I have a social dilemma, please advise....
My stepsister is getting married this fall. I am not close to her, we rarely see each other, and without digging too deeply into the family history, the dynamics are complicated and we have a difficult history.
I have been invited to her shower. I do not want to go, and I know I was invited out of obligation. My mom will be bugged if I don't go and I don't want to upset her, but going will upset me--or at least force me to give up a September Sunday to honor someone who I don't hold in high esteem.
I know I have to go to the wedding--I can't avoid that one, and there will be enough people there and sufficient distraction that the usual awkwardness should be minimized. I am, however, concerned that I might be invited without a guest. (I am in my 30's, currently unattached).
So, my question is twofold: (1) Can I bag the shower? and (2) How can I ensure that I am invited to the wedding with a guest?
In responding to your letter, I couldn't resist posting a Cinderella/stepsister clip:
But, on to your dilemma....
As far as the shower, you have two options:
1. Skip it. Make sure the gift arrives in a timely fashion and give something noncontroversial off her registry. If Mom objects to your sending regrets, you can be honest: "Mom, I have a hard time at these types of events due to the family dynamic. I am sorry that it bothers you and I respect your wish that I attend, just as I hope that you respect the fact that I simply can't do it. I promise to attend the wedding." Or you can tell a white lie: "September is a busy time of year at work/I am going to be away that weekend/I made other plans". The former is more like the 'rip the band-aid off quickly' approach--short term pain for long term gain--it may result in an argument now, but has the potential to reduce future demands. The latter will avoid an immediate confrontation, but ultimately propagates the problem.
2. Go. And there are sub-options in this category. A) Set your jaw and muscle through it like you have probably done before--which is admittedly not tempting. B) Give yourself a job at the shower. This has the potential to take you out of the crossfire and central action, but also reeks a bit horrifically of the Cinderella step sister phenom. By a job, I mean something like keeping track of the gifts, or taking care of Grandma, or assisting with the food/drink. If you are busy, you are less likely to be upset by the usual drama and residual historical hurt, but you also may resent being 'the help.' You'll have to decide which is better for you.
As far as the wedding, no Gracious host invites a 30 something to a wedding without a guest. If you think this is the plan, you need to sidle up to Dear Old Mom and take preventive measures STAT. Let her know that you are happy to join the family in celebration of the happy event, and that you are planning to bring a date/friend/guest so please make sure they factor that in to headcounts and seating charts. If you do opt for the direct approach in item 1 [above] that would be an opportune time to request the 'plus one' invite.
You seem to have done a good job managing this situation in an adult way--so it's important to remember that you are not responsible for your mother's happiness. While Graces don't deliberately spread misery or make scenes where there is any possibly way to avoid them, neither do they bear burdens that belong to others. Continue to liberate yourself from this and you will undoubtedly feel better.