Family drama plus holidays = awesome.
August 21, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

I come from a generally easygoing family which lately has developed a schism between a family member and his immediate family, and because of this a holiday invitation has created drama.

From my childhood onward, every Christmas Eve people gathered at Gram and Grandpa Biscuit's. We were and are a widely scattered bunch, and this was and is often the only time we would run into each other. Grandpa Biscuit cashed in about twenty years ago, and my grandmother went into a retirement home about a decade ago. The Xmas Eve gathering tradition passed onto my aunt and uncle, who took up the hosting duties. It proceeded thus every year save for last year (for reasons which will appear in a moment).

Two things shifted in the last year or so: said aunt and uncle are looking to sell their house to move into a smaller place which might not be big enough for twenty people to commingle socially, and their two sons (my cousins) have developed a serious rift. The elder of the two, J, has cut a lot of ties with the rest of the family, and the younger, M, has made no secret of the fact that their disagreements are so strong he is prepared to do violence to his elder brother if they cross paths (M's exact words were that he would "execute" his brother). Both of these guys are in their early twenties, for what it's worth.

Because of the venue of the last 10-12 years being out of consideration, I offered this last week to hold it at my place. The family members I mentioned it to were all okay with this, so yesterday I sent out an invitation on Facebook to everyone in the family I am connected with. My cousin J was not among this group; he cut himself off from me some years ago.

J and M have more problems than just a rift between them: J and his girlfriend had a son about three years ago but their relationship did not last long beyond their son's birth. Back when J and I were still connected on Facebook, he was openly insulting his then-recent girlfriend and her new boyfriend. The young son is being partly raised by his grandparents (J's parents) but has little or no contact with J.

My younger brother D is still in touch with cousin J, and perceived my not inviting him as a snub (last year's Xmas Eve event was cancelled because J had let his parents know that he might turn up uninvited at their door and implicitly cause a disturbance). D seems to side with J against cousin M, and hinted that M would be the cause of the problems if the two of them were in the same room.

Anyway, as I say: I sent out a quick message to the dozen or so people in the family who are on Facebook asking them around for Xmas Eve here. Well-meaning brother D added J to the conversation, which is merely awkward, but then wrote a lengthy message to all this morning saying that he feels that "just because J and his immediate family do not get along there is no reason to exile him from the rest of the family." He adds, "Perhaps there is much that I am unaware of, but if this is so easy for the rest of us to stand by and allow this to happen then I'm not sure I want to be a part of this family anymore. I'm sorry to those who don't know what is going on but by doing nothing after reading this you're contributing to the problem. If there is a valid reason for all this please explain, but no half truths. " More schisms ahoy.

I have talked to J's dad -- my uncle -- this morning about the situation, who merely says, "Do what you have to do," but adds that he thinks it highly unlikely that J would turn up, even if explicitly invited, and further adds that he thinks his two sons will eventually find themselves in court.

How best to calm the waters? I think brother D is on the mark when he ventures that maybe there is much he is unaware of, because none of us knows all the details of J's alienation from the rest of the family. However, I don't especially want to call out my little brother in the conversation that he has dropped this into (one family member ventured privately to me that if nothing else, it is inappropriate to invite a third party to someone else's house; however, this is not the time to get Emily Post on his ass). For my part, I am happy to have everyone who cares to attend turn up in December and trust that people will comport themselves like grown-ups. I think the chances of actual violence ensuing between J and M at the party are about nil, even if both were here (which seems unlikely). I think it incumbent on me to say something here as the host-to-be, but I am not sure what to say.

Ultimately, I think J and his immediate family need to work things out before they would all be comfortable being together at a family gathering, but now that the invite has been extended by proxy, I guess we have to address it somehow.
posted by ricochet biscuit to Human Relations (13 answers total)
I think your best bet at this moment is to say nothing. It's August. Let this whole thing die down, then bring up the invite again to the people you actually invited sometime in early November at the earliest. Don't do it in a mass Facebook conversation, and maybe consider keeping D out of the loop on the guest list/party details until the last minute if he can't keep himself from inciting drama.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:46 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't qualify brother D's remarks with a reply on Facebook. However, maybe you could resend the invite (designed more as a notice) to all of the family members and add "Please extend this information to all family members since not all us are in contact via Facebook."

This hopefully will eliminate any hard feelings about being "left out." As you state in you question, For my part, I am happy to have everyone who cares to attend turn up in December and trust that people will comport themselves like grown-ups.
posted by JujuB at 8:57 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Hey everyone, you know what? Anyone is invited to my house as long as you intend to be civilized and leave any drama at home. Just let me know how many are coming so I have enough chairs and food. Please pass the invite along to anyone who should be included."

