Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Holiday Horror

Dear Social Grace,
I was the victim of what I think was epic rudeness last week--should this situation arise again, I'd like your advice on how to handle it.

We hosted extended family over Christmas week, which included my widowed father-in-law for a 4 day stay. His other son came with a steady girlfriend for one night. I was in a bit of a quandary--we only have one fully equipped guest room with en suite bath, and I felt it best to give it to "Dad". I cleared this with my husband and his brother; they agreed. Bro said he and GF would bunk anywhere since it was just one night. Happily, I set up the guest room for Dad and planned to give the happy couple my daughters' room which contains two twin beds.

We had a lovely day on Christmas, and when it came time to retire for the night, I showed GF to her room. She recoiled in horror, "why are we in a twin room?" she asked. I calmly gave her the reasons outlined above, emphasized that her BF approved the plan and showed her the way to the bathroom and clean towels. She complained that Dad was only one person, so why should he get the queen bed with private bath, while they were two. She was quite determined that I change the setup. I just walked out. Soon thereafter, my daughter realized she had forgotten her pjs, and popped into the room to retrieve them. The "aunt" stood up, cursed loudly, and shouted "That's it. I'm leaving." When my daughter entered the room, the "aunt" was not sleeping, disrobed, or in any other state that would preclude an 8 year old girl from coming in, but this was clearly the last straw.

She grabbed her suitcase and walked out the front door, evidently planning to drive 150 miles home. My brother-in-law went tearing out after her. Thirty minutes later, the two returned, poured themselves generous measures of whiskey, rejoined the party and acted as if nothing had happened.

We all had an ill-advised extra nightcap and carried on with the evening. Your thoughts, Grace?

Grace Says:

Oh, dear. Hardly visions of sugarplums, that. I'd say you handled the situation with perfect Grace.

  • Yes to giving the elderly relative the most comfortable accommodations.
  • Yes to providing a heads up to brother-in-law about the sleeping arrangement.
  • Yes to showing this specimen to her room and courteously but firmly sticking to your guns.
  • Yes to your daughters generously vacating their room for the visitors.

You showed remarkable restraint in not saying something like:

"Well, if you can't sleep in separate beds for one night there are several hot sheets motels within driving distance, I think they charge by the hour. I can't promise their sheets will be clean but mine are."

"I do apologize that you are uncomfortable with this arrangement; my daughters are sleeping on the basement floor so that you and Bro might have beds; you are most welcome to trade with them if that is preferable."

"Are you hoping to elevate your status from GF to Fiancee? If so, I question your strategy."

But much better to have taken the high road. Let's hope that by next Christmas, Bro finds another companion under his tree.


Muse said...

Kudos to the host for showing unbelievable restraint..
But SG, are there any more graceful ways of letting the obnoxious GF know that she was rude?
I've had a similar experience before, i did show some restraint but i still feel i should have given the person a piece of my mind rather than just gritting my teeth..
Am i being a bad grace?

Social Grace said...

Thanks for your comment, Muse. The simple answer is, not really. I applaud your restraint; there is never a Gracious way for a hostess to inform a guest that she is being rude. But, the desire to do so doesn't make you a Bad Grace; Graces are human, and sometimes even we are pushed too far.

If you must convey your displeasure, I strongly advise waiting until the obnoxious guest is almost out the door. Peaceful coexistence after such a declaration is unlikely, and if the departure time is governed by, say, an airline ticket or a night's sleep you may be stuck with a rude AND annoyed-at-being-chastised houseguest for what will seem to be a very long time. Not a pretty picture.

If you must voice your opinion, do so in the most factual way possible, taking ownership of your feelings, and avoiding inflammatory language/scolding. Say something like "GF, I was upset that you didn't approve of the accommodations we provided for you. I worked hard to ensure that everyone was as comfortable as possible in a full house." Don't apologize and don't dwell on her comments or conduct.

The path of the Grace is not the easiest one; sadly, we often are forced to compensate for the bad behavior of others. Keep up the good Grace and Happy New Year!

Muse said...

Thank you SG!!Your comment makes a lot more sense and am so glad i dint loose my cool..

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Anonymous said...

Prima Donna should have been offered the entire courtesy of the house, including the en-suite queen bedroom, with the compoany of her future father in law as a bedmate to build a bond for their future relationship.