Ask Amy: Appropriate retaliation for a bratty aunt

FresnoJuly 31, 2013 

Dear Amy: Three years ago, my (then) 35-year-old sister-in-law (who lives with my mother-in-law) referred to my 9-year-old and her 9-year-old cousin as "bitches," "brats" and other words that I would have preferred my daughter had never heard.

This was the straw that broke the camel's back, and my husband and I have not allowed our children to go back without our presence.

I would like an apology given to my child, and have made this known, but I am told I am creating drama.

If you tell me to let bygones be bygones, then I will certainly do that. But if not, do you have some advice for me to give to my daughter?

— Resentful

Dear Resentful: Three years after this incident, you can do the math and know for certain that an apology will never come.

Some people just "don't do" apologies. Not surprisingly, these are often the same people who wallow in their own offensiveness. Expecting, demanding or even waiting for an apology just strengthens their resolve never to offer one.

You reacted appropriately by removing your daughter from this aunt's toxic presence. Other than to say, "Your aunt was completely inappropriate and used words no one should use," you should not dwell on this with your daughter — or anyone else. You need to demonstrate a mature ability to file this incident in an imaginary drawer titled: "Regrettable, Unfortunate and Won't Happen Again."

Your sister-in-law's "punishment" for this offense (and I agree that it is a grave offense) is that she has to live with herself. The very act of being her every single day can't be a picnic.

You should retaliate by forgiving her. Forgiveness works every time.

Dear Amy: I've got a morbidly obese mother, but I don't know how to gently ask her to lose weight.

She has all sorts of incorrect beliefs about her own weight, i.e., she can't exercise because of bad knees, she's big boned, she's not that fat, she has to keep her blood sugar up, etc. How can I address this?

— Worried

Dear Worried: Your mother is intractable about her weight, and so don't frame this issue as being about obesity, but about health.

Engage and encourage your mother to become better informed and proactive about her basic health, without dwelling on her weight.

You should urge her to get a checkup and some tests to determine her baseline health.


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