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Asking Eric: Do I confront relatives who stole wine from a restaurant?

1 week ago 47

Welcome to “Asking Eric,” a new daily advice column by R. Eric Thomas, which replaces Amy Dickinson’s “Ask Amy.” You can read her last column here.

Dear Eric: At a recent family celebration, I witnessed a crime committed by my outlaw relatives. These fools stole two bottles of nice-ish wine from the restaurant where we were celebrating. I was too stunned to say anything as an intervention and too late to prevent it from happening. My dear mother did not like the notion of me trying to “make right” by letting the restaurant know that this happened and making financial amends. She was concerned, perhaps rightly so, that the restaurant would pursue criminal charges against not just our outlaw relatives but perhaps our entire party. My conundrum is this: do I confront these outlaws or ghost them from future gatherings?

I feel like I have to say something to draw a boundary. My dear mother doesn’t trust these fools to be in her home, now!

— Witness Protection

Witness: Normally, I’m all about clear communication but it sounds like it might be best, for drama reasons and safety reasons, to make like Casper and ghost them.

Well, more like Patrick Swayze in “Ghost” in that you need to linger for a bit to tie up loose ends. I see little use in starting more family conflict by forcing a confrontation, but you do need to be clear about the boundary you're setting. If your plan is to avoid inviting this branch of the family to future gatherings, you should say it. “Hey, much love, but I don't want to be on the hook for more wine or anything else if I'm footing the bill.”

You characterize them as outlaws. I'm presuming this isn't the first incident like this, nor would your characterization be a surprise to them. They may say it's not that serious and you don't need to debate that point. The only pertinent point is that for you the Wild West shenanigans are too much.

Make sure your mother and other family members know this is your boundary, too. And if your mother doesn't feel comfortable setting her own boundary, offer to be her excuse. “My daughter doesn't want any fuss at my house so we're keeping this gathering small.”

This might make you the bad guy to these outlaws, but Wild West rules apply here: protect your back and know when to get out of Dodge.

Dear Eric: My nephew, who spent summers with me for years while growing up, recently got married. While I was thrilled to get a Save the Date card, I did not receive an actual wedding invitation until three weeks before the wedding. His mom and I are estranged due to totally unrelated circumstances. I assumed the invitation had been rescinded. With such short notice, we could not attend since we live out of state. I explained all this to his bride when she texted me about whether we would be attending. I was hurt and disappointed and felt like this was more about receiving a monetary gift rather than missing me at the wedding. There was no mention of missing me, just “are you coming or not?” Should I still send a gift?

— Ghosted Guest

Guest: Don’t write that check just yet. Three weeks is definitely very short notice for a wedding invitation, even if the date was saved. But it’s unclear whether this was an intentional slight or a bride and groom who dropped the ball. It’s unusual for people who have received a Save the Date to get stricken from the list; more often folks who didn’t make the initial round of invites can get called up from the minors when space opens up. Let’s assume the best, which in this case is disorganization.

I'm curious about your feeling that this was just for a gift. While that's possible, unless the bride really pressed that point in your text conversation, I'm inclined to think she was trying to fill in question marks on her seating chart. That scramble to confirm the unconfirmed and get final numbers to caterers can be the most stressful part of wedding planning. Now, if she followed your text exchange with a link to their registry site, that's another story altogether.

While you've communicated with the bride about this, the long-standing relationship is with your nephew. So start there. Reach out to him to clear the air without mentioning gifts. Tell him how thrilled you were to be included and how sorry you were that things didn't work out. Leave open an opportunity for him to set the record straight, if he wants. A rekindled relationship isn't on the registry but I think it's still possible.

If all goes well, you still have time to send a present. Tradition dictates up to a year after the wedding, though trends are shifting. The Knot advises three months.

(Send questions to R. Eric Thomas at [email protected] or P.O. Box 22474, Philadelphia, PA 19110. Follow him on Instagram and sign up for his weekly newsletter at rericthomas.com.)

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