Nothing is Certain but Death and…..Taxidermy

People are always writing to the columnists for validation of their excuses not to go to relatives’ homes–they drink, they smell, they’re slobs, they’re packrats, the pool isn’t fenced in, they post controversial political and/or religious propaganda, their dogs are overly affectionate and/or overly aggressive….the list goes on and on, but here’s one I’ve never seen before:

DEAR ABBY: My oldest sister has just married a very nice man. (It’s her second marriage.) My only problem is that “Norman” is a taxidermist. Going to their home frightens my daughter and makes me feel, frankly, a bit nauseous. I have avoided going there since the first time, but have been getting questions from family about why I keep turning down invitations.

How do I answer these questions without hurting my sister’s feelings? She’s a great sister, and I really like Norman. But their house gives me and my animal-loving daughter nightmares. Please help. — CREEPED OUT IN ARIZONA

DEAR CREEPED OUT: Be honest, but be gentle. Tell your sister that you love her and think her new husband is terrific, but the stuffed animals (etc.) make you uncomfortable. Make sure she knows that when she’s having a barbecue or a swimming party (thank God you live in a state with a mild climate), you’d love to come over. But you’re not up to another trip through the gallery of the living dead because it gave your daughter nightmares.

I think this is a cop out. I understand that a child might be a little creeped out by a house full of preserved animals. I’ve felt that way myself. And I think it’s ok for the mom to say to her sister, in grown-up-to-grown-up kind of way, “Please don’t mind Susie…the animals make her a little nervous.”

But I don’t think this is grounds to reject wholesale her sister’s homestead (p.s. why bother noting that this is her second marriage? Trying to justify that the new husband isn’t really family perhaps?)

The mom needs to be a grown up here, and use her daughter’s nerves as a learning opportunity, not an excuse for herself. Susie gets a pass, for now–but her mom needs to explain to her, and then exemplify with her behavior, there there are all kinds of people (and careers) in the world, and that they need to be gracious to all of them–especially to “very nice” people, and to family!–even if they’re not completely comfortable.

Animal lovers or no, the only legitimate way to make an honest stand about this is if they’re also vegetarians, and avoid the butcher counter at the grocery store because it upsets them. In fact, many an animal lover has had taxidermy done on the bodies of their beloved pets. It’s not something I’d choose to do myself, but it’s it important to note that taxidermy and love or at least respect for animals are not mutually exclusive.

As long as “Norman” isn’t engaging in graphic shop talk, after a few visits the “decorations” will hopefully fade into the background.

Speaking of which–don’t know if the writer or Abby’s editors picked out the pseudonym but “Norman”? Really? That’s out of line–just because Hitchcock gave taxidermy a bad name with Norman Bates doesn’t mean that Abby should encourage the stereotype. Come on, Abby, stand up for taxidermists everywhere!

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