Friday, December 17, 2010

Table Manners Quandary...

Table Setting
Table setting @ Melisse

A friend of mine just got a (not so) passive-aggressive email from her
harpy aunt (her words, not mine,) who happens to be hosting the family Christmas party this year. Amongst other ridiculous demands for my friend's side of the family (if you don't know how to roast a prime rib, you could practice one before the party*), it also included:

"Also, hosting any type of party, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, is a thankless task so you should never have to be asked to help clean-up. So [[friend + her brother]], please be prepared to happily help do the dishes and clean-up cheerfully without being asked in all future events."

Condescending pissiness aside, it made me wonder about the default assumption in regards to whether a party host needs help or not (and whether he/she needs to ask.)

Personally I try to be a polite guest and if I arrive a few minutes early or linger a little later, I'll definitely offer to help set/clean up. But even so, my standard assumption is that the host got everything covered and if help is needed, it will be asked and definitely not
demanded. And that's certainly how I operate on the gatherings I throw in my little apartment.

But that's my two cents; and hey, holidays sometimes bring out the worst in families. But curious too as to what you assume are host-guest "duties."

*I kind of laughed at this one; it's a prime rib (a.k.a. pretty expensive cut of meat) and I love how harpy aunt is suggesting my friend's fam to buy double and practice on one. Also, it's also a pretty easy to roast one, so more passive-aggressiveness there about the fam's cooking ability (and if you're that unconfident, why not assign that to another relative?) and doesn't the host usually provide the main course?!? Ok, end tangentrant.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

That's so rude. I usually just go ahead and do the dishes at my aunt's house after dinner, but that's because that's what I do. She doesn't demand that I do so, or even expect it. And she definitely would never put it in writing.

My dinner guests sometimes try to do the dishes, but I don't expect them to do so either. Sure as you said, they might pitch in to help finish dinner preparations and tidy up at the end by putting dishes in the sink, but more than that, I usually tell them not to. I don't invite people over to put them to work.

Anonymous said...

That kind of email would instantly make me go from looking forward to the event to dreading it. I agree that I've always assumed that the host would provide the main course. Isn't it usually hard to transport a hot main course or awkward to cook it there?

I expect little from my guests. If they offer to bring something and I don't prepare something taking that into account, then I expect them to follow through. I appreciate offers to help clear the table and even dishes, but never expect it.

The Minty said...

I wouldn't even go! This aunt makes the holidays awful. If she thinks others can't cook or are unwilling to help, she shouldn't host it. She's the miserable one who's going to make others unhappy.

I think everyone naturally wants to pitch in but recently my best friend complained about her husband's nephew who has never offered to help at any family gathering. He's the nicest guy and immediately helps out when he is asked but he never thinks of it himself. Maybe he follows this rule of he's a guest until asked to help? But you would think he'd try to offer first.

weezermonkey said...

If someone did that to me, I would happily decline the invitation.

Louis Anthony Woodbine said...

Loved the post as it reminded me of when the extended family used to vet together for the big events. We were a bust up waiting to happen. Great stuff! Really made me smile

harpy-aunt's niece said...

This email was probably the result of me refusing to help harpy-aunt with dishes at thanksgiving. I admit, I could have swallowed my pride and just helped out, but she pulls this crap all the time unprovoked, and I am sick of it.

Food, she thought. said...

I love this thoughtful post. I do pretty much what you do, offer to help out. When my mom throws a party (and she throws them ALL THE TIME) she never lets anyone help. And I usually assume it is covered unless asked, despite the fact that I always ask. At my own parties, I usually have something someone can do but I usually have asked that person in advance. Also, I try not to overburden myself so i can enjoy my guests.

Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves said...

This is a very thought provoking post. I have a relative that does the same passive aggressive stuff & it makes me dread the gatherings she has too.

Madison said...

I happen to agree with you on the assumption that the host should have things covered. I mean after-all, if one's life is so hectic and busy, maybe someone else should host. I think demanding that people cook the main course twice and bring it over and then have to clean up makes for one party that I would rather skip. I just think it is insane how rude people can get, especially over the holidays.

SC said...

I agree with you.
At my husband's big family get-togethers, his aunt (the host) will make an announcement that they need help in the kitchen.
Sometimes if you're deep into a conversation or in a food coma, it's hard to remember the polite thing to do, so I appreciate a reminder.
In smaller gatherings, I also still prefer to be asked.. although when I remember I do ask if anyone needs anything.
It's just important for people to remember that it's not ALWAYS someone being inconsiderate.. just forgetful ;)


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