DEAR ABBY: My brother, three sisters and their husbands and children and I go to our parents' house for holiday dinners. My youngest sister's husband refuses to go because he doesn't get along with our family. (He also does not get along with his own family.)
Before my youngest sister leaves, she insists on taking a plate of food home for her husband who was "unable to be there." I feel if he doesn't want to be with our family, he shouldn't be allowed to have takeout. Our mother is 82, and it upsets her that he doesn't want to be there. What do you think? -- RESENTFUL
DEAR RESENTFUL: If your brother-in-law can't get along with the family, he is doing everyone a favor by not attending those family dinners. Because your mother finds his absence upsetting, it is up to her to put her foot down and tell your sister she doesn't want food taken to him. Until she does, food deliveries will continue.
I read the above letter from today's Dear Abby with interest, since I once got in hot water for not attending a family holiday gathering with my husband. I skipped the gathering because someone I knew I couldn't tolerate was going to be there and I didn't want to make things more tense and hostile than they already were.
Frankly, I agree wholeheartedly with Abby's advice. If someone doesn't want to attend a holiday gathering, you're probably better off not trying to force the issue. A resentful guest can ruin things for those who are feeling festive. Staying home is probably the most polite thing to do, under the circumstances. What's more, making a big stink about the plate of food may cause the sister to be resentful, which might mean she'll stop attending the gatherings, too.
While I guess I can see why some people think it's rude to take the absentee husband a plate of food, in the grand scheme of things it's probably not really that big of a deal, unless the family needs the leftovers to survive or something. The food would probably just go to waste, otherwise. I get that it's the principle of the thing... I mean, the guy can't be bothered to make an appearance and be social and he's made it clear he doesn't like others that much. But while it may be rude to take food to a hostile son-in-law, it's probably just as hostile to withhold the food. Seems to me if your goal is to get the man to participate, you're not going to get far by withholding the leftovers that would probably get pitched anyway and potentially alienating the wife/daughter/sister.
That being said... I was fine with my husband not bringing me any food... ;-)