DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am fortunate enough to be expecting in a few months, and I have a very sweet and generous mother-in-law who would like to throw me a baby shower. (My mother would like to as well, but her finances are tight, so it wouldn’t be so bad if she let my MIL take the reins. My mother just threw me a bridal shower two years ago.)
The problem is that my husband comes from a large and traditional Italian family. My mother-in-law has 80 people on her list alone, before my friends or family, and this includes her aunts and her cousins.
Is this customary? I feel as though not only is this too much extended family — I do not have a relationship with her aunts — but it’s much larger than I would like. I do not enjoy attention in that capacity, and I am not even comfortable accepting gifts from so many people I am not close to.
Additionally, she wants control of the food ... and this definitely means heavy, traditional Italian food on a Sunday at noon.
I don’t know where and if to put my foot down. Do I say thanks but no thanks to her offer? Or do I go with it even if it means sacrificing what I would really like?
GENTLE READER: Please allow Miss Manners to tell you what you would really like.
You would really like your baby’s paternal relatives to be excited about his or her arrival.
You would really like your very sweet and generous mother-in-law to be happy.
You would really like to have your baby grow up in a warm, extended family, even including great-aunts.
You would really like a heavy midday meal.
Well, maybe not while you’re pregnant. But you should get used to the tradition, because your child is going to love going to Nonna’s for Sunday dinner.
The one suggestion that Miss Manners has is that you not add your friends to this party. Relatives are not supposed to give showers (a rule that your own family seems to have missed), and that way, it will be just a family party. If your friends want to celebrate with you, they will volunteer to throw their own shower for you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I frequently dine with a friend and her almost 92-year-old mother. Lately it has become a chore, not a pleasure, as the daughter wants to “correct” her mother on dates and many things that have happened in the past.
From my viewpoint, who is right or wrong is of no consequence. As we age, our memories become somewhat faded, don’t they?
But the constant reprimands and spats render me loath to keep meeting them for these occasions. I fear a negative response from either or both of them if I say something constructively in hopes of alleviating the situation. What to do?
GENTLE READER: Not taking sides is a good idea, Miss Manners agrees. But you must know these ladies pretty well by now — well enough to say, “Would you two fight that out later? I'd like to hear the story.”
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