Friday, April 3, 2015

A Generous Cheapskate

My mother-in-law has a reputation for being a generous person--someone who would really give you the clothes off her back.  How she got this reputation is something of a mystery.

A year and a half ago, she wanted to throw me a baby shower.  My sister had already volunteered, so I asked her to assist my sister instead of doing a party of her own.  She never contacted my sister, but badgered me about the details of the party questioning whether my sister's home was big enough to accommodate all of my mother-in-law's guest list and suggesting that we allow her to rent a hall.  I thought the offer was rather generous, but suspected that this was just her way of taking over my sister's shower. Well, my sister ended up losing her job and her home, so she asked if my mother-in-law could do it.  I expected my mother-in-law to be elated by my sister's bad fortune since it meant she would have her own way regarding the shower.

Her first response was as I'd expected.  She planned to book a hall that she'd rented on several occasions for dances of various kinds.  She would not include my sister in any of the plans, but we gave her all of the materials we'd accumulated in preparation for the shower including the guest list.  After a few days, my mother-in-law informed me that she would not be able to host a shower for my side of the family.  I was puzzled because the hall she'd spoken of renting would easily hold over 300 people.  Her response was that she couldn't be expected to rent a hall when she could use her own house if she limited the guests to her own family.  Then, she played the fixed income card.  (Admittedly, she is on a fixed income, but it is a generous fixed income--about twice what my family of 3 lives on and she has virtually no expenses.)

My husband and I rented a hall of our own liking and had a beautiful shower at our own expense which my mother-in-law did not attend.

Now, my sister-in-law is pregnant.  And our mother-in-law wanted to take over the shower planned by the other side of the family.  Sister-in-law thought it would be better if both grandmas-to-be did their own parties separately.  So, our mother-in-law planned to invite her friends and family to a buffet-style restaurant for the shower.  This way, she would avoid incurring any expense of food or renting a hall.  The invitations were to include the price of buffet and tip.  She asked me to print up the invitations so she could send them out immediately.  I asked whether she had cleared the plans with the mother-to-be and she said she'd been told to do whatever she wanted.  I thought that was a rather defensive response, but I pressed a little more because I knew my sister-in-law would think it very tacky to ask guests to bring gifts and pay for their own meal.  Judiciously, I said, "Well, at least clear the date and time with her.  You don't want to plan a shower and then have the guest of honor unable to attend!"  She agreed to do as much, but insisted that I go ahead and finish printing the invitations.  I refused more firmly.  So, she said that she would talk to her on the way home.  In about 20 minutes I received a text to go ahead and print.  I couldn't believe that the matter could have been ironed out in such a short time, so I called my sister-in-law to be sure.  She was shocked and angry because the entire conversation she'd just had with our mother-in-law was as follows:
"Hey, what are you doing Saturday, the 28th?"
"I don't know; I don't think we have any plans."
A huge family argument resulted with everyone coming to the defense of one party or the other and after several days of not speaking and a few apologies, a new plan came together.  A family friend with an enormous house hosted the party, did all of the decorations, and most of the food.  Our mother-in-law attended this shower as it's nominal hostess, but did not speak one word to her daughter-in-law, except "oh, you're here" as a greeting.  The lady of the house even did the games and prizes.

A few of months later (delayed due to a house fire), my sister-in-laws mother held her shower.  My mother-in-law saw my invitation to it and asked if I planned to attend.  "Of course!  I wouldn't miss it for anything!"  She asked if I knew why she was having another shower--as if to say,"wasn't the shower I threw good enough for her?"  I said, "Well you don't suppose her mom would cancel her shower just because of a little kitchen fire do you?  The remodel will be finished in time."  (I was gifting her a kinder motive because I wanted her to know what she ought to be concerned about).  Then she asked if I planned to bring another gift.  I said, "Well, I'm sure it is optional, but I picked up a little something for baby."  She seemed to be insinuating that she'd spent enough on the unborn child already, but she couldn't have spent much since she managed to have someone else foot the bill for the party she had thrown.  Then she asked whether I'd be bringing my baby.  In that moment I decided to leave him with my mother, because it seemed she was going to volunteer to keep him instead of attending the shower or perhaps monopolize him at the shower as an excuse not to participate.

So, my mother-in-law attended (she was the last one to arrive, and one of the first to leave), but spoke to no one besides her son who did the cooking for the females.  I didn't see whether or not she brought a gift, but I never saw her make her way to the gift table either.

Our mother-in-law is also planning to have a show-off party for the women in her family, and she has asked her brother if she could use his house for the party and whether he would be willing to barbecue for them.  If he agrees, she'll get to host yet another party without going to any personal expense.  

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