Dear Amy: I’m not sure how to handle Thanksgiving and Christmas meals at my in-law’s house.
Last year, right before the meal, I watched my mother-in-law’s cat eating on the dining room table. It was hard not to vomit. I noticed the salad dressing had expired years ago.
In addition to all this, she leaves the dog and cat bowls on the same counter as the food being cooked. While it probably is not an actual safety threat, this is incredibly unappetizing.
Over the years, I’ve found ways to get around eating most meals at the house. I sneak out for errands and run to a fast-food joint. I’ve also convinced them that I love cheese puffs that come in one of those huge containers. I can roll through a gallon of puffs in a few days if we are staying with them.
My wife has spoken to both her parents about this several times. Nothing has changed.
What should I do over the holidays? I don’t want to ruin these meals, but I also don’t think I can sit at the table and eat the food in front of me.
I’m also not sure I want my children eating food that is unsanitary. Your advice? — Holiday Hungry
Dear Hungry: First of all, much as anyone might love to wear one of those cheese puff containers over their face like a feed bag, if you are sneaking food into the house, there are healthier options. (An apple, for instance, comes in a cat-proof container.)
To your larger point, my suggestions are as follows: 1) Invite the in-laws to stay with you for the holidays. (Yes, I know, they won’t leave their pets at home...)
2) You and your family find a nearby Airbnb with a kitchen. You can all hang at the in-laws’ house, but this will take the meal-prep pressure off of them.
3) You and your family announce that you would like to bring much (or all) of the Thanksgiving feast to their house. You can prepare most in advance and perhaps cook only the main dish at their house. Ask your mother-in-law to prepare one of her favorite dishes.
Yes, the prospect of cats on the table is disgusting (I have cats in my own household).
Yes, having pet food bowls on the counter is unappetizing — and encourages them to graze on the counter.
Your wife has spoken with her folks several times about this, so assume that conditions at the house will not change. Be gentle, diplomatic and friendly: “We’re going to give you a break this year about cooking meals. We hope you’ll let us do the shopping and cooking.”
Dear Amy: Alcoholism has plagued my ex-husband’s family for generations. My ex’s maternal grandfather was an alcoholic. His aunt has been in and out of rehab. The last time she was released from rehab she totaled her car driving drunk the next day!
My ex has been abusing alcohol since he was a teenager.
Since he is now my ex-husband, this is not my problem, except for this: My oldest son, “Danny,” just turned 21. My ex-husband gave him a large bottle of wine for his birthday, as well as tickets to Las Vegas so they can go drinking together. His grandmother sent “beer pong” supplies for his 21st birthday.
I am horrified. It’s like they are intentionally trying to induct my son into their long line of alcoholics! I thought about calling them both and yelling at them, but I decided to write to you instead. What do you make of this? — Horrified
Dear Horrified: You cannot rewrite this family’s DNA code. What you can — and must — do is talk to your son, very frankly, about the family history and tendency toward alcoholism. Your son is at a heightened risk for developing alcoholism.
According to a paper published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (niaaa.nih.gov), genetics seem to determine about half of a person’s risk for developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). Environmental factors supply the other half of the equation. Your son has both strikes against him. Make sure he understands the risks.
Dear Amy: “Working on it in the Midwest” wondered how to make amends for a drunken sexual assault he had committed in college.
This man should be made aware of the impact of this on the woman he assaulted. He should also seek to volunteer and support organizations that serve survivors. — Assault Survivor
Dear Survivor: Absolutely. Thank you.