Dear Prudence

I Think My Sister Gave Me a Pity Invite to Her Daughter’s Wedding. Should I Go?

Prudie’s column for Aug. 24.

A hand holding out a sealed wedding invite.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,
My sister’s daughter is getting married, and I’ve been invited. However, I sense that the invite was somewhat disingenuous. It is far away and would be an expensive trip. On the other hand, it might be fun, and there are other guests I’d like to see as well. Another relative mentioned that my sister is afraid I won’t dress well. I’m not sure what prompted that. I’m not as rich as her, but I don’t recall ever showing up at a formal event dressed inappropriately, or too sexily, or casually. I can’t ask her about it, because she’d likely be mad at the person who told me this. To complicate matters, the parents of the groom are very wealthy, and it will be a very upscale event. But I think there’s more to all this than her fears that I will show up looking like Ma Kettle.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint why we do not get on well. We have different personalities, worldviews, and interests, but that shouldn’t really be a deal breaker—my own friends vary from farmers to Ph.D.s. Communication is always prickly, whether over email or face to face. In person, my sister has an odd habit of asking me a question and not even waiting to hear the answer before she starts talking to someone else in the room. (My own daughter has noticed it, too.) She disagrees with any comment or observation I make. When I ask her if she’s mad at me, she denies it, even though her tone clearly indicates otherwise.

In recent years I’ve felt she has been looking for excuses to end our relationship, but that she needs it to be my fault so that she can walk away without guilt. She’s very religious, and I think it’s important to her to feel like a “good person.” Honestly, I’d say she simply doesn’t like me very much, I’m not her cup of tea, or I don’t meet her standards. That happens in life, to other siblings, I’m sure, besides us. But I feel simultaneously rejected by her and blamed for her rejection of me at the same time. Is there any point in going to this event, or will it likely just irritate her even more?
—Accept Insincere Invitation?

I think you should go, have a lovely time chatting with old friends and relatives who enjoy your company (maybe not the one who planted that little seed of poison in your ear about how your sister doesn’t like your clothes), and spend as little time as possible talking to your sister. Speak with her just long enough to not seem rude, tell her it was a lovely ceremony, congratulate the groom and offer your best wishes to the bride, and then focus on the people you really enjoy talking to. Or, if you decide that it’s just too great an expense, send a gift and a nice note, then take yourself out that night to do something you find especially relaxing or fun. I think your read of the situation is accurate, that your sister does have a problem with you but isn’t willing to admit it either to you or to herself, that she probably spends at least some time gossiping about your fashion sense or financial situation or whatever else with your other relatives, and that she’s a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around. Worry less about irritating her, as she seems pretty determined to be irritated as often as possible. Don’t waste your time trying to court her favor or get a straight answer out of her. Just prioritize the family members and friends you know like you, and let her enjoy her own company.

Dear Prudence,
I recently moved to a new city and was very graciously folded in the mix of a new friend group. At first, I felt bad for one girl who it seemed would text the group and no one would respond. She seems to have self-esteem issues around dating and will often complain about her dating life while we’re out. This might be normal, but she gets really obsessive about it. Like sharing every detail of stalking the social media of a crush … including sending screenshots. Or asking if she should go out with someone, then saying why she can’t, etc.

I find myself sympathizing with the people who simply don’t respond to her texts. In the past, I have felt like an outsider or like groups didn’t accept me, and it’s hard to see her get blown off by everyone (including me), but she just doesn’t pick up the social cues. People have even tried to gently give her good advice or to tell her to move on with the conversation, but she just doesn’t. Is it OK to ignore her? She’s clearly struggling, but she doesn’t ask about other people’s experiences, and she talks about herself at length and ignores the input of others, which makes conversations difficult. She could probably use a friend, but I can also see why she doesn’t have any.
—Group Chat Etiquette

Yes, you’re allowed to ignore mass text messages about when or how or if she should go on a second date with someone you don’t know, especially if you two aren’t particularly close. You might also excuse yourself from the group chat entirely if you’d rather stay in touch individually with just a few members than get constant updates throughout the day. You can just say something like “I’ve got to hop out of the chat for now. I can’t keep up with all these messages, but I’m looking forward to seeing you soon,” then leave the chat (most smartphones have a pretty-easy-to-find “Leave Conversation” button). You can also set this boundary in person if she keeps monopolizing the conversation with her dating woes and doesn’t pick up on gentle hints or attempts to offer advice: “I’m sorry this is so hard! I don’t have any suggestions, but I hope you’re able to figure out what you want from this situation,” then change the subject or ask someone else in the group a question about how they’re doing.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

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