Q. My husband's brother "Patrick" and Patrick's wife "Dana" run a well-known blog in a very niche industry. Often, they will make comments about how our jobs are "not enhancing our soul" or "fail to contribute to our local economy with originality." We more or less brushed this off until they sent a family-wide email asking for a loan due to recent financial issues.
When we are in a group, they frequently find ways to avoid paying for things, like getting a ride with other people, cajoling my in-laws to pick up a dinner tab, asking us to share a hotel room, etc.
My husband is an accountant, so he offered to help them set up a budget in lieu of giving them a loan. This did not go over well and they rejected the offer. They went on to say that "people like you can't begin to understand how to live."
How should we respond to future comments from them about our jobs and requests for money? How do we respond when they get pushy about a check? Overall, Patrick and Dana are nice people, but I am afraid this finance issue might put a wedge between us all. What should our next step be?
A. I'm partial to falling off one's chair, laughing.
"People like you" apparently butt out and pay your own bills, while they, to anyone with a well-developed sense of irony, are a four-legged answer to Christmas. I see no reason to take them seriously on any level, except as family and that mostly consists of leaving unsaid 99 percent of the retorts that pop into your head.
As for wedges, they're the ones positioning them and swinging the mallet to drive them in. There is, and will be, only so much you can do to contain the damage they have in their minds to inflict.
When they hit you up for cash, remain patient, remain good-natured, remain firm on offering fishing lessons vs. fish. When they lob comments at your jobs, brushing it off is still the way to go or agreeing, to a degree, on your lack of originality/soul: "Yep, that was the plan" (Mona Lisa smile).
If you can do this without getting mired in negativity, delight in their absurdist pronouncements from the shelter of your own walls. It might not enhance your soul, but, to my understanding, it's a fine way to live.
Q. I have a daughter who is gay and getting married. It is my understanding that the bride's parents traditionally pay for the wedding and the groom's parents pay for the rehearsal proceedings. Please explain how this is handled when there are two women involved.
A. I like the idea of letting the couple pay for it, gay or straight. That builds in a requirement that their vision fit their means. Those who see ice sculptures but can barely bankroll Popsicles get to spend some quality time with their priorities, never a bad thing.
If you want to pay some or all, though, then offer without guilt, as long as you aren't feeding a sense of entitlement. To my mind, this is one of the beautiful fringe benefits of marriage equality: Where tradition no longer fits, the logic of individual circumstances rightly steps in.
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