Raise Your Hand If You Think This Is Rude
August 20, 2021 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I have a family member that keeps doing something I think is really rude. I'm curious to see what other people think. Maybe I'm over reacting. Details inside.

I have a family member who's birthday is coming up. I'm going to be in town the week of their birthday. I texted and asked if I could take family member and their spouse out for dinner to celebrate family member's birthday. There was no response, so after a week I texted again to see if we were on for dinner. Family member said yes, and could spouse's two grown children come along as well. Family member did not say anything about paying for the two extra adults they want to invite. This is something family member does a lot. I ask to take family member and their spouse to dinner when I am in their town, and family member always asks if the two kids can come. If I say yes, then when the bill comes, family member sits happily silent while I pick up the entire check. I'm tired of this behavior and I think its really rude. I'm curious if others would find this rude, or if this is actually a common thing to do.
posted by WalkerWestridge to Human Relations (63 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

This is an 'ask versus guess' thing, isn't it? You offer to buy dinner for them, they ask if their kids are included in the offer and you say yes, so they assume you are buying for all of them. You mean the dinner, they mean 'the free dinner' but neither of your stipulated which it was.

Your perception is "they asked for the kids to come along when I was buying them dinner, I agreed for the kids TO ATTEND".

Their perception is "What a nice offer, I wonder if it extends to our kids" and you say yes, so they hear that it is. You don't say "they can come if they pay for themselves", you say "yes they can come (to-the-dinner-I-said-I'd-pay-for)".

It would have been rude if the kids just showed up, which is why they asked. If you just want to but the couple dinner say no to the kids coming. That's the answer. As far as they are concerned they are being polite if they ask if the kids can come - neither of you are being clear and you are being offended by their interpretation of what you mean, not that they are taking advantage. They presumably think "Well if she didn't want to pay for our kids she could have just said the dinner was just for us two".

Which is not *entirely* unreasonable an interpretation.
posted by Brockles at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2021 [37 favorites]

There are a lot of factors here you don't specify - i.e., what is your exact relationship? are you of the same or different generations? do they sometimes pick up the check in other situations? is there a large income disparity between the two of you? are they generally tight-fisted with money or are they generous in other ways? Taken alone, it does seem quite presumptuous. But if you're close enough that you want to take this person out for their birthday, maybe they think that means you're close enough that you don't think about this sort of thing.

If you aren't comfortable saying no to this request, or asking if the adult children can share in the bill, or some other arrangement that seems better to you - I would stop asking. Don't keep doing it and keep being resentful. They almost certainly don't know they're causing this resentment.
posted by something something at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Also, if this has happened more than once, the second time validated their perception because you paid for the extra kids and didn't say anything (presumably). You have been incrementally more offended by it, despite reinforcing their perspective of your generosity.
posted by Brockles at 12:43 PM on August 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

This is an example of Ask Culture Versus Guess Culture.

Your family member thinks it's okay to ask, and you can say 'yes' or 'no'.

You appear to want them to guess in advance that the answer might be 'no', and so forego asking. In guess culture it's rude to ask a question unless you know in advance the answer will be 'yes'. It's rude, because you are never supposed to answer 'no' to a request, you're always supposed to say 'yes'. So no one should ever ask you a question you won't say 'yes' to.

One solution is to join them in Ask Culture. You would do this by responding with your own question: "Will you be paying for your two children?" If they are truly Ask Culture people, they won't mind this question at all. They'll just answer it, and you can proceed from there.

Ask Culture can be very liberating once you get the hang of it.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:44 PM on August 20, 2021 [18 favorites]

This is really cultural too, not just ask vs. guess, but both regional/country and socioeconomic. I grew up in a “pay for yourself” family and my husband’s was sooooooooo offended when I offered, like I’d insulted someone’s manhood.

I think the best thing is not to try to determine the level of rudeness, but just make yourself clear - “I’d love to have them come along but I’ve only budgeted for 3, do you think they would be okay to pay for their meals and could you let them know?” Yes, it might feel rude but the alternative is to keep doing what you’ve done.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:47 PM on August 20, 2021 [21 favorites]

"I'm happy to gift dinner to the two of you for your birthday. I'd love for the kids to join if they can cover their own checks"
posted by greta simone at 12:47 PM on August 20, 2021 [7 favorites]

Someone has asked you a yes or no question, so rather than be annoyed about it, just... say no. "I'd prefer to keep it small this visit, thanks for asking."
posted by DarlingBri at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was taught that this behavior is rude. Anyone who receives an invitation should assume that the invitation does not extend to other people and that asking to invite other people is rude. It doesn't even matter who pays IMO.

