.

I would agree with this if the party had been one the hosts were fully providing the food for, but if I read the original post correctly, this was a potluck. The OP responded to the fact that not enough guests reacted appropriately to the "potluck" aspect of it and therefore, there was not enough food.

So, the OP was expected to bring something.  The amount of the "something" was up in the air.  The OP ended up not satisfied with the amount she brought and then used the kitchen (in which nothing was being cooked at the time, as far as I can tell) to add more to her contribution of food.

So I kind of see this as going above and beyond as a potluck contributor.  The OP was not obligated to do what she did, but then I also wonder, is the host of a potluck obligated to somehow make sure everyone has enough to eat, if enough people come without an adequate food contribution? 

I would think technically, no, but it would be nice. The point of a potluck, to me, is that it's literally "pot luck", where you hope that everyone else will hold up their part of the unspoken contract in agreeing to attend a potluck and bring adequate food, but if they don't, then, you cannot blame the host.

So I personally don't see anything wrong with what the OP did, though it wasn't something she should have felt obligated to do.

I agree.  If this hadn't been a potluck, the OP would be out of line.  The OP was not picking up the hosts' slack, but rather the slack of her other family members.

ETA:  I also have to wonder, though, that if everyone knew that this part of the family never help up their end of the deal, why didn't people just bring more to make up for it to begin with? (Obviously, they shouldn't have tolerated it to begin with, but because they're not going to confront those people, their next best option is to make up for it, IMO, not be apparently surprised that there isn't enough food when they know very well the other part of the family won't bring food.)
« Last Edit: May 28, 2012, 11:26:09 AM by Dark Magdalena »
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Luci

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2012, 11:39:17 AM »
I think the OP should have asked for permission to run for more food and use the kitchen, but I know her motives were generous and trying to be helpful because of those who didn't contribute. J and Bertha seem to be new enough hosting the family to not understand the dynamics - we know who won't contribute and pretty much how much to serve now because of 40 years of hosting twice a year, beginning with 12 in the family and now almost 40.

I would be pretty ticked about the parmesian on the stove and the neatly packed bags on counters, though. The bags belong in a corner on the floor out of the way or on the neat, clean bench we have set aside in the garage for that purpose. But I don't complain about it - I just move the stuff and go on. I'm sorry you misunderstood and the young hosts didn't know how to handle it. They hadn't established a storage place and you honestly were not aware of the parm mess and didn't know what to do with the bags.

I have become really tolerant in understanding that kids will make a mess, which other adults will try to take over, and I'll always miss something or do something wrong. J and Bertha are like me at my first family hosting! We do have one member we won't go to because he spends the next six months complaining about celophane candy wrappers in odd places. I remember finding one of those foil wrappers under a sofa cushion about 3 months after the party. I laughed at my own bad housekeeping and the kid's resourcefullness - which kid? Didn't matter any more. (But not icing on the furniture!)

Anyway, I got over it, mostly, and I send you lots of hugs that J and Bertha can't. It is best just to avoid getting in that situation again, and I am so sorry for all of you that is has damaged your relationship in other areas.

I just wish that everyone could not say, "Lesson learned, let's go on," and am sorry you are so hurt.

Honestly, I think the only thing really egregious is that J & Bertha keep harping on it. (And I like your mom's attitude!)

(Sorry. I don't mean to come off as 'older and wiser' because I'm not. Just experienced and still learning!)

NotTheNarcissist

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2012, 05:05:45 PM »
Even though it was a potluck, IMO the polite & etiquette-approved response is not to leave the gathering & run to the store for more food, but rather - since she was already there - to respect the host & hostess's position as host & hostess, & just ask them what they prefer. In their shoes, I would have preferred "Hmm, Looks like Uncle Bozo didn't bring food again! Would you like me to run to the store? Or do you have a plan B?" and then honor that request, which includes leaving early when I got hungry.

That being said, J's behavior sounds mean. I know he's is the middle & that is awkward & uncomfortable but you didn't do anything to warrant that level of a response. He could have said "hey sis, we need to talk..." and shared his side of the story after the drama calmed down. I do hope you two reconcile. I have brothers & would hate for something like this to come between us.

I know how it feels to have a family member assume liberties in my kitchen that were not theirs to assume. It does hurt. Until it happens to you (general you) personally, I don't think a person can truly understand how it feels. I have not spoken to Bertha or heard her side of the story, so I hesitate to put words in her mouth. IF that is the angle she is coming from (ie there's not more to this story from her viewpoint), then I can say with certainty a house guest assuming liberties in my kitchen is enough to cause a rift. I would never dream of doing it in someone else's kitchen as a house guest & don't understand why it's (allegedly) ok in mine.

Mental Magpie

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Re: Christmas host from E-hell
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2012, 02:49:01 AM »
Alternatively, I wouldn't bat an eyelash if a guest used my kitchen.
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