The family trip turns into a cat roundup
Dear Amy: My partner and I recently traveled abroad with her family.
We are all adults. We spent six days with her mother, father, brother and sister-in-law.
We both knew that there would be the usual frustrations associated with spending time in close quarters with her enmeshed family.
We stayed in vacation rental homes, where each couple had their own room.
During our time abroad, it became apparent to both of us that her family's dynamics stifled our experience. Her mother and brother bickered for much of the time. In addition, her brother, who was very far removed from his comfort zone, complained endlessly about all sorts of things beyond anyone's control.
At one point I overheard him say to his wife, "I really, REALLY don't want to be here."
My partner's mother would constantly worry if we wanted to do anything on our own, and feared for our safety.
In an effort to respect her wishes, we stayed together as a group, but trying to get everyone to do the same thing in a given day was like herding bored house cats.
We aren't super-assertive, but the rest of the group was extremely passive.
My partner and I both decided that we do not wish to have any future experiences like this previous one.
The problem is that her family seems intent on planning more vacations together, including one in six months!
We don't want to be rude or hurtful to her family members, nor do we intend to lie about our reasons for opting out of future family travel.
How do we (two independent, excited travelers) vacation with an anxious, enmeshed family?
-- Travel Bugged
Dear Bugged: After outlining the many (valid) reasons why you don't want to travel with this group, you then ask how to travel with this group. Are you sure you want to? You are both adults. You have free will. Until you learn to deliver a respectful, "We're going to travel on our own this year," you will be thoroughly dominated.
But if you really do want to travel with them, you should develop an itinerary for yourselves each day and invite them to join you, or not.
For instance: "Monday Marla and I will visit the Indigenous Museum. We'll leave at 10 a.m. Anyone who wants to join us, please do. Otherwise, we'll have lunch nearby and you can join us then."
A family member's worry about your safety should not dictate your own choices. You are an adult, and so is your mother. After reassurances from you, she will have to handle her own emotions.
Dear Amy: I have yet another question to add to your list of: "Why would you ask that?"
I am a teacher. I just turned 65. The annoying question I get is: "Are you still working?"
My answers generally are: "Yes, I am still working. Yes, I am still very capable and focused on my job. Yes, I can still roll with the changes and embrace the new technology. Yes, I still enjoy what I do. Yes, my students (and colleagues) still bring me joy."
But I get really tired of answering this question, and so do my contemporaries. But when one has worked all of one's adult life, why not work for a couple more years?
Any suggestions? I'd love a new answer to this question.
-- Still Working
Dear Still Working: Call me clueless, but to me, the question "Are you still working?" seems a natural conversation-starter for people in your age-cohort.
Many people in their mid-60s are retired, or thinking of retirement.
This "Are you still working" question is another version of, "... and what's new with you?"
The version of this that might bother me (if I were you) would be: "WHY are you still working?"
Because I can't quite see the offense, I can't suggest a snappy comeback. So I suggest you answer, "Yes, I am. What about you?" as a way to both answer the question and also toss it back to the person who asked it.
Dear Amy: "Smoked Out in Redwood City" was complaining about neighbors who use a fire pit at night.
In your answer, you reported that Redwood City is "in close proximity" to the area where the devastating Camp Fire was.
Amy, your answer was great, but these towns are 200 miles apart!
-- Get a Map
Dear Map: The scariest part is that I actually looked this up on a map, and I still made the error. Thank you for the correction.