If I invite my buddy to do something together, it doesn't follow that I want to spend time with my buddy's friend/spouse/pet/child/you get the picture.

The main reason I feel the behavior is rude is because it puts the person who invited you in a very obviously awkward position. It's not a lot of fun for most people to say "no thanks I think your BFF is annoying" or "well if I wanted to hang out with your iguana I would've invited him."

Emily Post's take on the matter: "Don’t even ask! An invitation is extended to the people the hosts want to invite—and no one else.

…a date. Some invitations indicate that you may invite a guest or date (Mr. John Evans and Guest) and when you reply, you should indicate whether you are bringing someone, and convey their name.
…my children. If they were invited, the invitation would have said so.
… my houseguest. It’s best to decline the invitation, stating the reason. This gives your host the option to extend the invitation to your guests, or not.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 12:51 PM on August 20, 2021 [49 favorites]

Good advice above. So I’ll just add that if you want to rephrase your invite in the future, I’d say something like I’d love to take you out for drinks, or of course the kids can come, and I’d be happy to skip the bill with you. Don’t guess what’s going on and seethe in silence. Be straightforward. If money is a little tight- say so and don’t feel like you’re obligated to treat an family to dinner. I’ll add a little anecdote of my own- in my twenties, I had a friend who was in her 30s and make more money than me overall, but worked freelance so she didn’t always have cash on her. I asked her if she wanted to stop for dinner once, and she said she’d love to but didn’t have the money. I wasn’t well off but always had cash on me because I worked as a bartender. I said I’d be happy to buy her dinner- my treat. I almost always just order an entree and on rare occasion a dessert. I thought she’d follow suit. Instead she ordered a margarita, an appetizer, the most expensive entree on the menu, a second after dinner boozy drink and convinced me to share a dessert. My part of the dinner was something like $25. Hers was $90. I spent a huge amount on that bill, plus tip, and said nothing. She never reciprocated by picking up the tab for anything and was generally a selfish and self absorbed person so our friendship didn’t last that long afterwards. The point is, I could have said something in the moment like “whoa, friend- this wasn’t what I meant by treating you to dinner- I’ll cover the entree and a dessert but other than that you’re on your own”. I look back on this as a learning experience and I hope you can look back on your experiences with this family member and be more direct with them in the future. Don’t just take them out to dinner. Clarify what you mean and you won’t feel taken advantage of once you start to put those boundaries in place. Best of luck to you, it’s not easy, but it is worthwhile!
posted by Champagne Supernova at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify.

I have already handled this by telling them in a pleasent way that the invite is just for the two of them. I'm not asking for advice on how to handle this. I'm asking if people find it rude to ask to invite others to a dinner that someone else is paying for.

This person is my parent, and no they don't ever take me out to dinner. I do make more money than they do, but they have done this since before that was the case.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If its only ever you taking them out for dinner and paying (eg they never come to your town or they do come but you pay for them there too) then it would feel a bit rude but even there I could see circumstances where it would be ok, such as if you had more money than them. Relative's kids are your relatives too so this way you can all spend some time together and enjoy the meal.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:58 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In a different direction: is it possible that family member is trying to reinforce that their family now includes 4 people? They might perceive it as rude that you invite only half of their family to celebrate them, that "spouse's children" are excluded from a family celebration.

I also agree that if you've done this before (multiple times?) without any boundary establishing, it's expected that you're ok with it now, and this time itself is not rude.

The first time? Certainly presumptuous, possibly edging into rude.
posted by Dashy at 1:00 PM on August 20, 2021 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Seeing your update, my parent can get free meals from me whenever they want and they can invite whoever they like to come along and I'm not going to consider it rude, but that'll totally depend on the relationship you have with your parent.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2021 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I think not responding to you was rude, but asking to take the two other people was not. That's what asking questions is for. Now if you said no and they were angry, that would be rude. If they brought the others without asking that would also be rude.
posted by Stoof at 1:08 PM on August 20, 2021 [11 favorites]

They might perceive it as rude that you invite only half of their family to celebrate them, that "spouse's children" are excluded from a family celebration.

