Shank You Very Much

Dear Lola – Malevolent dinner guest…

Dear Lola,

I am having an issue with my sister-in-law and I’m hoping you can help me navigate this tricky situation. Every time she invites us to dinner, she dictates what condiments we can eat with the meal she has prepared. Obviously I’m an adult and accept that it’s her house, I simply eat my meal as it is presented. However, she refuses to bend her rule when my children request another condiment to go with the food.

The last dinner ended with my youngest child refusing to eat because she wasn’t allowed to have ketchup to dip her french fries (there was a fancy sauce that was homemade). This made my sister-in-law livid and she sent me a follow-up email calling my child spoiled and accusing her of not knowing how to act in public. Lola, I am angry! My child is four years old and I think we can all agree that they are sometimes (always) stubborn. We weren’t in public, we were among family at a casual dinner in a private home. My daughter didn’t throw a tantrum or even argue with the adult who said no, she merely didn’t eat the food she was offered and politely sat at the table while we ate.

I now find myself rather agitated and thinking how fun it would be to watch her next dinner go up in flames, along with her entire kitchen. How do I resolve this situation with my sister-in-law? 

Malevolent Dinner Guest

Dear Malevolent Dinner Guest,

My go-to recommendation would be to crush your sister-in-law beneath your feet as you burn her world to the ground. However, I sense that may be a bit extreme for a case of condiment stinginess and would involve some very expensive lawyers.

Be honest though, you really wish you could do that!

You’ve said this is your sister-in-law so I’m assuming either you are married to her blood relative, or your blood relative married her. Note that while I may be using the word blood a lot, in no way am I sending a subliminal message for you to do anything dastardly. I think you should start by addressing this issue with whoever brought you into a familial relationship with your sister-in-law. If it’s your spouse, maybe you should rethink calling those very expensive lawyers.

Divorced people can still live together as a couple!

That option holds great potential. You could skip every future dinner engagement with your sister-in-law by claiming awkwardness around the table. Then you could order in a delicious dinner and pour a whole bottle of ketchup into a bowl for you and your Miniature Humans to dip whatever foods you please. I’m sensing your excitement at this thought.

Imagine a world where ketchup keepers don’t exist!

If the sister-in-law was not obtained through your own marriage, than the divorce option is obviously not going to work. Unless… well, I do have an idea but it doesn’t seem very nice. And it definitely moves you from a malevolent state to actual maleficence.

Did you know? The words malevolent and maleficent are very similar but have slightly different meanings. Malevolent people wish harm or ill will on someone, but don’t act on those feelings. Maleficent people act on those feelings. 

So, we obviously have to discard the option to break up a marriage that is not your own. Luckily for you, I do have another plan and it is exciting. Bring your own condiments to the next dinner. Fill small snack containers with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, gravy, peach juice, and whatever else you can find lying around the house – don’t forget the sour cream and beet juice in the back of your fridge!

Pack your condiment survival kit and head to your sister-in-law’s house.

Once you sit down to dinner, open the backpack and start handing out containers. Allow your Mini Humans to dollop, dip, and delight their palates with all the flavors their tiny hearts can handle.

Stop for a moment and enjoy the blossoming rage on your sister-in-law’s face.

Then calmly remark that you know how inconvenient it is when a guest dictates menu preferences to a hostess, so you’ve done the decent thing and accommodated your family’s needs without troubling her. If that doesn’t produce a ketchup bottle from her refrigerator in the future, nothing ever will. Then take comfort in the fact that each time she sees your backpack full of condiments arrive at her door for dinner, she’ll have to smile and greet you while she dies a little bit inside. Family is everything, after all.


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