This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Julia Craven discuss a Prudie letter: “Can I Ditch the SIL Already?”
Julia Craven: My first thought was why does this person hate their sister-in-law so much? And what’s the backstory to their beef? Is it one-sided? Is the letter-writer just a bit elitist about her SIL’s situation? Is LW projecting something? Or is LW just not used to people feeling a sense of obligation to complicated family members? I felt very blindsided by the rage.
Jenée Desmond-Harris: “Blindsided by the rage” is exactly the way I felt too—like there HAS to be something else going on here.
Julia: Right! Did the SIL say something snippy at a function and now you just hate her? I wanted more.
Jenée: I feel like there can be resentment that builds up against women who don’t choose to do traditional domestic stuff, because their lives are very fun and free! I wonder if that’s part of what’s going on. OR if the LW would be less bitter if her husband helped her more with hosting so she wasn’t the one doing all the work to feed this woman who never reciprocates. Like, is the real issue that you hate how holidays work in your household?
Julia: Yes, exactly. I also got the sense that she was angrier about her husband not helping her too, and that was meshing with whatever her beef is with her SIL. I liked your response—as always—and how you pointed out that every family has people who don’t cook during the holidays. It’s pretty common for most attendees to not cook, I think.
Jenée: And you really don’t WANT everyone to cook! Especially if that’s not their thing.
Julia: Right, like imagine your auntie who can burn water offering to make the mac-n-cheese.
Jenée: Exactly. I also noticed the LW didn’t say anything about this woman being unpleasant or hard to be around, so if the issue is really and truly just the lack of contributing, tell her to bring wine. The end! Why she jumped to “get my husband to see my side and cut her off” is beyond me.
Julia: It’s very extreme. Another thing that stood out to me was: “He also likes to send her home with leftovers.”
Jenée: God forbid!
Julia: Again, leaving with a plate is pretty standard! And I have empathy for the SIL because it seems like she’s distant from her family, or at least her brother, for whatever reason. Maybe there’s more we, and the LW, don’t know about why she doesn’t invite them to her home. It could be a boundaries thing. I don’t want to sound like I’m throwing family turmoil onto them but it made me think.
Jenée: Boundaries, depression, busy work schedule, feeling inadequate (which I would too if I had this judgmental SIL!), money issues—there are endless possibilities. Also, just for perspective, this complaint is about holidays. Not like, Sunday dinner every week. There are not THAT many holidays! You’re spending a total of like $40 on what she eats throughout the year!
Anyway, I think the real solution is: Husband helps with planning, cooking, and cleaning if he’s going to be inviting people over. It’s only fair.
Julia: The more I think about it, maybe the SIL is living her best life and shows up glowing, and unburdened by antiquated domestic expectations.
Julia: But yes, I agree the real answer is ask your husband for help on holidays because you’re overwhelmed.
Jenée: And maybe invite some people you actually like to balance SIL out. Ok, well, I hope Christmas or NYE or whatever you celebrate goes better. Report back, LW!