Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn • “Becky” and I stayed with my brother, “Dan,” and his wife, “Mae.” Becky and I are recently married and this was her first stay at my brother’s place.
Later she texted Mae a thank-you along with some helpful hints about some slight hosting deficiencies — nothing too bad, just that the guest room mattress needs to be replaced, the drain in the bathtub is slow and that a lot of people can’t eat carb-heavy meals first thing in the morning. Becky would sincerely welcome if someone did this for her and thought she was doing Mae a favor.
Mae is livid and has banned us from visiting. I wish Becky had checked with me before sending the text, but Mae is really overreacting. We were really good guests — we only stayed three days, took everyone out to meals, did all the cleanup after a big meal and always cleaned up after ourselves, so this was a minor annoyance at best.
I said so to Dan when I was explaining that Becky meant no harm, and now he’s mad at me, too. My mom lives with my brother and has asked me to mend fences so Becky and I are welcome to stay there again. Where do I start fixing this mess? — Banned
Answer • Becky starts fixing it with an abject and sincere apology. Wow.
And then you hope really hard that it’s enough.
Mae is overreacting maybe a little — in her place, I wouldn’t have banned you (out of love for Dan) — but for you to suggest this says you still don’t get it, how awful it was to send that critique. And just to Mae, not Dan, like she’s the mistress of mattresses! Ugh ugh ugh.
Seriously. Maybe Becky would “sincerely welcome” the same, but that puts her among the thickest-skinned people on earth. That, or it’s just theoretical and she has never in fact received an itemized list of her hostly deficiencies that her male co-host did not.
I don’t know how else to say this to you. Becky just drove a spike into the hull of your relationship with your family, and you and she both need to admit that out loud to your whole family and then start bailing as fast as you can.
I’m not a “clutch the pearls” kind of gal, but wow. Literally tried to clutch pearls I’m not wearing. Being gracious during the stay doesn’t absolve bad behavior after the fact. — Clutching Pearls
So you can’t tell them the tub is draining slowly? — Curious
Carolyn • You can — right after you notice it.
Maybe Becky comes from a Festivus family, and the Airing of Grievances is her Love Language? “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people!” — Anonymous
Carolyn • You can stay.
How are Mae and Dan to know their guest room mattress needs help? Surely there’s a way to say this kind of thing? — Help
Everyone with a guest room needs to give it an occasional test-sleep. That’s how they know.
Since Becky is such a fan of constructive criticism, she should be thankful Mae so helpfully pointed out what a jerk she’s being. It’s for her own good! — S.
Carolyn • Winner.