Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Holiday Hell

2002 Archive

I just want to say how much I enjoy your site - I was, however, congratulating myself on running with a kinder and gentler circle of friends than many of your contributors when I realized I had a sad little story of my own to tell. It's either holiday, guests, or relatives from hell - it involves all of them. It's not a huge thing, but it had a profound effect on me, and was unfortunately a huge warning bell about my first marriage - I should have listened to it!

In the first year of my first marriage, my then-husband informed me that in his family, the newest bride cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone came over to the new couple's house for the day. I thought this was a nice idea, and threw myself into planning a great dinner - requiring a little research, as I am English, and had not really done "Thanksgiving Dinner" - but I assumed it couldn't be any harder than doing a Christmas dinner. I *love* parties - I love to entertain, I love to cook, and I am happiest when my guests are happy. These days, it's much easier to entertain, but back then, I was 19 and living in a tiny apartment with a galley kitchen smaller than my current master bathroom. I planned everything carefully, however, and pulled together table, chairs, linens, decorations, and food - I really wanted the day to be nice for my in-laws, since they were spending the day in our tiny apartment. I picked out the freshest, best foods we could afford, and planned a three-course dinner that I hoped would please even finicky tastes.

The day arrived - I had been cooking since the night before, and I planned for one o'clock to eat. 1pm rolled around, no relatives. Two. Three. I put the turkey wrapped in foil in the oven to keep it warm and moist - I figured the other stuff could re-heat when our guests arrived. At 4pm, they arrived en masse. I bustled around, got everyone drinks (non-alcoholic - they're Baptists), and started laying things out while my husband talked with his family. I got everything looking perfect, brought out the turkey, and said "everything's ready. Shall we eat?" They looked at the table, with everything laid out, and one of them said

"Oh, we already ate at <sister's> house. We're not hungry." They had already eaten?! I thought *I* was doing dinner! Not only had they eaten, we hadn't been invited! I covered nicely (I think), said fine, and visited with them for a little, and then they got up to leave. They'd been there for a grand total of 45 minutes. I had cooked for ten hours, and not only didn't they eat, they stayed for less than an hour.

I found out later that my husband knew they were getting together somewhere else first; he just hadn't bothered to tell me. I suppose he thought we could eat all the food ourselves (he was - is! - a very fat man). I felt like the entire family had rejected me, but I found out even later, that they had not expected me to do *anything*, and the whole horrible day wasn't their fault. My husband had taken it upon himself to tell me they were coming for dinner without inviting any of them. And this, along with many other insults and thoughtless moments, is why he's my ex-husband. (Though I think my ex's family could have at least made a little bit of an effort - even if they weren't expecting to be fed, when I brought out the meal, they should have realized something was up. We all could at least have had the chance to apologize for the mix-up, then we could have had a good laugh about it, and I would have sent food home with them if they wanted. They way it worked out, I felt unwanted by that family for YEARS. No one ever mentioned it - I guess in my ex's family, people produce massive meals just on a whim, and no one thinks anything of it. These days, I throw (and attend) lovely parties, where everyone has a good time because they love and care about each other. I am truly blessed in my new marriage and my dear friends, and we never have to worry about anything like the awful events re-told on this site. I've told this story to just a few people over the years, and they have all been amazed that I didn't go ballistic.

Holiday 0925-03

My MIL is a treat to say the least. All of our Christmas's since we got married have been interesting but this one took the cake. Up until this point I still tried to make sure we treated our families as much the same as possible. I was brought up to never compare presents my brother and I got. I was never jealous of what anyone else received and was more than gracious to receive anything since I know I don't deserve anything. 

However, this particular year my hub's family gave our family some amazing gifts. Starting with a bright yellow TV with a bow on it that had been in my IL's kitchen for years (think Wonder Years style), it had my kid's names on it. MIL handed out the other kids' gifts and as soon as my daughter opened the stroller she received my MIL stated that it stayed at HER house. Not likely, my mood was set. There were a few other small gifts that I was just amused by but then I got the shock of my life. The IL's proceeded to tell how they found this great gift for my BIL. He is the favored child (way too long a story) and they had found the PERFECT gift for him in an outlet store. It was a bomber jacket that was worth $300. It only cost $100 and it was the only one the store had. So, as the fascinating story went, one of them ran home to get the money since they hadn't brought that much with them while the other held onto it. Nice story about a nice gift. RIGHT??? RIGHT!! I looked at my hub and he had this incredible look on his face.... I looked at what he had received....a box of $5 bullets!! I can understand that you might have different ideas about how you spend Christmas money, but trying to make it LOOK like you cared enough when you have BOTH sons in the room would have helped the Christmas spirit a lot more! I have made the statement to the IL's to not buy me anything since my parents more than take care of me. But I wish they would spend what they would have on me, on him! It hasn't happened yet, poor man got his birthday gift for Christmas last year because she couldn't get the time to get it to him before. That's ALL he got, she didn't get him something else!

