It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Offended In-Law” who was concerned about how to handle her sexist and bigoted father-in-law when she saw him during the holidays. “I’m not expecting him to change,” she wrote, “but if you have any suggestions for how I can tolerate being around him without blowing up in feminist rage or annoying my husband by complaining, I could really use the advice before Thanksgiving.” Keep reading to see whether you kept her feminist rage inside.
Now that the holidays are well behind us, I thought I’d tell you how things went with my father-in-law. I did take the advice to stop bitching about Hank to my husband, before and after the event. He could still tell when I was upset but I made an effort to not be too vocal about it, and he appreciated that. I also asked him if he would help me out if there was a situation when Hank was making me upset or uncomfortable – but he said he would stay out of it, not siding with either party. That’s his prerogative (and pretty much the answer I was expecting), so I didn’t push the issue or try to read into it.
Hank was unusually quiet and subdued at Thanksgiving. But he was back to his usual self when I saw him again at Christmas.
His 16-year-old niece, “Carolyn,” was wearing a sleeveless top with a low cowl neck and skinny jeans, showing no cleavage or midriff whatsoever. Not exactly seasonally appropriate, but nothing that would make Grandma blush. Hank’s first comments to her were to ask what corner she was “working” and what she charged for her services, and he kept up on the hooker thing on and off through the afternoon.
At dinner, he was talking to his brother-in-law, “Edgar,” who has been struggling to find employment. Hank himself was recently unemployed, too, and in both cases their wives continued to work. In a loud enough voice to drown out the dinner chatter and noise, Hank put his arm around his wife and said “So now that you’re not working, does your wife treat you like shit too?” And continued implying that during his unemployment, his wife did nothing but get on his nerves. In reality, she was incredibly supportive through everything that surrounded his job loss and transition, and tried to keep him from sinking into depression.
Through all of this I said nothing and kept myself calm by focusing on the lit candle on the table in front of me. Edgar started talking about the kind of work he wanted to do – he has been a psychologist for youth in correctional facilities in the past, and said he likes to be around young people. Hank took the bait – “Better be careful saying things like that these days, you might make people think you’re a pedophile.” I don’t know why THIS comment was the last straw for me, but I did not stop myself from replying, “Says the same man who was making sexual comments about his underage niece?” I admit: I only said it because it felt good, because no one else would call him out on his ridiculousness, and because knowing Hank, I was pretty sure he would just wave it off – which he did.
At this point, I count my blessings that Hank lives across the state and I don’t see him very often. I respect Hank as a member of the family and for his professional success, but I don’t respect him on a personal level and still consider him obnoxious and bigoted. For now, I’m going to continue biting my tongue, as much as I can anyway, to keep the peace. It does make me glad that we don’t plan on having kids, though, because he would have more than a witty comeback coming his way if he ever implied that my teenage daughter was a hooker because of what she was wearing. And I would not put it past him.
Thanks, everyone, for the advice on my initial letter.
Thanks for the update! I’m glad to hear things didn’t get too out of hand.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.