I was also thinking along these lines. Even if they weren't your parents, especially if the "adult" children aren't all that old, it might seem rude to them include their children in the invitation. They're your family too. If these are step-siblings, then the request seems very natural.

If the kids aren't that young (or that much younger than you) and you think they can afford it, then next time you can contact the kids and say "I'm coming through town. Wanna all meet up and take [parent] out for dinner together?"
posted by trig at 1:14 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Also to clarify. These are my parent's spouse's adult children, they are not my half siblings. The adult children are in their mid 30s.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:15 PM on August 20, 2021

Best answer: Yes, if you offer to buy someone's meal and they ask if someone else can join without addressing who will pay, I would feel that is rude, since they have changed the nature and cost of the activity. It puts you in the position of having to bring up cost, and/or having to say no. Best-case scenario, you have enough money that covering everyone's meal is not a big hit to your pocketbook but you feel used; worst-case scenario, you feel both used and stressed at this additional cost.

It's not as if you offered to throw someone a birthday party; you asked if you could take them out to dinner. However, a tactful response where everyone could save face could be "It would be nice to see X and Y, but I'd really rather catch up with the two of you on my own. Maybe we could all grab dessert together afterwards?"
posted by rogerroger at 1:18 PM on August 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I 100% agree that it's rude to put you in the position of saying "I'd rather not pay for Phil and Leslie's dinners." I also agree that it's rude (but less so) to suggest that the invitation for Parent & Stepparent all of a sudden also include Phil and Leslie.

The reason it's somewhat less rude is that there's a charitable interpretation of the situation: that your parent/stepparent wants to promote family togetherness and reinforce that Phil and Leslie are part of the family just as much. (This is more charitable than a reading where their motivation is just to grab Phil and Leslie a chance to mooch off you.) But in this interpretation, Stepparent should LEAP, with alacrity, to pay that bill. To invite Phil and Leslie and let you pay is super duper rude.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: So the way I operate: I baseline think it's kind of rude to *sit silently* when the check comes in literally any instance - birthday meal, date, etc. But that's probably just me and probably an ask/guess thing - I always reach for my wallet no matter how much a friend or family member or date has hyped up that they're "taking me out!!!", and I similarly appreciate when people do the same even if I have to insist that I'm so happy to pay.

This little performance also gives an opportunity for any audibles like the one you're describing - like "oh, jeez, I know you said you'd take me out but really, I went and brought my whole family! That's not fair to you! How about if I pay and you take me out for drinks another time/we split it and you order dessert" or some other compromise.

The only exception is when a salesperson/work higher-up is very obviously going to be expensing a business meal - that's the only time I've ever felt comfortable kicking back with my arms crossed when the check comes like "that's on you, buddy". That's part of why it throws me off to see someone do it in a social setting, like, "oh I see - so this *was* kind of transactional" when I didn't expect that. And that feels a bit weird. I would feel kind of disrespected. But again, as others are saying, ask vs. guess stuff for sure.
posted by windbox at 1:29 PM on August 20, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I think the ones being rude here are the adult children. It’s very odd that adults expect their stepsister to pick up dinner for them when it’s their stepmother’s birthday. In my world, it would be expected that the adult children at the table split the tab, and I think they’re rude for not offering.
posted by holborne at 1:29 PM on August 20, 2021 [43 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's rude; I also come from a deeply-entrenched Guess culture.
posted by sugarbomb at 1:33 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It seems normal enough, but the part where the 2 grown children don't say anything when the bill comes up seems pretty weird... once, anyway.
posted by ovvl at 1:40 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's rude and unkind of all 4 of them to do this.
posted by hazyjane at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

How do you think your parent would answer this question?
posted by aniola at 2:08 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

You are saying relative and relative's spouse and spouse's adult children. You clarified that you are talking about your parent, which means you are talking about your stepparent and stepsiblings. It sounds like your parent and their spouse like the idea of going out to dinner with all their kids. You might not feel close to them (I hardly know my stepsiblings), but they, as a couple, feel close to you all.

I could also see why your parent would want to include their stepchildren in the birthday celebration.

I think this all really changes everything. If you were talking about a distant cousin and their spouse and those kids... my answer would be different. Yes, it would be great to address this all upfront, but honestly I think it could feel a bit rude to your parent not to invite the stepkids to the birthday celebration.

