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Friday, July 1, 2011

Was Viral Email Momzilla Wrong?

Mothers are a species known for protecting their young. We even relate thier actions to those of dangerous animals--"like a lioness protecting her cubs" or "a mother tiger". I can only assume that a desire to help her stepson is what prompted the viral email titled "Your lack of manners". Read the whole thing here . I'll wait.

Are you back? Great. Now that you've read the email, you can weigh in fully informed.

One of my characters, Edward Harlow, secretly writes the "Aunt Civility" column, and he would be the first to explain that the purpose of civil behavior is to make other people comfortable.   Mother-in-law Mrs. Bourne missed the mark by sending the email, however helpfully she meant it, though she made some personal attacks in it that negate the helpful qualities she might have intended.

Checkmark number one against Mrs. Bourne.

Following are the offenses listed in the email. Let's see if Daughter-In-Law crossed the line.

1. Telling your host what you will and will not eat.

My understanding is that the D-I-L-to-be is diabetic. Here is where the son dropped the ball. It was his responsibility to convey to his mother any considerations that needed to be taken with planning the meals. Same thing applies if the love of his life was allergic to something, a former alcoholic etc. Also, diabetics need to avoid overdoing the sugars and starches, but there must certainly have been something on the table she could have munched on.

Just because she can't dive into a sweet pie or load up on the pasta sidedish doesn't mean that the entire household must forgo these items. If dinner included these items, she could have simply explained to her problem to her future M-I-L who would probably have invited her to help herself to more salad or veggies or protien.


Here is great suggestion from Miss Manners on how to deal with different dietary needs.

Half a checkmark against Momzilla on behalf of her son for not alerting her to the problem, half against DIL for bringing up a list.

2. Do not remark that you don't have enough food.

I'll have to go with Momzilla on this one. If DIL's blood sugar was dropping, she could have explained and I'm betting that Momzilla would have gotten her something to eat. Simply whining about the inadequacy of the meal is rude.

Checkmark against DIL.

3. You do not start before anyone else.

Easy-peasy. That's bad manners. Unless you're given permission by the other diners. I regularly tell people whose order comes up before mine to please eat it before it gets cold.

Checkmark against DIL.

4. You do not help yourself to seconds without asking.

Right-o. You don't know your hostess's plans. Maybe those leftovers were going to be breakfast or lunch the next day. I can't see a polite way to ask for seconds. A sharp hostess would have offered, if possible.

Checkmark against DIL.

5. You do not lie in bed all morning in a household that rises early.

Again, spot on. If you consider your visit a time to catch up on your sleep, stay in a hotel. That's what they're for. My father will tell guests, "Feel free to sleep in." That's a different story. Of course, he also plans activities and alerts his guests to what time they start so that you're not still in your pajamas five minutes before the group leaves for the Botanical Gardens.

Checkmark against DIL.

6. You should never insult the family you are about to join and most definitely not in public.

I'm starting to think that the DIL never intended to get along with her in-laws.  These people are her beloved's family. Why on earth would she insult them? That's like insulting her fiance. The only person who gets away with insults is Don Rickles.

BIG checkmark against DIL.

7. You shouldn't draw attention to yourself.

Taken literally, this is true, but without knowing the circumstances, it's hard to tell. Maybe the DIL has a loud laugh. From the context, it sounds like the DIL may be suffering from Bridezilla disease. Here's what Miss Manners has to say about people who talk about themselves all the time.

Checkmark against DIL.

8. To paraphrase, you should have a wedding that is within your means.

This is a big yes! So many brides are hung up on the wedding--not the ceremony where they join together with their mate, but the party stuff like the reception and shower. I knew of a young woman who didn't have a penny to her name, nor did her family. However, she insisted on a lavish wedding, just like her wealthy friends experienced. The in-laws wound up paying for most of it. About two years later, she decided she didn't love her husband. As a man, I would be nervous about any bride-to-be that was wrapped up in the perfect wedding. It's not about the day, it's about the lifetime committment.

Surprisingly enough, this is a checkmark against Momzilla. She can simply refuse to pay for the wedding. While it's unwise to go into debt over a celebration, and it bodes poorly for the marraige, Momzilla shouldn't have said anything unless asked.

That's two and one half checkmarks against Momzilla and seven and one half against her DIL. But how did the DIL get this way? I see families that dote on their children to the extent that they forego their parental role as teacher. Since we don't see manners taught in school, it's up to the parents to show their children what constitutes good behavior.

DIL sounds like a spoiled, unrealistic, silly girl, and Momzilla sounds like she lacks flexibility and has control issues. Can they still make a happy extended family? If they sat down and hashed it out, maybe. Since DIL forwarded the email instead of considering if Momzilla had any valid points, probably not.

Want to make sure your manners are beyond question? Miss Manners Judith has a website, and she also has several books available.

2 comments:

  1. I love love love Miss Manners.

    Even if this girl was truly Bridezilla, and future MIL wanted to discuss with her, the proper way to do it would have been to send an e-mail inviting her to tea, and then attempting to bring up her concerns, couched as politely as possible. "I'm so sorry there was the mix-up about the food, and feel terrible that we weren't not properly prepared to meet your special dietary needs." Instead she's handed this girl a weapon to guilt her fiance and his father into giving her everything she wants.

    Someone from a proper finishing school should have known better than to send an e-mail correcting another person's manners.

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  2. How about taking it a step further and inviting her by hand written invitation!? It sounds like DIL is a rude, rude girl, but I believe the rule is that, unless asked, one shouldn't offer advice. (And even then it's tricky!)

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