Q: My fiancee’s son will be having an engagement party next month, and she has informed me she does not want me to attend.
I am quite hurt. We have been together for five-plus years; I have supported and treated her like she is my wife already, and she says she loves me completely.
But … The family of her ex is a source of intense stress to her, and she simply “cannot deal with the stress of (my) being there and near them.”
I let it go, while having told her this hurts me, and I feel disrespected for not being present at such an important family event. Am I wrong to be so? Is there clear etiquette for such a situation? We are engaged and she wears the ring. I almost feel a bit shamed by her decision.
A: Does your fiancee plan to invite you to the wedding? Miss Manners means the son’s wedding, of course, but now is wondering whether your betrothed intends to invite you to your own. Surely, family stress will be a factor there as well.
When one is affianced, a promise is made that that person will become a future member of the family — and an ally in its often difficult navigation. Limiting access to it, however, will not make an imperfect family go away, only strain the relationship that is thus far intact.
Miss Manners hopes that you can make that argument gently and persuasively, so that the issue becomes about the interest of your union, rather than an additional emotional pressure on your fiancee.
Q: For the Jewish holidays, our families get together separately, and typically my wife cooks enough brisket for 20 to 30 guests per event, for two or three dinners per year.
While we host Thanksgiving, the dinners for which she prepares the briskets are either at my sister’s house or her aunt’s. My sister typically reheats and frankly overcooks the brisket, whereas our aunt follows my wife’s instructions and it is served to my wife’s liking.
My wife has gently suggested to my sister how to prepare or reheat the food, but somehow it gets mishandled more often than not. We don’t want to be rude and would never change what we do, but we sure would like the food prepared as intended. Does Miss Manners have any suggestions?
A: Swap holidays? Far be it for Miss Manners to challenge your family’s traditions, but it seems to her counterintuitive for the host at these events not to be the cook, for exactly the reasons that you have outlined. You cannot admonish a host for not serving food to your wife’s liking, whatever its origin.
Well, you could undercook the brisket. But perhaps the mere suggestion that you switch occasions would be enough to jostle your sister’s culinary skills: “I hate for you to have the burden of reheating things when you are hosting. I am also afraid that the brisket gets a bit dry during travel. Perhaps this year, I could take over the brisket holiday, and you take Thanksgiving?”
If, however, your sister agrees, you cannot then comment on the state of the inevitably dry turkey.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.