Holiday 1013-03

I’d been dating "Kevin" for a couple of years. It was a pretty solid relationship – we hadn’t discussed anything serious, but he’d come to several of my family’s gatherings and I’d gone to several of his.

At the time I was working as a secretary; not exactly a high-powered (nor high-paying) position. The third year of our relationship I’d had to move out of an apartment I’d shared with another girl, and the only place I could get was more expensive – plus I had all my moving expenses. What with one thing and another, I knew I was going to be unable to afford to fly down to visit my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas. These are both very big occasions in my family, and it was going to be my first year celebrating either one of them alone. I mentioned to Kevin (in August!) that it was going to be a lonely time for me, whereupon he offered to have his mother invite me to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. I was a bit startled that he’d offer, but truly grateful that he thought enough of me to want me to come.

About mid-October, Kevin asked me what my travel plans were for Thanksgiving. I reminded him that I wasn’t going to BE traveling for Thanksgiving, since I’d spent all of my spare cash while moving house. He said "oh, yeah – I was going to have my mother invite you to dinner." At this point I realized his plans would probably be news to her, so I told him if it was a problem he didn’t have to do it. He just smiled and said, "I’m sure it’ll be fine." OK, no problem…

Now it’s mid-November. At this point most of my friends are asking me if I have plans, and if not would I like to come over for Thanksgiving? I have to keep saying "I’m not sure, but I think I’m having dinner with Kevin’s family." They, one and all, say, "Well, if not, let us know!" How I wish I’d taken up with one of them… During all of this I’ve asked Kevin, more than once, whether or not he’s talked to his mother and if I should be making other dinner plans. He keeps saying, "I’m sure it’ll be fine."

Okay, now it’s the day before Thanksgiving, at 4:30 in the afternoon. He calls me at my office and tells me I’m not invited to his family’s dinner. Meanwhile I’ve turned down every other invitation I’ve had so I could spend the holiday with him – and he hadn’t even bothered to try to clear it until then! I’m not proud to say that I exploded at him – on a shared phone no less. I was so angry it was all I could do to keep a reasonably civil tongue in my head. I shamed him into saying he’d pick me up in the afternoon and we’d spend the evening together with his parents at their house.

Which means that I found myself on Thanksgiving evening eating leftover turkey and dressing at Kevin’s mother’s house while she cleared up and washed the dishes and he sat there making conversation (having eaten already). Needless to say, by the time Christmas rolled around I celebrated it without even PLANNING to include him.

Holiday 1111-03

My parents always host a big open house Christmas party, where we invite the neighbors, friends, family, and work colleagues to celebrate the Holidays. It is a fairly classy affair, for the past few years, my friend Sharon and I have put on cocktail dresses and "waitresses," serving drinks and finger food. We also have a bar set up in the kitchen, where another one of my friends tends in a tux. We have more food set up in the dining room where people can refill their plates. We generally have about 50-60 people at any given time, and everyone is dressed up nicely. Last year we had two of the most appalling guests I've ever met.

The first guest, "Beth" was a professional colleague of my mother. Her son is about 26, addicted to both alcohol and drugs and is completely incapable of getting a job like an adult (still lives with his mom). Well, he didn't show up, much to our relief, but Beth spent most of the evening trying to get my mother to fix up her son with me. She thinks I'd be a "good influence" on him, and wouldn't my mom do her a favor and let me date her son (as if I was even remotely interested in dating this horrible man I had barely met, not to mention I go to college in another state, so it's not as if I could even if I had wanted to.) My mother said that I was seeing someone else, and she didn't think it appropriate to fix up her college-age daughter with anyone. Beth proceeds to get angry and tell other guests that we are snobbish and think we're better than her.

