DEAR ABBY: I'm writing concerning a problem I deal with all the time. We have relatives who can never be on time for anything. This is not a big deal at a barbecue, but for a sit-down holiday dinner it's a real headache.
Some of the actual comments I have received: "How late can I be before I inconvenience everyone?" "We'll be late -- hope your dinner won't be ruined." "Dinner at 4? We might make it by 4 or 5." "We can't make it that early. Back dinner off an hour, will you?"
I used to juggle the time around, trying to suit everyone, which is impossible. Or I would tell them that dinner was a half-hour earlier than it actually was. The late ones would STILL be late.
Finally, I had had it. I responded: "No, you won't ruin my dinner, because we are eating at 4." "Oh, you won't inconvenience anyone, because dinner is at 4, as planned." "You can't make it at that time? Sorry. We'll miss you."
Well, now I'm the villain! But only to the third of the family who is always late. The "late ones" were even late for their mother's surprise birthday party.
Abby, was I too rude, or were my assertive statements justified? -- IN THE DOGHOUSE
DEAR IN: It was rude of your chronically late relatives to demand that you put your dinner party on hold to suit their schedules. You were overdue in asserting yourself and issuing your "Declaration of No More Co-Dependence."
Rather than laying a guilt trip on you, the late-niks should have simply agreed to join you and the rest of the family for dessert and coffee -- and whatever was left of the leftovers.