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December 21, 2012

5 Suggestions for Holiday Guests

Guests do the darnedest things. They complain endlessly, make odd demands, and generally act boorish.

I recently called a friend to offer my compliments on his son's wonderful bar mitzvah, and he told me some of the faux pas visited upon his family in the days before and during his son's once-in-a-lifetime milestone:

One cousin had a balky thermostat in her hotel room -- and called him instead of the hotel staff to complain.

Another obnoxious family member would not travel without her dog and insisted on boarding "Princess" at his house while the bar mitzvah was in progress.

And an in-law complained that the appetizers and sit-down five-course meal included nothing she could eat.

"Why can't people just show up and shut up?" my dear friend Jonathan asked. "Is that so hard to do?"

Apparently for some people it is.

I'm reminded of this as you head to your holiday gatherings and New Year celebrations this week. I'm not sure why in the face of someone else's birthday party, holiday gathering, baby shower, wedding, graduation party or first communion, people feel the need to critique the hospitality they've been offered.

You pay for a steak dinner at a restaurant and the filet comes to the table medium instead of rare, by all means, send it back. The first act of a high-priced Broadway show leaves you snoring, go ahead and write a snippy Facebook post if you must. Your neighbor's daughter decides to get married on a farm, complete with hayride, square-dancing and barbecue supper, you have two choices: Put on a prairie skirt and join the fun or feign another engagement and send your best wishes. You do not have the right to go and complain about the choice of venue, the hay in your shoes, the messy entrée or the disposable dinnerware.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think the altruistic suck-it-up spirit is disappearing. Whatever happened to sit down and shut up? I know I'm not a mother-in-law yet. I don't have the family dinner where I desperately want to know when grandkids are coming or what my daughter-in-law is doing with her hair. But I hear these things at the office. And I have to warn all you cranky dinner guests: Keep it to yourselves. Want to complain about the heat? Go put on a sweater. Thinking about fussing with the cooking? Bring a granola bar. If you're going to say something -- anything -- make sure it's positive.

And whether you're going to a wedding or a hay-ride, consider these five general rules:

1. It's not about you. The family hosting the celebration wants you to have a good time. However, they are busy and likely a little overwhelmed. Take some responsibility for your own comfort, arrangements and needs. If you need special accommodations (need, not want) ask when you accept or politely decline the invitation.

To read more of this post from Jody Gastfriend, LICSW, read her blog at


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