DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are involved in a power struggle with my brother. At Christmas we invite him and his family to our home. We try to make our Christmas dinner fun and festive, so a lot of planning goes into the menu.
Every year, a day or two before the event, my brother calls to ask what's on the menu, then offers his unwanted opinion on what we should or shouldn't serve.
Last year he told me he wouldn't be able to enjoy the meal because we weren't serving one of the items he feels is "traditional" in our family. He says he's family so he's entitled to make suggestions. When I was unwilling to accommodate his "simple" request, he got upset. I'm on the verge of not inviting his family in the future. Who is right?
— OFFENDED IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR OFFENDED: You are. Your brother may be family, but his behavior is childish and impolite. When he calls this year and starts the drill, if he tells you he doesn't think he will enjoy the meal if he can't dictate the menu, serve him a dose of reality. Tell him that your menu is already set and if he wants something in addition he can prepare it and bring it with him — or make other plans.
DEAR ABBY: When my in-laws moved to town, we exchanged keys in case of emergencies. The problem is they never call prior to using our key. Although they do nice things, like dropping off gifts or plants, when I see something on the counter that wasn't there before I left home, I feel invaded. They drop off these "presents" specifically when no one is home.
Abby, they are retired and could drop things off when we are home and the children can see them and visit with them.
I was taught not to use a key unless specifically instructed to do so or for an emergency. My neighbors and I have called regarding perishables that need to be dropped off, so why can't family? My husband thinks my feelings are off base and that family is forgiven for almost everything. Please advise, as I am about to change the locks.
— INVADED IN MISSISSIPPI
DEAR INVADED: Before changing the locks, have a chat with your in-laws and explain that coming home and finding things that weren't there when you left makes you uncomfortable. Tell them you would prefer they not come in without giving you prior notice. Your feelings are valid, and your husband might feel similarly if it was your parents coming in rather than his. If your wishes are disregarded, then change the locks.
DEAR ABBY: Please settle a dispute between me and my husband. I became upset when we were discussing an idea having to do with his job and he immediately began texting it to a co-worker. I find it offensive when someone looks at his (or her) cell phone rather than at me while we're talking.
My husband says if you text someone during a conversation that it's not an interruption and "it only takes a second." I say texting in the middle of any conversation is rude, regardless of its relevance of brevity. Please advise.
— TO TEXT OR NOT TO TEXT IN BOULDER, COLO.
DEAR T.T. OR NOT T.T.: I agree with you. But if your husband doesn't want to hear it from you, I guarantee he'll resist accepting the message from me. I was raised with the premise that when in conversation, people should give each other their undivided attention and look each other in the eye. Taking "just a sec" to dash off a text — or read one — may be convenient, but it's impolite to the person you're with.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.