When Tía Wants to Treat You


About a year ago I signed onto this Latina advice column gig that turned out to be very irregular. I rarely get questions, and no one ever really reads it but thought some of you might find it helpful.

Dear Amelia:
Please help! My tía [aunt] never lets me pay for myself when we eat out together. It’s frustrating, and I’d like to treat her for once. My family is very generous, and it’s considered polite to insist on paying. How do I tactfully get her to let me be an adult for once?       

Dear Freeloader:

This is a tricky one. tías are very very insistent. While your average person might go through a single round of “​Oh no​” and “​I insist​, tías will insist to the death.

And that’s what you must remember. When you meet your tía for a meal not resigning to let her pay, you’ve accepted a duel.

This isn’t an exaggeration. She’ll use every available tactic to pay and preserve her honor. Your chances of victory are slim. The best advice I can give would be to surrender and let her pay while you give a defeated “​okay…but next time​….”, feeling like a sullen teen. Should you decide that your pride and adulthood is truly at stake, I can only offer these pointers.

Your sweet tía  is now your enemy. And the enemy won’t mention paying beforehand. You’ll both talk in general terms about “meeting up” for lunch to catch up. She may even throw in a seemingly unrelated story about her high medical bills to throw you off right before begging to see you sometime soon. But it’s all in the name of surprise, the first rule of dueling… Although in fact, it seems that there’s almost no surprise at all in a duel, because you literally count out how many steps you take from each other, then turn and immediately shoot, but I digress.

She’ll likely stay tight-lipped until you’re sitting face to face and have just talked for forty five minutes about who is dying, who’s dead, and which one of your cousins is “​shacking up​”  or “living in sin”. Then, with a seemingly selfless tone, it comes.

“​Mija, let me get this one.​”

When you politely decline and take out your wallet, she’ll up the ante.

“​Excuse me, but I never get to see my niece anymore. I’ve had a hard day pushing your ungrateful grandmother up a steep hill in her wheelchair with my bad hip, can I please buy you a meal?​”

Take a breath. Hold her gaze for a bit while you calculate your next move. Don’t be scared to use her own fear against her.

“​Tía, I want to. We might not get another chance to get together, what with you being old and your hip and all. I’m always scared this will be the last time I see you​.”

Dab the sweat from your brow. That was a good one. Some tías will even stop there and let you pay. Every now and then, though, there’s a certain breed with a steel streak who won’t stand down. If your aunt is this type, feign defeat and let her pay. Don’t worry, we’re not through. Enjoy the meal and take some pics of you together. She’ll beam thinking she’s won, but you know better. Part ways, and let time pass. About a week.

Break into ol’ Cotton Top’s house and PUT the money there. Not when she’s asleep. She’s still a woman with an instinct to defend her dwelling to the death. The last thing you need is some blunt force trauma to the head. She’ll also probably tuck the cash into your pocket right before they bury your body, and that’s the worst way to lose this battle.

Choose a time you know she’s out getting her senior­ discount coffee or whatever aunts do when they’re not paying for meals. I won’t go into breaking and entering etiquette here, but just make sure to put it somewhere that’ll blow her mind. Inside a flour cannister or something. And have fun with it! Maybe include a Denny’s gift certificate, even. And one of the pics you took during lunch, that way she knows you’ve had the last word.

Relish in your victory. You’re now a felon.

But you’re a felon whose retained her dignity and beat the mastermind at her own game, bravo.

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