Dear Carolyn • A close friend of mine has a new girlfriend. I don't like her. She's treated me with disrespect and she just doesn't seem to be a nice person. She's said some really mean things about people right in front of them. I'm planning on having a little housewarming party. Is there any polite way I can say my friend is invited, but I don't want him to bring his girlfriend over when I'm hosting events?
You're Invited but Your Girlfriend Isn't
Dear Invited • When she's said these mean things, you've asked her to clarify/apologize/step off, right? If not, then you need to. And if that doesn't improve the situation, then you tell your close friend you're concerned about some things his girlfriend has said. You ask if you're reading these situations correctly. You listen to his answer. Then you give the girlfriend extra chances to show you why your close friend likes her, because that's what you do for close friends. In the meantime, your party will happen, so invite her despite your reservations because that's also what close friends do.
Dear Carolyn • How do I renegotiate the terms on which I relate to my in-laws? I was an independent adult when I met their son; he and I have been married two years. I had hoped for a close relationship with them, but it's clear they're not interested. They ask me to call them Mr. and Mrs., among other subtle things that keep me at arm's length. But they call me "Dear," which makes me very uncomfortable given that it's obvious they don't think I'm a "dear" anything. How can I dial it back to "Mrs. Lastname" without sounding snooty?
Dear In-Law • "Dear" isn't confusing when you treat it as a term of patronage vs. affection. My guess is you tried to relate to them as a peer when they were more comfortable with hierarchy. Call me cynical, but when you say "renegotiate," I hear that you'd like to take another shot at getting the relationship with them you want. If that's your intent, spike it now; challenging boundaries rarely endears us to anyone, but especially not to Mr. and Mrs. Formality.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.