Carolyn Hax: Dad’s girlfriend spreads around the holiday jeers

Advice columnist

July 27 at 11:59 PM

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Our 85-year old Dad has an awful girlfriend of less than a year, who just moved in with him. She met everyone at a holiday gathering last year and made a number of incredibly toxic comments, including saying to the only African American person there — he is a roommate of one of my nephews — “Oh, you’re just a token here.” She also told two other nephews’ girlfriends that she didn’t need to know their names because, “You’re the cat’s pajamas now, but you won’t be around for long.” Again, she was just meeting all of us, and all these people for the first time.

Now, we’re making plans for future holidays and we can’t get Dad to agree to come without her. No one has a problem with Dad having this girlfriend — his choice. We just live all over, Midwest to East Coast, and don’t want to spend the one day we all have together all year having to ensure she doesn’t offend, insult, etc., family and friends.

Note: She is not mentally deficient; she’s in her 70s and “sound of mind” — I guess. She just thinks she is being incredibly intellectual and witty when she makes these stupid comments. I think.

Regardless, we don’t think Dad should dictate the family guest list — that he should be invited and if he doesn’t want to come without her, his choice. It just makes us all sad. We want him there, but I guess not enough to invite her toxicity into the holiday. Any option we are missing?

— Sad

Sad: Yes — there’s the option of having her there and saying the quiet part out loud. For example:

She: “Oh, you’re just a token here.” [by the way — O!M!G!]

One or more of you: “What a horrific thing to say to someone. Do you think that’s funny?”

Or, she: “You’re the cat’s pajamas now, but you won’t be around for long.”

You or others: “That’s incredibly rude.” And to the girlfriends, “You are welcome here, and we are grateful to have you.”

You can expect one of three outcomes: She’ll mind her mouth thereafter; she’ll stop coming; you’ll have the pleasure of telling her exactly what you think of her, to her face, from the high ground.

Assume she’ll push back, justify herself, declare that she was kidding and you have no sense of humor, etc. Of course. It’s an old, ugly, familiar play book. But if you’re prepared for it and ready to present a unified front as a family, then you all can stand firm on the principle that you won’t tolerate her rudeness and won’t engage when she tries to defend it. Instead, you will give her an unlimited supply of rooms you abruptly vacate to give her a chance to think about what she just said. Merry Thanksmas.

Re: Sad: OMG! Why would you ever want to exclude the crazy, inappropriate girlfriend of the elderly dad? Make up bingo cards (Racist, Dismissive, Mean, Off-topic, whatever). First one to yell Bingo! gets to hit her in the face with a pumpkin pie.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: OMG! Why would you waste pie on that? Otherwise, fair point.

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