Dear Good Greatsby: How Can I Convince My Sister-in-law to Leave the Country?

Posted on August 10, 2011


Today’s guest panelist will be my mom, who has promised to only give advice relating to the question and not use this as a platform to criticize my life choices.  In exchange, I’ve offered to stop arguing when she suggests I like the same things I liked when I was five.  When she suggests I feed ducks at the park because I love feeding ducks at the park, I won’t argue and will say something noncommittal like, “Did you know ducks fly south for the winter?”

The first question comes from Tannis at The Lifespan of a Fly.

Dear Good Greatsby,

How can I convince my sister-in-law to move far, far away (like the United States) so I don’t have to talk to her at family events anymore? And how can I convince her to take my mother-in-law with her?


Dear Tannis,

Paul: Would you truly be happier if your sister-in-law stopped coming to Christmas and you were forever deprived of opportunities to complain how she always ruins Christmas?   When you meet your friends for coffee in November and December, what will you talk about except how much you’re dreading seeing your sister-in-law during the holidays?  Are you going to start talking about all the books you’re reading instead?  This would mean you’d have to start reading a lot of books and remember it takes ten to twenty hours to read a book, but it only takes a few seconds to criticize, and this is why scientists have calculated “criticizing others” as thousands of times more satisfying than “reading books”. 

And what will you and your husband talk about on those cold January evenings if you can’t talk about your sister-in-law’s 7-layer dip clearly only having 4 1/2 layers?  And remember the face she made when she opened your present to her, and you and your husband whispered to each other in unison, “She looks like she’s constipated,” and you felt closer to him than ever?

And if your sister-in-law and mother-in-law don’t c0me to Christmas, and you still have a lousy time, whom will you have to blame?  The remaining family members will always look for a scapegoat to explain the lack of frivolity, and who knows, this scapegoat just might be you?

Paul’s Mom: Remember when you were four and you put Christmas ribbons all over yourself and curled up under the Christmas tree and said you were a Christmas present?  Will you do that again this year and take a picture of it for the family newsletter?

Paul: No.  I’m in my thirties.  I’m not dressing as a Christmas present.

Paul’s Mom: Your sister would do it.

Paul: Then why don’t you ask her?

Paul’s Mom: Maybe I’ll ask her today when she comes and visits for the third time this week, bringing her total number of visits to two hundred in the last year.  I won’t need a calculator to total your number of visits this year since 0+0 is a sum I can still add up in my head.

Paul: Now might be a good time to mention I won’t be making it to Christmas this year.

The second question comes from Byron MacLymont from the blog,

Dear Good Greatsby,

I’m hoping you can help me resolve ongoing tensions with my next-door neighbor. Things began when I finally mustered up the courage to politely confront her about her dogs’ incessant barking. She refused to admit any culpability, insisting that it wasn’t her dogs barking because she doesn’t own a dog and that the constant, piercing barking I heard was my dogs. My neighbor is also elderly, and I confronted her about the fact that her old age made me uncomfortable and reminded me of my own mortality, yet she has done nothing – nothing – about the situation. Despite clearly being the victim, I have attempted to keep the peace, hoping we could adopt a more friendly relationship. In accordance with her bumper sticker’s wishes, I began asking about her grandchildren. In fact, I generally ask about them many times a day, every day, usually with great specificity. She has not only stopped telling me about Chuck and Cindy, she now refuses to even acknowledge me, no matter how loudly I ask. What should I do? How can I get this person to see reason? Also, I’m not normally a litigious person, but should I sue her? And if so, would it be better to sue her for impugning my dogs’ reputations, or for continuing to post that bumper sticker despite its obvious falsehood? (I know for a fact she’s loaded; from going through her mail I’ve found that she’s not only “pre-approved” for credit cards, like she’s the queen or something, but also writes checks to her grandchildren at the holidays – sometimes for up to $5 each). Thank you for your help.


Byron, Trying So Hard To Be A Good Neighbor

Dear Trying So Hard To Be A Good Neighbor,

Paul: If I understand the coded words of your question, “I’m not normally a litigious person, but should I sue her?” you meant “litigious” to be a synonym for “murderous” and “sue” to be a synonym for “drop a piano on”.   I’m sorry, but I can’t give you the moral permission to commit murder, or at least I can’t until the city finishes auditing the religious organization I recently founded so I can be awarded a religious minister’s card enabling me to receive discounts at local eateries, park in handicapped spots, and condone murder.  If you can’t wait that long, might I suggest you try and think outside the box and instead of murdering your neighbor, consider framing your neighbor for murder?  If your framing job is successful, your neighbor will be sent to prison and your problems are solved.  If your framing job is unsuccessful, it will be much less awkward to live next door to someone you attempted to frame for murder than living next door to someone you attempted to murder.

If you’re short on ideas for framing your neighbor, might I suggest perusing your local yellow pages which are full of companies offering “Framing Services”.  Most of these framing companies will insist they only offer traditional carpentry framing services, but in these difficult economic times, more and more framing companies are diversifying and now offering both construction framing and crime framing. 

Paul’s Mom: All this talk about dogs reminds me of when you were six and sang How Much is That Doggy in the Window for your school talent show.  Will dress up as a puppy and sing that song again at Christmas?

Paul: No.

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