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Ill Equipped: Who Isn't?

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cake.jpgJennifer Lehr answers your questions about sex, love, and relationships every week on Fearless Voices. To send her a question, email jennifer@jenniferlehr.com.

Dear Jennifer,

I recently co-hosted a baby shower with five other women for a very good friend. Because the party was at my house, I spearheaded the effort. Four of the hosts worked very hard. The executed their group-assigned tasks, came early to set up, stayed late to clean up and brought their checkbooks to pay for the caterer and other expenses. The fifth woman did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Actually the only thing she did do was e-mail the night before to ask if I'd hold a parking space for her in my driveway just in case it rained so she wouldn't have to walk at all with her baby. I have no doubt she'll pay her portion of the bill, but whenever it is convenient for her.

How did I handle this? Passive aggressively. When she e-mailed about the parking space, I wrote back and explained that the caterer and some senior guests had already requested the space and because I'd be busy setting up, it would be difficult for me to stay outside and reserve the driveway. Then I listed all of the things that were in place for the party as if I was just bringing her up to date instead of what I was actually doing which was trying to show her how much had to be done before the event. She never e-mailed back.

The day of the party, she came just five minutes early and didn't say a word to any of us about how beautiful it looked or that she was sorry she couldn't come earlier because she had to be with her children or ask how much she owed and to whom. Nothing. So when someone else told me how good everything looked, I responded, within earshot of the delinquent host, "Thank you! It took seven hours to set up." And I wasn't exaggerating. Well, maybe a little.

She left early because her child wasn't feeling well. After the party I sent out yet another passive aggressive e-mail thanking all of the other hostesses for everything, going into detail about all they'd done and how well it came off and how much I appreciated their work. The delinquent host was cc'd on it because she'd been cc'd on every single e-mail we'd all been sending back and forth for months. Well for that reason, and of course because I wanted her to see how hard everyone had worked.

Now Jennifer, each time I acted passive aggressively, I knew I shouldn't have been doing it and then I went ahead and did it anyway. Perhaps the most egregious of my transgressions was to tell the guest of honor that her friend didn't do anything. She was shocked. I wanted her to know because I didn't think it was fair for her to think she'd in anyway helped create the event.

And now I feel guilty about my behavior and worst of all, I'm still mad at her. All of my little jabs did nothing to alleviate my anger.

What should I have done? What should I do?

Thanks,
Jennifer


Jennifer!

You are absolutely right. You never should have sent the e-mails you did, muttered the bullshit about the seven hours of set up or told the guest of honor about her friend's lack of help. You can't teach a grown person manners. And in this case you have to look in the mirror because your response to her inappropriate behavior was to act inappropriately. I'm sure she got your message and didn't like how it was delivered. So, unfortunately as much as you want to take the high position on this one, you no longer can because you stooped to her level.

You can, however, use this as a lesson for you, for the future. When working with a group of people, you need to be very specific about your expectations. In that way, if the person falls short, you can easily approach them and ask them why. For instance, if she was assigned the bagels and didn't bring them, you could ask her why she didn't bring the bagels. It seems to me that in this case, your party went off without a hitch, despite this hosts' lack of help. Is it possible that she felt everything was so taken care of that there was nothing left for her to do?

And next time you want to open your mouth about something that you know you shouldn't, go tell someone what you are about to do so they can stop you. Or go to the bathroom and say it to yourself in the mirror. Or lean over and step on your hands for a thirty seconds. Or show someone the e-mail before you push send. You can do better!

Jennifer

And yes, readers, this is a letter to myself!