This is one of the “Dear Abby” dilemmas answered in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
DEAR ABBY: “My sister and her husband are well-to-do and cheap. They recently invited themselves to stay three nights in our snowbird condo on their way to a vacation in the Caribbean. My wife and I hosted them, and during their stay we went out twice for dinner. I am offended that they didn’t show appreciation for our hospitality by at least taking us to dinner once. I have wanted to confront my sister about my feelings, but my wife has vehemently told me I shouldn’t. What would you suggest?” ~Unequal in Pennsylvania
DEAR UNEQUAL: “I see two ways of dealing with this. Keep your mouth shut, avoid confrontation and the next time your sister tells you she’s coming for a visit roll up the welcome mat saying you already have other plans. Or, tell your sister how you feel.
Personally, I think it would be healthier to express your feelings, because your sister’s and her husband’s behavior was rude. It shows that because people have money doesn’t necessarily mean they have class.”
First, let’s tackle one part of the first sentence: “Well-to-do and cheap.” One feels the angst and jealousy in that phrase alone. The writer could’ve chosen many alternatives: Affluent, prosperous, or comfortable; economical, frugal, or economizing. But he didn’t.
Second, how does someone invite themselves to stay for three nights; especially if she’s family? This automatically has the reader thinking “Shouldn’t you know her by now?” If her behavior(s) bother him so much, where was the “Not this time, sis,” “This isn’t a good time,” or “Are the hotels all booked?” response? Okay, the last one was my poor attempt at humor. But it’s his sister for Pete’s sake.
Thirdly, in the second sentence, he writes, “our snowbird condo,” not “our place” or “our home.” Perhaps this is his way of showing the reader he has assets of his own. Whatever the case may be, I call it dick-waving: “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” mentality.
My favorite was the “show appreciation for our hospitality” portion of the piece. My first thought was “Does he even know the definition of the word hospitality?” Let’s refresh his memory, shall we? These definitions are taken from the American Heritage Dictionary: “Hospitality, the act or practice of or a tendency toward being hospitable. Hospitable, welcoming guests with warmth and generosity…Having an open and charitable mind; receptive.” Therefore, I ask “What hospitality?” Where’s the warmth? Where’s the generosity? Is one of the conditions for showing either of these the amount of money someone has, the number of material things she owns, or how many vacations she takes? Not to my mind. It’s not in the definition, either.
Finally, he signs the letter “Unequal in Pennsylvania.” If we weren’t certain about his need to measure up, or measure out, before, this seals it. What is this need to be equal? And who measures it? I know people who have very little financially, but are rich beyond compare in their relationships and family. This, above all other terms mentioned, is subjective.
I don’t know about “Dear Abby,” but my advice to the writer is that mentioning his feelings to his sister would most certainly stop any future visits and drive a wedge into their relationship for years to come. Additionally, he may want to schedule a few sessions with a psychologist or a psychiatrist in the hopes of resolving his jealousy and gauging issues.
In all probability, his sister is at home beforehand discussing the visit and her brother's awkward behavior to her spouse: “But honey, he’s my brother. We should visit. It won’t be for long.” After all, our body language and mannerisms reveal our thoughts long before our mouths do. Right? Of course right.
It’s food for thought at any rate.
Please, take a minute to tell me your thoughts in a comment below.
NOTE: I plan to follow up this piece with on-the-street interviews around the Atlanta area. Let’s see if others feel the same way this man does.