Family E-mail, Vol. 5, Issue 2

Dear Etiquetteer:Over the past two years, my family has finally caught up with the 20th century and embraced e-mail as an easy way to negotiate functions, such as party planning and babysitting. I set up a list, in fact, for posting such information. It worked very well until six months ago, when I realized I wasn't receiving messages that everyone else said they had seen.I was forwarded two or three, all from my sister-in-law, who sent details about her children's birthday parties and Christmas to everyone (including her husband) except me. I found it particularly strange when she sent out an e-mail asking everyone if they had a list of gift-exchange partners that I had sent out last year, instead of asking me directly or including me on the mass e-mail.The final straw came when I was forwarded a lengthy e-mail exchange between both my sisters-in-law (who cc:d everyone in my family except my mother and me) discussing where to hold my mother’s birthday dinner. The two of them had come to the conclusion that their own houses were too small for the affair, and they were going to hold the dinner in a rented hall.My brother (who forwarded the e-mail to me) said, "I don't know why you weren't included in this." I thanked him for sending me the message, and sent an e-mail to the entire family list letting them know that renting a hall was not only the last thing Mother would want, and if their places were too small to hold a family get-together, her own house has always been perfectly roomy, and I would make her favorite dinner for everyone to celebrate.My question is: Should I leave it at that? Would sending this message to the whole family, letting the culprits know that I am privy to this hidden information whisking around the Web be enough to alert them to the fact that I want and need to be included in family business? My sister-in-law and I have a history of getting along and not getting along, but we don't speak very often alone. Should I take a more direct approach and have a face-to-face conversation with her, letting her know that I, too, am part of the family, and I consider being left out to be hurtful and rude? Is there another, more polite path I can take?Dear e-Pariah:Etiquetteer doesn’t really understand why people try to pull this stuff. It’s so easy to trace!From your letter, it certainly sounds as though all the suspect e-mail has its roots with your sister-in-law. And if this has really been going on for six documented months, we can no longer assume that it’s just a mistake. Etiquetteer sees your sister-in-law actively excluding you from family affairs.While Etiquetteer loathes direct confrontation, this situation has reached the stage where you must speak with her face to face. Tell your sister-in-law, calmly and patiently, that you’ve noticed her excluding you from e-mail communication with the rest of the family for an extended period, that you think she’s leaving you out deliberately, and ask her to stop. You could also ask her why she’s leaving you out, but be careful: she could tell you, and you may not want to hear.Moving forward, for as long as your sister-in-law is part of your family, you will need to head her off at the pass. You yourself now need to start future discussions of your mother’s birthday and other family business in which you expect to take part. When you send e-mail, Etiquetteer recommends including a footer along the lines of "Please reply to the list at [Insert List E-mail Here] so that no one is left out of this discussion."Now Etiquetteer is going to talk about your mother’s birthday and the position of daughters-in-law in a family. The old Biblical stereotype of the daughter-in-law who moves in with her husband’s family essentially to serve as kitchen help to her mother-in-law no longer applies, thank goodness, but the residue of it clings when big family events arise. Daughters-in-law (and daughters, too) frequently get left "holding the bag," as it were, having to do a whole lot of cooking and cleaning and much less enjoying than anyone else at the party. Perhaps this is the root of your sisters-in-law’s planning, bypassing someone who’s, ahem, rather forceful? Etiquetteer has no way of knowing this, but offers it for your consideration.

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