Meanwhile, my younger brother, who was 14 at the time, had invited a friend of his to the party, and as we usually extend invitations to the parents, his mother, "Mary" showed up as well. The two boys went up to my little brother's room where several other teenagers were hanging out, while his mother stayed downstairs to socialize. She immediately went to the dining room and pulled up a chair to the table (all the chairs had been pulled away from the table because it was set up like a buffet where people could walk around and get the various types of food) and begins to eat, trying to convince everyone who wanders in to pull up a chair and sit down with her. I refill her wine glass about 4 or 5 times and I decide that I'm going to avoid filling it for a while as she is evidently quite tipsy at this point. So I tell Sharon and Ed, my friends who are also filling drinks, that they should avoid filling Mary's glass as I had filled it quite a bit. At this point, Sharon looks at me with wide eyes and says that she had filled the glass at least 3 times herself. Whoops! So in about an hour and a half, this woman has drunk at least 7 or 8 glasses of wine, with neither Sharon nor I knowing that she was getting wine from the other. So now Mary, getting wise to the notion that the flow of wine has stopped, starts wandering around elsewhere in the house, and proceeds to hit on every man there between the ages of 18 and 80. My mother walks into the kitchen to refill a food tray at one point to find Mary drinking from a BOTTLE of champagne. We assign my older brother to "baby-sit" Mary and keep her from drinking any more. He gets her a glass of ginger ale and manages to get her to sit down with him to chat.

So now the party is winding down (it's about 8 pm, the party invitation was from 3-7--yes this woman was utterly drunk at someone else's house before 8pm), and most of the guests have left, but Mary is still there (This is okay with us, because we cannot in good conscience allow her to drive home completely trashed with her son in the car). Now Mary is the last guest, and still hasn't made motions towards leaving even though we have cleaned up and put away everything from the party (although we'd like to have her gone, we're still happier to let her stay than drive drunk). At about 11 pm, she announces that she's going to leave (okay, she might be sober enough now) and take her son and my little brother to the midnight showing of a movie. My parents veto this idea, of course, but Mary couldn't understand why they wouldn't let my brother come out with them. Now may I ask, who takes their 14 year-old son out to a movie at midnight? AND Where do these people come from?

Holiday 1212-03

I received this invitation via email. A party in which one is expected to bring special foods, one's own chair and table, and a $15-20 gift? Strange how unappealing that sounds...

Should you RSVP: YES!
Should you bring something: YES-- Bring chairs and tables and pillows!!
Should it be something Chanukah appropriate: YES (see below)*
Can you bring someone, or several someones, with you: YES, but you must tell me~ and yes, kids are very appropriate.
Candle lighting time: shortly after 5.
*1 Chanukah appropriate list:
Sour cream
Olive oil
Chocolate coins
Things to gamble with
Chanukah music--CD only, tape machine broken.
Variations on, and things that go with the above, lo-carb ones especially
Sufganiot (jelly donuts. homemade of course. in fact I saw a recipe on Martha Stewart's website....)
(I have a not so secret 'thing' for eggnog...homemade...with alcohol...and lots of nutmeg....)
Storytelling! Skit-playing! We are going to attempt to recreate the battle of the Macabees in my living room! (no realistic ketchup deaths though....)

If I missed you on the first notice I'm sorry. [Note: This was emailed on Tuesday for a Sunday party.] Would love to see all of you.
If you want to participate in the Goyishe, Yankee swap, bring a gift ($15-$20), wrapped, and hard to tell what it is!!! Christmas wrapping NOT preferred.

Holiday 1219-03

My uncle could not make it to the big Thanksgiving dinner, held at my Mother's home every year, a couple of years ago. However, his second (and current) wife came along anyway. That's slightly out of the ordinary, as we don't particularly care for this woman, but we welcomed her anyway. My uncle's wife is a very educated Mexican woman who speaks several languages besides Spanish and English, and has a semi-prestigious career in New Orleans. We live an hour away from New Orleans. You would think she'd have more sense than that which I am about to relate. She shows up to the dinner with some female relative of hers, a cousin or something, who is visiting from Mexico. Also along with them is the cousin's son, about 8 years old. Neither unexpected guest can speak English. Okay, fine, we have plenty to share, and sharing is what the holidays are about. So we welcomed them as well, my uncle's wife translating for us all.

After the dinner, my uncle's wife goes out to her car, and brings a box back in the house. It is filled with cheap, ugly, but new brown leather jackets. Then she proceeds to try and SELL us one of these jackets, telling us that they are from Mexico, good quality, etc. Obviously, the cousin or whatever had brought them. She even went so far as to force me to try one of these things on. So I got to thinking: Perhaps this is a poor relative, who desperately needs the money. So I asked, how much? She looked at the relative, who literally looked me up and down, as if calculating how well off I might be, and says in perfect English, "75.00". WHAT!? My husband and I make less than $25,000 a year. I just shook my head. Anyway, a few minutes later, my Mother took my uncle's wife and her two relatives out behind the house, to show them the lemon trees that my Dad frets over all year. The trees had some lemons, but most of them were not ripe yet. My mother invited them to pick some of the ripe ones to take home with them. Well, they commenced to pick every single lemon off of all 4 trees, even the ones that were still green. Needless to say, we were all incredulous.

Holiday 1218-03

Page Last Updated May 18, 2007