You said you aren't looking for advice on managing this, but I'd say if the issue isn't money but you don't want to see your stepsiblings, then be clear about that. If you are fine with the stepsiblings attending but don't want to pay, then address that.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:13 PM on August 20, 2021 [11 favorites]

Best answer: This is rude. It’s like they’re saying they don’t want to spend time with you in a more intimate setting. And letting the other adults sponge off you? Nope.
posted by acantha at 2:22 PM on August 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: You are saying relative and relative's spouse and spouse's adult children. You clarified that you are talking about your parent, which means you are talking about your stepparent and stepsiblings.

This is why I love Meta Filter so much!!! It's the different view points I get that I would never have thought of before! I do not consider my parent's spouse to be my stepparent, nor their children to be my step siblings. My parent remarried when I was in my 40s. Their spouse had nothing to do with my upbringing.

Is stepparent (stepsibblings) a legal designation or is it a cultural one? In any case, while I respect my parent's spouse and the adult children are nice people, they are not my family.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:25 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yes this is rude, but if you're playing by Southern Rules where you never talk about money and you never tell anyone they're being rude, future invites would assume they're going to ask about bringing their kids therefore you'll be offering to take them out for something cheaper than you would have if it was just them.

If you're cheeky, you can imply it: "Hey, your birthday's coming up and I'd love to take you to dinner. If you're planning to bring the kids, let's go to Burger Barn."

Wait for it.

"Oh, well, the kids can't come this time."

"Ah, sorry I'll miss them! If it's just going to be the 3 of us, let's go to Sammy's Steakhouse instead."
posted by Lyn Never at 2:37 PM on August 20, 2021 [13 favorites]

+1 to Lyn Never for playing the Southern Rules as I would.

A slight script variance would be:
"Hey, your birthday's coming up and I'd love to take you to dinner. Are you around on the XXth? Do you think [Kid1] and [Kid2] would like to join?"
"How sweet, yes, let's invite the kids, where would you like to go?"
"Perfect, I'll make reservations for Burger Barn"

This makes you look thoughtful and attentive by asking preemptively about the kids, while still giving you control over the cost spend. The downside is it makes it likely the kids will be invited, if you wanted to avoid that outcome.
posted by matrixclown at 2:45 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Maybe your parent and their spouse keep inviting these people in an effort to bring you a little closer together. It kind of sounds like a family event even if it doesn't feel that way to you. Have they also made overtures toward combining family celebrations at holidays, or spending time together in other contexts?

I agree that it's rude of the adult children to not speak up when the bill arrives. Is there any way you can get in front of the issue by talking to the kids directly ahead of time? Like "Hey, I'd like to treat Parent and Spouse to dinner, would you like to join us?" Implying that you're not treating the whole table.
posted by beandip at 2:46 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hmm, I don't think this is ask v. guess. I come from loud New Jersey Italian Ask x One Million culture, and even I think this is rude. Beyond rude--I think it's really weird to ask you to pay for their spouse's adult children. And the weirdest part of all is the two adult children who are presumably allowing you to pick up the check every time! Unless they have two broken arms they should be fighting you for the check. This is like the freeloading Olympics. I would just stop offering, myself. Ridiculous.
posted by HotToddy at 2:53 PM on August 20, 2021 [23 favorites]

You need to accept that family member and spouse are always going to come with two adult children. If you want to stop paying for the children, stop inviting family member and spouse for dinner. Or have an actual conversation about it with your family member! This is on you.
posted by heatherlogan at 2:54 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If someone made, say, more than 10x as much as I do, I might think that offering to contribute was passive aggressive and I might avoid doing it. That is to say, if the whole dinner was going to be pocket change to them. Other than that… rude, IMO.
posted by ftm at 3:10 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To me, "step-parent" and "step-sibling" implies that there's some kind of a relationship. I'm about your age, with a similar family situation, and would describe my parent's partner and their family the same way you do - parent's spouse, parent's spouse's kids.

The extended restaurant invitation also seems rude and weird to me. I'd expect to pick up the check when taking my parent out on their birthday, but would expect one of the parents to take the bill after extending the invitation to make it a (their) family thing. Since this is a repeat thing, Lyn Never's advice sounds great.
posted by mersen at 3:25 PM on August 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

while I respect my parent's spouse and the adult children are nice people, they are not my family.

I totally understand this because, as I said above, I hardly know my stepsiblings. However, your stepsiblings are your parent's family, even if not part of yours. It's a bit awkward, isn't it? I think that's what's really going on here. For your parent's birthday celebration, they want to include the folks they think of as their immediate family, and, for them, that's spouse and stepkids.

