I am constantly amazed when reading advice columns that people seem to have no boundaries, or they suffer people violating their boundaries willy-nilly. “My SIL’s conservative family comes to our Thanksgiving dinner uninvited, and calls my gay brother a sinner.” Close the door in their faces! Tell SIL that her family’s not welcome this year! “My very liberal family is ashamed that I voted for Mitt Romney. And they won’t let me forget that he lost the election!” Tell them politics is off-limits as a topic. Propose cards or a board game. Go watch football. The election is over, and it’s none of their business who you voted for anyway. “My fiance’s family thinks I’m lucky to be marrying their son. They never let me forget that my family is not as upstanding or rich as they are.” RUN! RUN FAR AWAY! They won’t change. If your future husband doesn’t have your back and tell his parents that he’s not going to stand for their behavior, it will only get worse.
1. Set your boundaries.
Obviously, everyone has different boundaries. Some people go online and share *everything*. Some people will tell you about their bladder surgery while you’re waiting in line at Target. Some people, on the other hand, wouldn’t even say shit if they had a mouthful.
Know your boundaries. Communicate your boundaries to those who need to know. Spouses, family members, close friends, Internet friends, people on line in Target with you.
Setting boundaries can be especially difficult if you are a) female and/or b) pregnant. Don’t give up. A favorite come back of mine is, “Why do you want to know?” This is a polite way of saying, “It’s none of your business.”
Practice it. It helps.
“Have you always been so thin?”
“Yes, I have. Why do you want to know?”
“Do you know what you are having?”
“A panda I hope!” (Okay, I stole that one. But it’s hilarious. h/t @katrinaravioli)
“Do you know what you are having?”
“We didn’t find out, no. Why do you need to know?”
For more Pregnancy Etiquette, see my post here. And God bless you pregnant women. People are unbelievably nebby and rude. Walking away or bursting into tears are two perfectly feasible options as well.
1a. Set boundaries *for* your children. They need you to. Leave a public space if they won’t comply with you. Don’t let them ruin other people’s meals or shopping experiences. Teach them appropriate behavior. It’s a lifetime of work. (Okay, probably about a decade or so of work if you’re doing it right; it seems like a lifetime, though.)
2. Make people respect your boundaries.
This is harder, for everyone. You really can’t control how people behave, you can only control your own actions/reactions.
If you don’t want to talk about religion or politics, be upfront about those topics being off-limits. Seriously, when did it become de riguer to use the holidays as an excuse to be offensive? Because you’re all family? Don’t buy it.
If the topic is making you uncomfortable, be direct. “I don’t like talking about this. How about those Steelers? Do you think Ben will be okay?” Or TV! Talk about TV!
If your boundaries are not being respected, you can leave. I know, it’s family. But, honestly. Change rooms. Disappear for a walk.
2a. Your spouse should have your back. On the way to Thanksgiving dinner, tell your partner, “If Aunt Edna goes off on a racist rant, I’m leaving the table.” Your partner doesn’t have to leave the table with you, but he/she also shouldn’t talk you out of having or taking a stand with Aunt Edna.
3. Respect other people’s boundaries. This should be self-evident, but, well, “never assume,” my daddy always told me. Do unto others.
Good luck. Let’s all make it through the holidays with little drama. Starting with Thanksgiving! (Still, my favorite holiday.) Happy Turkey Day!
What did I miss?