I have never been close to my Stepmother, as my Father had married her when I was in my late teens, and I had never lived with her, but until my now-husband and I became engaged, I had no idea that she bore me so much resentment and jealousy. Nor was I aware that she was capable of this much venom and pettiness. Both my now-husband and I have doctoral level degrees; I have a Ph.D. and am a university professor, while my husband is a physician. My husband also comes from a relatively affluent family in comparison to my family which is comfortably middle class but by no means wealthy. As such when we became engaged, my husband was able to present me with a beautiful engagement ring. I assure you that I would have been thrilled to marry my husband with a plastic ring from a Cracker Jack box, but when we came to visit my Father and Stepmother and announce our engagement, my Stepmother took one look at my ring and said, “It looks too big to be real. It must be fake,” and proceeded to grumble about marrying for money for the rest of the night. At the time, I was too busy being excited about my engagement to give her poor manners much thought, although my soon-to-be husband reminded me that in the past, my Stepmother had conspicuously absented herself from my graduations, feigning an illness at my college and Master’s graduation, and refusing to attend my doctoral graduation (her son never completed college, which has been a source of a lot of pain for her). Wisely, my soon-to-be husband said, “Your Stepmother is going to be trouble”. Boy, was he right…
During the wedding planning process, my Stepmother repeatedly asserted that her family should have a big role in the wedding. My Stepbrother, her son, was given a role, but since I am not very close to her daughter-in-law, her son’s wife, she was simply invited to the wedding as a guest. My Stepmother was very upset by that and asked me why I was including my husband’s sister and one of my dearest friends as a bridesmaid in the wedding but not her daughter-in-law. She was also very upset that her grandchildren were not invited to the wedding (but since the wedding was a black-tie Saturday evening affair, my husband and I opted not to invite any children to the wedding and included our nieces, nephews and our friends’ children at the rehearsal dinner which was held at times when little ones would be much more likely to be awake, not bored and enjoy the festivities). She also repeatedly assailed both me and my Mother with questions about what my Mother would be wearing, what my Mother-in-Law would be wearing, etc. I did not ask the women in the family to wear a particular color, trusting their tastes, but my Stepmother accused me of lying to her and not telling her what the color was so that she would be left out. At the end, she chose to wear a nice, although very low-cut evening gown, but because she wanted to show up my Mother-in-Law, who she was convinced was a “snotty rich woman”, she decided to top the gown off with a rented fur stole. Mind you the wedding was in the winter, but it was in the South (the temperature was around 60 degrees), and it was indoors. Fine, you want to wear a fur stole, go for it. Whatever.
She was also offended that I chose to only take my Mother dress-shopping with me (I had wanted it to be an intimate bonding experience with my Mom and didn’t even ask my bridal party to come with me). When my dress was purchased, she repeatedly criticized me for wearing a strapless gown since we are Jewish and getting married in a religious ceremony. When I told her that my Rabbi had said that righteousness is not determined by dress sleeves but by the content of someone’s spirit and deeds, she told me that I shouldn’t wear strapless, anyway, since my arms are too fat and my breasts too large to look nice in a strapless gown. I bit my tongue and told her that I thought my dress was beautiful, as did my Mother and other family members who had seen it.
At my wedding shower, she proceeded to criticize me for registering rather than asking people to give me money and told me that I would “make more money at the wedding” if my husband and I did not in fact, register. I gently reminded her that a registry was not a mandatory list, simply some items that the couple would like to own, and no one was compelled to shop from it, or even to buy a couple a wedding gift.
The day before the wedding, all the parents and the two of us, the engaged couple, got together for brunch. My Stepmother refused to come, even though she knew about it for months because she was going to watch her son’s children. Since his parents lived across the country from mine, I called her and asked her to please, make time to attend, which she did..for ten minutes. During which, she proceeded to critisize my Mother, me, the food and then, left to visit with her son and his family (it turns out that his children didn’t need babysitting; it was simply an excuse to bow out of the festivity). She had only met my husband’s parents once prior to the brunch.
The day of the wedding, she was over an hour late (she and my Father had planned to arrive separately, as she had to pick up her elderly Mother and bring her to the wedding), missed the formal photos (we took formal pictures prior to the ceremony) and almost missed the ceremony. Mind you, the wedding was taking place in her home town, and my Father had previously driven with her to the location of the wedding and reception to make sure that she knew exactly where she was going. She also had a GPS and a map. Her son and his wife proceeded to be even later and walked in about 30 minutes into the ceremony. She was clearly worried about them being late because she took her cell phone with her down the aisle, and it began ringing under the chuppah!!! (In a Jewish wedding, all the parents stand under the chuppah with the bride and groom). Thankfully, the Rabbi gave her a glare until she turned the phone off. Her son’s entrance made a lot of noise, but the ceremony continued, we were married and off to the reception.
At the reception, things had proceeded smoothly, or so I thought. At the end of the day, my husband and I were thrilled with what we thought was a lovely and elegant wedding, and our guests seemed to have a great time and praised the food, the music, etc. Instead of a guestbook, my husband and I had had an engagement photo blown up and framed with a mat that could be signed by our guests, and we had it displayed on an easel next to our ketubah, so the guests could sign it on the way in and out of the reception. My Stepbrother had signed it in huge letters writing, “Where’s the bathroom? My wife needs to pee”, right underneath our wedding portrait. He also signed it (so that there was no doubt whose idiocy this was, I guess). I didn’t see this until after the reception, but both my husband and I were livid that next to the good wishes and congratulations written by our guests was this drivel. My Dad and my Mom were furious when they saw it, but when my Dad confronted both my Stepbrother and Stepmother about it, they both denied that it was him (he signed it, for crying out loud). So, the portrait is ruined. It has taken copious amounts of White-Out to cover it up, and now, it just looks like a mess.
About a day or two after we returned from our honeymoon, my Stepmother called me and proceeded to tell me in detail about how awful my wedding was, with too many guests, too rich of food, too modern of floral arrangements (instead of roses, we opted for hydrangeas and calla lilies and orchids, which I guess, did not agree with her), too loud of music, and how everyone of her guests hated my wedding. Funny, the same people called my Mother and me to tell us how beautiful the wedding was, as did our other guests, and our wedding subsequently made it into a national wedding publication.
My Stepmother also told me that my Mother’s cleavage was too low (hers was downright nun-like compared to my Stepmother’s whose lacy bra was visible through the dress), and finally, that my husband looked “tired and like he didn’t want to be there”. Meanwhile, my husband is beaming in every wedding photo. My Stepmother also accused me of bad manners for spending too much time walking around the reception and thanking my guests for coming (Isn’t that what a bride is supposed to do? Personally thank every guest for attending her wedding?) instead of “staying put”. The entire time, she also told me how my Stepbrother’s wedding several years back was much better than mine, even though fake flowers, a windowless hall and poor behavior on the part of the bride (as I recall, she did not budge from her chair and insisted that everyone come to her rather than visiting them) were the main features at that wedding.
While I had tolerated her insults to this point, at the end of this conversation, I was livid and in tears. I did talk to my Father after I calmed down (and calmed down my husband who was just as furious) and asked him to speak with her about leaving me alone, and I have had little contact with my Stepmother since the wedding. The latest news is that we are 15 weeks pregnant, and she has yet to congratulate us. 0402-10