Dear Miss Manners: My brother passed away and I found out about it from a nephew (not my brother’s son) who posted it on social media. I find it absolutely disrespectful that my sister-in-law would not personally call me or any of my siblings (there are four of us) to notify us of his death.
Miss Manners: I learned of my brother’s death on social media
It’s not a matter of conflict with anybody. My sister-in-law just left it up to her children to notify others, and this nephew just posted it. Of course, not everyone is on social media.
What is your opinion on the proper etiquette on death notifications to relatives, especially immediate family members?
Someone should have called, Miss Manners agrees. The question is: Who?
The widow’s not being up to the task may be understandable. One can understand distraught children falling short. But eventually, someone in the family has to take responsibility.
After the nephew bungled it and you learned the news, the kindest course of action would have been to call your sister-in-law and offer to make any remaining calls yourself.
Dear Miss Manners: My sister-in-law has always given me an extremely frosty reception. She never says anything rude, but she will avoid saying hello when we visit — only doing so an hour after we arrive. She also drinks beverages in front of us without offering, and generally avoids speaking to me for the entire visit.
Anything I say to try to get a conversation going is often met with an odd stare or her not understanding what I mean, despite it being very clear. If we’re at the dinner table, she will either remain silent or talk to someone else. After years of this happening — despite my best attempts to make small talk, compliment her cooking, ask her about her interests, etc. — I find myself very uncomfortable in her home.
We only visit three to four times a year, when invited, mainly for the purpose of getting our kids together with their cousins. My husband feels that because she doesn’t actually say anything rude, this shouldn’t be an issue. Am I overreacting here?
Your discomfort is justified and understandable, and your husband’s comment is, well, understandable: It absolves him, the obvious go-between for you and his sister, of any further responsibility.
As Miss Manners’ Gentle Readers are well aware, it is possible to be cold and hostile without, technically, being rude. But your sister-in-law has not been so fastidious: Her behavior is genuinely rude.
What to do about it? Having put up with it for years — and limiting your exposure to three or four times a year — may make it endurable, or at least better than the alternative. If not, it is time for your husband to step up and speak with his sister; if he does not, then perhaps the three to four visits should be reduced to one or two.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
©2022, by Judith Martin