A woman wrote into an advice column asking what to do about her sister, who insisted on coming to a baby shower in person and now has COVID
The last few years have been full of fraught situations with family and friends — constantly assessing COVID risk levels before seeing loved ones, and navigating the landmines that come with having been in contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID. That’s exactly the dilemma for one pregnant woman, who wrote into an advice column wondering what to do about her sister who badgered her way into attending her baby shower in person and then announced a positive test result.
“Instead of a traditional baby shower, loved ones threw me a five-person gathering in my backyard, and others were invited to drive by. One friend who has been quarantining offered to stay afterward to help me with gifts,” the letter writer shared. “My sister begged me for weeks to join in the intimate gift-opening ‘after-party.’ I didn’t want her to. I love her, but she has not really been careful about covid. I just didn’t feel comfortable, but gave in. And now, six days later, she has just announced she tested positive. I am furious. She knows I have a major guilt complex and probably knew she would be able to wear me down. And now she has put me and my family at risk. (I’m getting tested today and my anxiety is through the roof.)”
The question is this: “I’m not sure how to approach this in the aftermath: call her up and yell at her, saying this is exactly what I wanted to avoid, or just let it go and never ever let this happen again?”
It’s a question many of us would probably struggle to answer, but Carolyn Hax had some particularly on-point advice.
“The answer lies between ‘yell at her’ and ‘just let it go.’ This calamity had two parts: your vulnerability to guilt, and her brazen exploitation of it,” Hax wrote. “So, you tried to please her, and she tried to please her, making her role worse due to its selfishness. But your role was bigger because it was your territory that you failed to protect. That means you can’t reasonably go after your sister with a blame-first attitude. She could respond with, ‘You could have said no’ — which would be idiotic and self-serving and, alas, true.”
Hax continued with the advice to frame the conversation this way: “Obviously I need to get better at standing up for myself. That’s on me. But I hope this experience is an ‘aha’ moment for you not to pressure people into things they’re not comfortable doing.”
Luckily, a reader also offered this second piece of advice that feels just as necessary for the letter writer: “Get ready now for your sister pushing to see your baby and start practicing your scripts. ‘No, we have decided it’s not safe. And it’s not up for discussion.’ Your child needs you to stand up to pushy people on their behalf.”
We hope the letter writer is still safe and healthy, and that this situation was a wake-up call for her sister and a lesson to us all about setting boundaries.