Tell your little brother privately to stop drama-mongering or he will be uninvited.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:01 AM on August 21, 2013 [20 favorites]

Maybe your younger brother doesn't understand that My cousin J was not among this group; he cut himself off from me some years ago which is very different to his interpretation that just because J and his immediate family do not get along there is no reason to exile him from the rest of the family. But address this privately with him, and follow the advice above about dialling down your brother's drama.
posted by saucysault at 9:16 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Saucysault brought up the aspect I was going to mention - you said the reason you didn't invite J is because he's already cut himself off from you. I would speak to your brother privately and calmly point out that J made his choice about staying in touch with you and since you're the one hosting it makes sense that you would respect his wishes to stay out of contact.
posted by brilliantine at 9:23 AM on August 21, 2013 [13 favorites]

For now, say nothing broadly to everyone.

Pull your brother aside and straighten him out. He not only overstepped his bounds by inviting someone to your house, but he also fueled the flames of that family riff he has nothing to do with.

If you can't get through to your brother and get some sort of understanding, I'd just cancel the invite to your house for everyone, to be honest. The holidays are stressful enough without everyone trying to murder each other, possibly literally.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:23 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your brother is a Drama Llama and thus may be invited, but not privy to the guest list. You have your OWN reasons not to invite J. If you think it won't invite more drama, share them with your brother. If not, just issue the invitations after Thanksgiving to each person individually.

Drama is like fire, if you starve it of oxygen, it dies.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:24 AM on August 21, 2013

Tell your brother privately or broadcast on FB, "I am happy to have everyone who cares to attend turn up in December, and trust that people will comport themselves like grown-ups."

I just love the way you put that. You should repeat it as necessary.

Then yes, everything Ruthless Bunny said to do.
posted by jbenben at 9:32 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell your brother that you didn't invite J to your home because of issues between you and J. Don't mention the general principle that it's not okay to invite a third party to someone else's party; keep it specific. You could say that you wish he had asked you first, or that in the future, you'd like him to ask you first. Or put it in terms of your feelings, as in "When I saw that you'd included J and announced it on Facebook, I felt __________." Model the kind of behavior and tone that you'd like to see from the others: talking one-on one, respectfully, and without creating drama.
posted by wryly at 9:44 AM on August 21, 2013

To be clearer, there are no outstanding issues between J and me; J cut off contact maybe a year back when he was generally distancing himself from Clan Biscuit. I bear him no ill will and have no issues with him turning up (assuming, of course, that everyone is civil). We are as close or as distant as a couple of first cousins twenty-two years apart in age who see each other maybe annually for a few hours might be expected to be.

I replied to the family that I had sent the invite out to everyone among the usual attendees who is a Facebook friend, and the various spouses/significant others/kids who were not mentioned were implicitly invited as well, so please pass it on. I further said that those with differences with their kin should feel free to put those aside, or if this turned out not to be possible, let me know in due time when they wanted to pick up their tin of Christmas cookies from my place.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:33 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Well-meaning brother D added J to the conversation, which is merely awkward
Why did brother D think he had the right to interfere, to invite anyone to your house? There are people who just do not feel the vibes and undertones of group harmonics, so maybe D is one of them.
posted by Cranberry at 12:17 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I cannot speak for him, but I gather he felt cousin J was being snubbed for ill-defined reasons, so he appointed himself J's defender. It is not a question of "undertones of group harmonics," as this is a family which, as I implied earlier, is not especially tightly-knit. I saw brother D last weekend, at which time I passed off the 2012 Christmas presents to him and his family -- despite living 30 minutes apart, before Sunday we had not crossed paths in the last eight months. I should stress that it is not that people in this family do not get along (J and M being an unusual exception), but rather that, as a family member recently opined, we do not take a lot of interest in one another's lives. Christmas Eve and the occasional summertime backyard barbecue does us fine to catch up; apart from that, we are a weddings-and-funerals crowd.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:48 PM on August 21, 2013

I got this great advice some time back - "There are only two people in any given relationship." Meaning, if you are a 3rd party, stay the hell out of other people's business. Which is advice I think your brother needs to hear.

And nthing the repetition of "I am happy to have everyone who cares to attend turn up in December, and trust that people will comport themselves like grown-ups."

And by the way, good for you for stepping up to continue the family tradition, I think that's a great thing to do.
posted by vignettist at 12:39 PM on August 22, 2013

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