The Vine: April 12, 2017
So I have this friend. He's charming and funny, and we enjoy spending time with him when we go out to bars and restaurants.
However, my husband and I have been cutting back on our spending (both in dollars and calories), so we have been shifting to entertaining at home. The only problem: this friend is a terrible dinner guest.
For example, I asked both him and his roommates to come over for a very casual dinner. His roommates had other plans, but this friend (let's call him Oscar) gave an enthusiastic yes. When he found out that the roomies wouldn't be there, he then suggested we invite another couple of his friends that I barely know. I explained that it was just family dinner, and I didn't want to have to clean or entertain anyone else. He brought it up a second time, to which I suggested that if he wanted a bigger party, he's welcome to host one. Of course, he declined: he virtually never cooks. Okay, kind of rude trying to invite people over to my house, but fine. Whatevs.
Friday rolls around and my husband and I are both in the middle of a big work projects, but I manage to toss the corned beef in the crockpot while I work. Oscar comes over and immediately starts looking on his cell phone while I'm finishing up in the kitchen, making some impromptu soda bread, etc. He finally looks up from his phone, asks what we're going to drink, and I point him at the bar. This is family dinner, after all. He wants to make old fashioneds for us, but complains that I "only" have sugar cubes, not simple syrup. He asks how I'm cooking the corned beef and sniffs, "Oh, well I am very particular about how I make mine," then proceeds to tell me how I should have made it. He complains that I'm serving salted butter with the simple-ass soda bread and that I don't have unsalted butter and finishing salt. He says that I should have asked him to make dessert while eating the chocolate cake I whipped up at the last second.
Here's the problem: when confronted with rudeness like this, I automatically try to assume the best in people and smooth over the situation. I know it can be problematic, and I'm working on it. My husband was still at work when some of this nonsense went down, but if he were there, he would have stepped in…but I need to put on my big-girl pants and learn to deal with this. It would be easy to just cut Oscar out, but because Oscar's roommate is one of my oldest friends, I end up encountering Oscar quite a bit. So here's the question, in two parts:
1) Do you have any practical suggestions on how I can move away from being such a capitulator in these circumstances? I usually don't even realize what's going on until I get angry later, but I never say anything about it afterwards because I feel like the statute of limitations runs out on this sort of behavior once the evening is over.
2) During our debrief, my husband and I decided that Oscar will not be a guest in our home for a long time because I don't need anyone kibitzing on my cooking and complaining that I'm insufficiently fancy for his pompous bullshit. I know I don't owe Oscar an explanation as to why he will not longer be invited to family dinner nights, but should I sit him down and talk to him about it? I'm not sure if he thinks he's being sophisticated, but he's pushing 50, and I feel like this sort of snobbery is not a good look on him. His roommate has given up on trying to engage with him on stuff like this because she would like some peace in her own home, but since I don't have to deal with him on a daily basis, maybe I could get the point through without having to deal with the same blowback?
NOT A FUCKING RESTAURANT
Dear Don't Put Up With That Crapplebee's,
Oo-fah, yeah, we've got a couple like that in the extended fam. The nuclear option has actually been tried with one of them — the old "if you're consistently this miserable coming here and having to tolerate our doing everything wrong, maybe you'd be happier staying home from now on" — and we're still trying to decorate around the crater of hurt feelings and Not Getting It, so when it comes to the people you love and have to deal with, but who don't know how to ackrite at your house, I feel you.
My best counsel for both parts of your question is to give yourself permission not to care about Oscar's behavior, whether it's the snotty critiques or how that habit might affect his social life in the grander scheme; the second thing is not your committee, and the first thing doesn't have to be either if you don't let it. Deciding not to give a fuck is usually easier said than done, but he did nothing to pitch in with any aspect of the meal (and who, I presume, still ate at least his share despite it not giving his asinine pretensions a wristie), so his opinion is worthless.
I know it's tough in the moment, though, especially when all the good comebacks occur to you when you're retelling your spouse the story later.
1. Rehearse a handful of Postian comebacks; more to the point, rehearse not jumping in to help Oscar (or others who step on you in this way) out of his own way. "Why would you say that to your host, Oscar?" "I'm sorry family dinner doesn't meet your high standards; do you think you'd be happier eating at home, or in a restaurant?" "The meal is what it is. You're not obligated to stay." And then just sit there. Keep chopping or seasoning or whatever and let him respond however he's going to respond, but…you're not saying anything that isn't true. You're calling him on his shit, and if he doesn't like it, well, he's not supposed to.
You can also go with "your constant critiques are hurtful and annoying; maybe you're not aware of how they come off, but I'm telling you now, so: button it or get out," and if it's just you and him, maybe that's the way to go.
But a bemused "Are you…serious?" the next time the salted-butter thing comes up is just as effective.
2. No. If he asks for an explanation, you can provide it (see above), but his parents should have had his guest manners squared away when he was pushing five, never mind 50, and it's not on you to redo the job. You bring flowers or wine, you eat what you're served (sensitivities permitting), you do the dishes without comment, and you talk your shit about whatever in the car on the way home like everyone else on fucking earth. Life's too short to retrain the horse's asses of the world, and I'm sure Oscar has many other fine qualities, but if he can't figure out on his own why he's no longer showing them off at your table, too bad.
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Tags: etiquette friendships