Dear Annie: My son has been dating a girl for a little over three years. My husband and I really like her. Our son loves her. Here’s the problem: I have asked her before to help in the kitchen with meal preparation and cleanup, and she refuses.
They come once a week for meals, and we eat in front of the TV while watching shows. Everyone brings their dishes to the kitchen, but I’m left with the cleanup. Once, when I asked her for help, she said that she is company and wouldn’t expect me to help at her house. They were here for Thanksgiving, and my mom asked her to join us at the table and visit, but she declined, saying she was OK where she was. My mom was hurt and upset.
I’m planning a big Christmas dinner and want the girls to help with cleanup and to sit and visit after the meal. How can I get her to get involved in the kitchen work, both before and after, and to put her phone away and sit and visit with us? — Disappointed (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Don’t do it, Annie Lane. Don’t do it. Don’t go there. Don’t you dare say that the son’s girlfriend is being immature, and don’t you dare add that the letter writer needs to set a good example for her, as if she’s a mindless idiot who can’t think for herself. Don’t criticize her, Annie Lane. Just don’t.
Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath and read her advice here. Care to come along for the ride?
Dear Disappointed: Staring at your phone and texting while at your potential in-laws’ house is very rude. The polite thing to do is ask the host if he or she needs help, but it is also polite for the host not to expect the guests to do all the work. Have a talk with your son and ask him to help you out in the kitchen. Maybe his girlfriend will catch on and want to jump in. Her behavior toward your mother was also very rude, so address this with your son, too. Perhaps there is a reason he hasn’t married her yet.
Epic, epic, epic fail. But parts of it were ludicrous to the point of hilarity, so there’s that.
Annie Lane is clueless. She doesn’t understand the level of social pressure (which often feels akin to peer pressure) involved with trying to impress your significant other’s family. It’s hard. It’s overwhelming and just… exhausting.
When Grandma said, “Come join us at the table and visit,” it put the girlfriend on the spot and pressured her to maintain conversation with people who aren’t her family. It doesn’t sound like she was rude. I’d call her reaction unsociable. That’s not the same as being rude. Being unsociable involves feeling socially awkward or uncomfortable and trying to make nice without perfect success. Rudeness, which I’m not seeing here, would’ve been a response like, “Shove it up your windpipe, Grandma. I’m watching some TV here.” That would be rude.
While I agree that it’s poor form to deny Grandma’s request at socializing, I can just speak from experience and observation that trying to get in the good graces of another family is horribly overwhelming. It’s one part social awkwardness, three parts culture shock (because how many families are similar, much less instantly familiar?), and five parts divine guidance from a higher power.
And, um, the gender roles are running rampant with this letter writer. I approve of Annie Lane’s advice that the letter writer should freakin’ ask her son for help, but then Annie Lane veered into the inane with this zinger:
Have a talk with your son and ask him to help you out in the kitchen. Maybe his girlfriend will catch on and want to jump in.
Right, because if the boyfriend’s doing it, it must be super-fun!! Amiright? [Facepalm.] That might work with a preschooler, but with adults? I doubt it.
I’m planning a big Christmas dinner and want the girls to help with cleanup and to sit and visit after the meal.
Okay, this isn’t The Waltons. Yes, Mary Ellen became a nurse and Erin became a teacher and Elizabeth became a missionary, but in real life, “girls” shouldn’t be doing cleanup. “People” should be. “People” in a generic and non-pejorative gendered sense, unlike “girls”, who I roughly define as being females between the ages of five and eleven.
How can I get her to get involved in the kitchen work, both before and after?
Okay, this isn’t Cinderella.
I knew Annie Lane would bomb this one. I know a case can be made on the other side of this, but if I were in the girlfriend’s shoes, I could only pray to be so assertive. And things will get worse for her, because the family members will get ornery and start being passive-aggressive and trying to get rid of her.
Perhaps there is a reason [your son] hasn’t married her yet.
Shove it, Annie Lane. Ugh.