DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I are in our early 30s. I’m about to finish graduate school, and my parents are going to take me out to dinner at a rather pricey restaurant after graduation to celebrate.
I’d like to ask them if my boyfriend can join us. We’ve been together for several months, and I know they will welcome him. The trouble is, my boyfriend says he would only like to go if he can pay his own way.
I understand where he is coming from, since he’s a grown man with a job, but I also know my parents – they are fairly well-off, and they wouldn’t dream of making him pay for his own meal. They would think it was odd, and possibly even slightly insulting, if he refuses their hospitality.
I suggested that he offer to pay for himself when the bill comes, and then when my dad refuses, to accept his generosity and say, “Thank you.”
He was very insulted and sarcastically apologized that his financial independence was such a big problem. What is the etiquette for this situation? I don’t want to fight over this, and I don’t want him to back out of something important to me. I also don’t want him to get off on the wrong foot with my parents by refusing their kindness.
HUNGRY FOR DECISION
DEAR HUNGRY: The smartest thing for you to do is to stop trying to manage this problem.
If your parents are gracious enough to invite your guy to this celebration, pass the invitation along to him. If he says, “Oh, I can’t possibly permit someone else to pay for my meal,” then give him your parents’ phone number and tell him that he should go ahead and lay down whatever restrictions on their generosity he cares to insist upon before the dinner.
Either he will make this very awkward phone call to people he has never met, or he will make a fuss at the event itself and make a terrible impression – and also succeed in putting the focus on him and his needs, versus you and your accomplishment.
An important part of being a successful, independent adult is to know when to let others express their generosity. In this context he should be a polite and attentive guest, keep the focus on you and your family and express his gratitude sincerely.
Your boyfriend’s posturing about this is way out of proportion to the invitation. If he would rather stay home than accept the possibility of your folks’ generosity, then you should feel relieved.
DEAR AMY: My husband’s ex-girlfriend seems to come around when there is a funeral for friends and family – and stays for hours. She hangs with my husband the whole time and talks about the past (she never brings her husband).
I want to tell her at the next funeral not to overstay her welcome.
Should I let it go and continue to humiliate myself over this behavior in front of relatives, or should I do something about it!? I’m sick of being treated like this!
DEAR HAD IT: Unless you live in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, in a perpetual episode of “Murder, She Wrote,” (where there is a mysterious death every week), I wonder how many funerals you actually have to suffer through with your husband and his former girlfriend.
The ex doesn’t seem to be deliberately humiliating you, but your husband could certainly brush up his manners. Hanging with one’s ex while one’s wife is grieving in the corner is bad form.
The next time you are at a funeral, you should stick with your husband and deftly change the subject from their past to your present.
DEAR AMY: “Ripped-off Mom” complained that her only child did not receive birthday gifts of equal value as families with multiple children. Amy, I wanted to spit out my coffee when I read her complaint. I certainly hope the child has a more generous spirit than her mother.
MORE GENEROUS MOM
DEAR MOM: Keeping score the way this mother does will never yield a good result.
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