I'm not saying you should regard them as family. Not at all. But it's probably worth considering they regard them differently. If this is a celebration of parent's birthday, I get why parent wants their closest family members present.

If I am going to spend time with my married-parent over any holiday, I presume that we will need to have a conversation about their stepkids, because no way would I expect them also not to be included in a family celebration that I am attending. If you want to spend time with your parent during a birthday or holiday, it may be that stepsiblings are part of the package.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:33 PM on August 20, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Yes this is rude of the initial invitees because they are offloading their unease with asking if you'll pay onto you.

As with others, I was brought up that "passing along the invitation" like this, especially if it involves paying for something (vs tagging along), as being rude.
posted by achrise at 3:34 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am also in your position, where my parent's spouse has kids I don't know super well (and don't particularly like!). Even more: I grew up as the only child of that parent as a single parent, so I am most happy when it is just us. That's my childhood, that's my family, even if spouse is nice and makes my parent happy.

All to say, in my family me saying "I just want to hang out with parent" is a perfectly reasonable thing to say as is "just the two of you" and if they wanted the step-sibs to come along, they would pay for all of it. But both my husband and I come from families where we rotate bills as matter of course. Our parents would die before they let us pay too often. And we live further away and visit less, so us monopolizing the birthday would be acceptable. So. hm, on balance, yes, I would find the situation you describe slightly rude, especially on the step-sibs part. But there's a lot of moving parts.
posted by dame at 3:47 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not sure whether I'd use the word "rude" except for the part about not responding to the text.

Inviting unrelated adults to the dinner and keeping quiet when the bill turns up is just a bit low-rent. It tells you what kind of people you are dealing with and that lets you deal with them in a different way in the future if you so wish. So in fact it's quite helpful for you.

Remember that you can't change people, you can only change the way you interact with them.
posted by tillsbury at 3:58 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking about this question, and I also wonder if rudeness or lack thereof is the best lens to look at this through. Rudeness is a large category and a fairly nebulous one. It can encompass all kinds of offenses: some that translate to real hurt, and some that are mostly culturally mediated or matters of principle. I can say a coworker was rude if they didn't say "good morning" or didn't say "please" or did or did not call me "ma'am" (depending on where I live). They might think me rude for mentioning that.

In some ways, judging rudeness seems like a kind of rules-based substitute for thinking about whether or how we're hurt or threatened by some behavior. Why should I care if someone doesn't say "please"? Maybe because it feels like a sign they don't respect me enough to treat me well in more important circumstances; maybe because it triggers my insecurities; maybe because I care about my position on the totem pole and demand that others acknowledge it; maybe because I like predictable etiquette and am a pedant. Why should I care if someone volunteers me to pay for them, when I can afford it? Maybe because it feels like a sign they don't respect me enough to treat me well in more important circumstances; maybe because I can afford it but not easily, or might not be able to next time, or want to do other things with my money; maybe because I worry about what it says about our relationship. In both those examples, the behavior I label as "rude" might stem from all sorts of reasons that I'm not aware of and mean something other than what I'm imagining. Rudeness is a clumsy label we stick over a huge range of things, sometimes as a shorthand, sometimes to avoid analysis, and sometimes as an appeal to authority for vindication, to prove we're in the right. It's not always the right tool for understanding a situation or applying to close personal relationships.

In the situation here, where at least one of these people is family, I'd make it a point to think through other lenses: how valued or unvalued I feel; how valued or unvalued I might be making the others feel; how generous (or not generous) we're all being toward each other; how warm; how important, or unimportant, receiving appreciation or respect or generosity or warmth might be to each of us; what currents might be flowing under the surface; what facts I might not be aware of; what rulesets we're all working with; what I want these relationships to look like in the future; what the others might feel about the future that I want, and what types of future they might be imagining.

Take that for what it's worth, obviously.
posted by trig at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, I wouldn't call this ask v. guess. Ask v. guess would be if everyone paid for themselves and the question was whether the social grouping could expand. This is simply trying to increase the size of a gift, which under normal circumstances is quite rude. That said, if you paid once, you've set the precedent they're following, and now you'll need to be explicit.

I too find it very odd that the +2 seem to feel no need to pay for themselves, if they are full-grown adults.
posted by praemunire at 4:55 PM on August 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don’t find this rude.

