Dear Amy: My son has been bringing his long-term high school sweetheart, “Terry,” to our home for supper now for a couple of years.
Terry was not brought up with table manners, and as a matter of fact, her family doesn’t even own a dining table. They eat in front of the TV or in their bedrooms by themselves. She arrives without saying hello, picks at her food, and worst of all picks her fingernails and split ends before and after the meal at the table.
I haven’t said anything so as not to put a rift between us. The behavior is thoughtless and rude. She acts as though she could care less about our family dinner hour.
Please advise me how to kindly counsel her. My husband and I have had enough! – Sabotaged Suppertime
Dear Sabotaged: Poor girl! I can understand why she spends so many suppers at your house – her own seems devoid of important mealtime closeness.
Even though “Terry” seems rude and disengaged while at your table, it is likely because she simply does not know how else to behave and is possibly embarrassed by the contrast between your households.
Because she hasn’t received even nominal training or guidance at home, you should offer it to her at your house. You could do this in stages, exactly as you would with a young child. Start by asking her (and your son) to help you set the table. Show her where implements and glasses go and ask her to fold the napkins and place them under the fork. Engage her in various cooking tasks such as chopping vegetables and making a salad. Ask her what her favorite dishes are, and see if she and your son could cook from a recipe for the family.
During meals, engage and include her in conversation (remember, she has never done this before!). The more engaged she is, the less she will fall back on her anxious (or unconscious) behaviors, such as fingernail and split-end examinations.
After the meal, depending on who did the cooking, she and your son should clear the table and take care of the dishes.
I hope you will continue to approach this with patience. If you are able to bring her along, it could have a profound impact on her.
Dear Amy: A dear friend recently passed away, leaving a very unworldly 32-year-old daughter with a great deal of money and property.
Until he was very sick, she was unwilling to be friendly toward me. After his death I brought her to our home, a five-hour drive away. The idea was to get some peace in the area where I live.
I paid for everything: gas, tolls and food. It never once occurred to her to offer any financial help or to pay for a meal.
She only wanted to shop (over an hour away) where, again, it was my money for gas, my driving, etc. (I am 68). There was no gratitude expressed for any of my trouble.
I invited her again, four months later. The same situation prevailed. No offer to help with expenses. Basically, a demand to shop, followed by no “thank you.”
I am incensed. This time, when she got home, I texted, “I think there is a little phrase missing: ‘thank you.’” She responded, “Oh, I thought I said it. Thank you.” She has shown no gratitude or willingness to pay the others who give her rides (she doesn’t drive), or who helped her through her father’s illness!
I’m done, but I’m on the fence about whether I should write her to set her straight about gratitude and how much a “thank you” means.
What do you think? – Incensed
Dear Incensed: After you had been burned the first time, you responded by issuing another invitation. You are either an eternal optimist – or a slow learner.
Regardless, you have already set this person straight regarding expressing gratitude – and good for you!
You have been expansive, generous, and appropriate. You don’t like this person. You don’t want to spend time with her. Burning her with a corrective communication might make you feel better – but I doubt it. Consider this social circle now closed.
Dear Amy: Huzza for your answer to “Gaslit,” who was so stressed out about how to get her husband to mow the lawn!
My 94-year-old mother mows hers; I (age 70) mow mine, and my 45-year-old daughter (working, married, busy mom) mows hers too. – Do it Yourself
Dear Do it Yourself: I mowed mine yesterday. It is my favorite chore.
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