However, it would most likely bother me that my parent doesn’t want to spend time with me without their entire “new family” that I was never a part of there too. Right or wrong, I would basically read that as “they have moved on from seeing me as a member of their core family,” something that remarried emotionally neglectful parents have a tendency to do.

I may be biased because I hear stories constantly about my nephew’s grandfather spending zero time with him while splurging constantly on his “new grandchildren,” probably to impress his new spouse, but he was always a jerk. If your parent is just a jerk or a disappointing parent you can be mad at them, rude or not.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:07 PM on August 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think it’s really rude, it just feels like they saw an opportunity to take advantage of a generous offer and went for it. I’d tell the asker that the extra people are welcome to come along too but unfortunately you can’t cover their bill and to let you know either way.
posted by Jubey at 5:32 PM on August 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: - I ask to take family member and their spouse to dinner when I am in their town, and family member always asks if the two kids can come.
- This person is my parent, and no they don't ever take me out to dinner.

Rude, and yes, as noted above, your parent is signaling their closeness to the spouse and their adult stepkids (all of whom live in that town, sounds like). A friend in a similar situation gets around this by making "one-on-one" restaurant lunch plans with her parent when she's in that neck of the woods. She then leaves it to the parent to extend an invitation to dine at their home -- less $$ than dining out, of course the spouse is expected to be present, and the parent's free to invite the stepkids to make it a 'family' dinner.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:39 PM on August 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My take is that it's weird to invite adult kids to a meal like this, but once you've said "Yes they can come" that's basically extending the invitation that you extended to the two of them to all four of them, to pay for the meal.

So, given that, it's kind of weird of your family member to be like "Oh you want to take me and spouse out? Now you can take all four of us out!" and I would shut that down kind of quick now that you know how it's going to go.

So, to restate: asking if the adult kids can come, slightly weird but not rude; not paying for the adult kids once you've said they can come, not rude, just a clear mismatch in expectations. And just to be supportive of you, I find it very odd when grownups don't offer to pay their own way but I came from a family who was very transactional in some ways about this type of thing and I kind of resented it. My mom would pay for most meals we'd eat out until my father (her ex-husband) died, I inherited some money and she was like "You can pay from now on."

I feel like the thing to do is say that no you want to catch up with parent and their spouse so you say no to extra people.

In any case, while I respect my parent's spouse and the adult children are nice people, they are not my family.

I had a parent who remarried later in life (and shared your feelings more or less) and yes this is kind of a legal thing just in terms of who inherits what from whom and who is considered next of kin and this sort of thing.
posted by jessamyn at 7:17 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I guess I’ll say this because no one else seems to be saying it. If this happened to me, and I invited someone out to celebrate their birthday and they invited along their my-age kids, I would legitimately assume that the three members of my generation would be splitting the bill to treat the birthday person. I would 100% ask the waitron to split the bill 3 ways or just do the math at the table and tell Bill and Sue ‘looks like about $60 each!’ or whatever l. And if I ended up footing the entire bill I would be flabbergasted.
posted by bq at 7:36 PM on August 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

I think your unresolved resentment towards step-parent and their kids needs much more attention than the dinner check. I think your parent is blandly ignoring your feelings; maybe they're clueless/not paying attention, who knows. I guess that, to me, is the unkind part.

I had a step-parent, with his own kids, and there were so many currents of weirdness and resentment. I liked my Step-Dad pretty well, some of my siblings did not. His kids were not very pleasant, but he divorced their mentally ill Mom to marry my less-mentally-ill Mom, so I couldn't blame them, though I'd known them a bit before, and, meh. It's perfectly fine to not want to spend time with, or pay for, or care about, your step-siblings.
posted by theora55 at 7:42 PM on August 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm marking best answer for all those who answer the question I asked. I'd appreciate it if people would refrainfrom anything other than just answering the question. Would you find this rude, yes or no (and if you want to say why yes or why no that's fine too).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:44 PM on August 20, 2021

Best answer: Yes I'd fine it rude. There"s Ask culture, there Guess culture and then there's Entitled/Manipulative culture and I think we're looking at #3. The whole reason they ask is because they know you don't have the social standing to say no or to ask them who's paying, and they're banking that you value the relationship with them enough not to call them out on their bullshit. In other eo de they're leveraging the power they have over you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:53 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm asking if people find it rude to ask to invite others to a dinner that someone else is paying for.

Yes, it's extremely rude. It's rude of your parent to try to increase the size of your gift and hold an event with more people than you invited. It's rude of them to change the character of the event you offered by broadening its scope.

It's not rude of the adult children to come along once invited, because they probably understood, or were told only that you wanted to include them. But, once there, it's extremely rude of them not to try to pay for themselves at least. In their shoes, I'd be assuming the "children" would be splitting the bill three ways.
posted by rpfields at 9:05 PM on August 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't find "rude" a useful label so I wouldn't characterize the behavior that way. It's a negative, judgmental term that just causes divisiveness rather than understanding or moving forward in a productive way. BTW, "rude" and "common behavior" are not mutually exclusive. I'd much rather someone ask for something outright and have opportunity to (figure out how to) respond directly and overtly, rather than remain silent and avoid a problematic issue. ahem
posted by dancing leaves at 9:20 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think it's rude to ask others to join you at dinner if they reasonably think you would enjoy/be satisfied with being together as a group. (It would be a whole different thing if you are known to dislike each other.) To me the rude part comes in when they don't pay for their own dinners. In my world it would be assumed the adult children are paying for themselves unless you are wealthy and paying for all the dinners is of no consequence.

My summary is that it's thoughtless for your parent not to step in and work out the payment scheme to prevent awkwardness among everyone, and it's rude of the children not to pay their way. And once it became clear that the children were not paying, your parent and their spouse should have paid the children's share at the table or later with you personally - they were rude not to address that.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:29 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm marking best answer for all those who answer the question I asked. I'd appreciate it if people would refrainfrom anything other than just answering the question. Would you find this rude, yes or no (and if you want to say why yes or why no that's fine too).

I answered by asking whether your parent would think it's rude. That's because I grew up moving to new places every few years, and I think rudeness can be relative. So in judging whether or not I thought this was rude behavior, I would want to know more about the motivations behind the actions.
posted by aniola at 9:38 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think it's rude. You don't mention what the other occasions were that the additional guests were invited to. I'm more forgiving of the request for additional birthday dinner guests. Maybe casual/unconfirmed plans were floating about when you extended your actual invitation. However, not offering to pay for their own dinner is incredibly rude.
posted by shoesietart at 11:15 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes. Very rude.
posted by sunrise kingdom at 11:17 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's rude and beyond the bounds of ask vs guess. If you say to someone I'm getting you 'x' for your birthday and they ask you to get them '2x' instead that's rude.
posted by hazyjane at 12:09 AM on August 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you live in different town than your parents and you're randomly dropping by and inviting them to dinner and they decide to bring their adult stepkids who also live in the same town - yeah, them deciding to bring all their kids is presumptuous bordering on rude.

But the fact that it was a birthday dinner... if anything I feel it's a little rude of you not inviting the stepkids (and any other nearby family members) out for the birthday dinner. I mean, is your parent supposed to have multiple birthday dinners separately with each kid/stepkid? When it's my mother-in-law's birthday dinner, it's my MiL and FiL, my wife and I, and all of my wife's brother/sisters all together. She's not going to have four different birthday dinners with four different kids. If I only took my MiL and my wife out to dinner and left out all the siblings, presumably because I didn't want to pay for everyone else's dinner and because I didn't feel close to my brothers/sisters-in-law, I wouldn't hear the end of it.

That being said, while I would posit that not initially inviting the stepkids was maybe a tiny bit rude, that is absolutely dwarfed by the stepkids not offering to pay their share of the bill. No matter whatever income differential there might be between you and them, they should at the very least be fighting to pay for their share + half of your mother's share if not fighting to pay the entire bill.
posted by alidarbac at 3:02 AM on August 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm from the southeastern US, where family ties tend to be important, where treating people to meals is a sign of love and not transactional, and where "family" is a very important but nebulous concept that includes people through all kinds of connections in all kinds of ways. Within my family and my culture, this would not be considered rude, assuming you can afford to pay for dinner for everyone, which it sounds like you can. In my culture, keeping tabs on who paid for what and not wanting to be with as much family as possible for a special occasion would be considered rude.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:20 AM on August 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: In my family everyone involved here would be rude in a different way so it all seems to more or less average out. If the end result is that parent got to have a nice birthday with all the people they consider immediate family (whether or not you do), then the result of Give Parent A Nice Day was achieved, no harm, no foul, in my mind.

But since this is an ongoing source of aggravation I think it’s on you to get specific next time about what you want to do differently. If they continue to push boundaries after you’ve actually set them, they’re the rude ones.
posted by Stacey at 4:55 AM on August 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In your original question (relative and relative's spouse invited; spouse's adult children come with), I would have said your relatives and their kids were rude.

With your update that this if your parent, their spouse, and spouse's adult children ... I would have said you were rude for not including the spouse's children in the invitation, but the children were also rude for not offering to pitch in for the bill. So yes, I suppose to me the closeness of the relationship matters, and people who come into your family when you are an adult (like in-laws, for instance) are still your family.

(For context: I grew up in an Indian household in Virginia, lived most of young adult years in the Northeast, and am now in North Carolina.)
posted by basalganglia at 5:45 AM on August 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I get that you just asked if this is rude (and the short answer is yes), but rudeness doesn't exist in a vacuum. You left out something really pertinent by not saying that this is your parent and the adult children are your step-siblings, even if you don't know them or like them much (also pertinent). So what else might you be leaving out? Specifically, what happens for the stepparent's birthday? Do the adult kids invite you to a dinner or have a party or dinner at their house you're invited to (in terms of etiquette, a party or homemade dinner is not "worse" than a restaurant dinner just because it might cost less). Asking a question without important context happens so often to Miss Manners that she has a name for it - Gotcha - and she declares gotcha is in itself rude (Washington Post link).

That said, since you're communicating with your parent and since you know how it will play out if you just do your normal thing, when parent asks if the adult children are invited, you can either answer, "No, I just want time with you guys" or "Yes, but they have to pay their own way" (no drama or complaints - just very matter of fact). If they come, when the server comes to take your order, you say, "We need separate checks. Parent, Stepparent, and I are on one bill." This way, nobody has to spend the entire meal wondering how it's going to play out and adult children can decide if they want to pay for lobster or a side salad. (While it does seem irritating that the adult stepchildren aren't offering to pay, we don't know how the invitation was worded. Maybe they were told that you wanted to treat the whole family to dinner. I would still offer to pay in their shoes, but that would make them seem a little less terrible.)

Alternatively, call adult stepchildren before you talk to parent and say you've been thinking you'd like to take parent and stepparent out for birthday dinner, and would they like to chip in? If not, you guess you'll just see them another time. When you text parent, say you've already contacted adult stepchildren. Or you could call adult stepchildren and say, "I've been thinking about the way we handle birthdays and whether we could do something different this year" (Either of these could potentially blow up in your face, and maybe someone else can take this germ of an idea and refine it.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:16 AM on August 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Upon rereading, let me emphasize that I don't think you're trying to play Gotcha here. I just think that you would like this to be a simple yes or no question, but it really can't be. There are lots of elements to context for etiquette questions - these can be cultural or relationship oriented or depending on specific circumstances (Is it rude to yell "MOVE" to my houseguest? How about if I'm about to drop a pot of boiling water on her foot?). Etiquette doesn't exist in a vacuum. If the adult stepchildren throw an annual birthday party for their parent and invite you, you're probably being rude by leaving them out.
posted by FencingGal at 6:34 AM on August 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think this is rude.

My perspective comes from a cultural/family background where we value generosity and "guest culture", where if you're my guest, you are getting fed/treated/indulged. My family actually ends up in more squabbles over who gets to pay for a meal/day out rather than who has to. When my grandmother was alive, I witnessed her sneakily steal and hide my mother's card so my grandma could pay for a meal instead more than once (and vice versa). In my family it would be considered rude to take someone out to dinner and make a point of not paying for someone. Complaining about someone not paying their part of the bill would be seen as insulting. If you're extending an invitation, you're expected to 1) include everyone, 2) be generous, 3) not bring up the subject of money or debts. If you don't want to deal with that, you don't invite people out.
posted by fight or flight at 8:04 AM on August 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I do not think this is rude.

You are inviting your parent and their spouse to a birthday dinner. Your parent is asking the perfectly reasonable question about bringing their adult stepchildren (the children of their spouse) along for dinner. You can say, "yes, let's make it a larger party," or you can say "no, I'd rather just get together with you and your spouse."

As someone said above, your parent might view this as an opportunity to bring the family together for a family occasion. Even though you don't view their spouse as your step parent or the adult step children as your step siblings, your parent might still want to create family ties amongst all of you. This is a natural occasion to do so, but you are free to say "no".

If your parent brought the step children along without asking you, that would be rude. But asking is not rude.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 10:11 AM on August 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

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