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The Secondhand Reported Offense

About six months after my mom passed, and approximately eight months before my husband’s brother and girlfriend (I’ll call her Lisa) are to get married; Lisa, her sister Penny, and another friend of theirs came for a visit at my house, and turned a rather pleasant afternoon into something I’m still amazed over.

We all sat down to chat, and then Lisa started the next hour of conversation with:
“Why do you always talk to Mother-in-law about bargains you’ve found or garage sales, and why do you shop at Goodwill? You shouldn’t shop there, you have enough money to shop at (list of stores) and it looks bad when you talk about how much money you saved.” I was a little taken aback but responded that since my mom passed, I was conversing with mother-in-law about the things I used to talk about easily with Mom and was probably hoping to fill in the gap.

Nods all around.

And then the list of things I shouldn’t do went on: “I only call Penny when I need something” (not really true, I help Penny out with her son’s school projects occasionally, but I guess this is their perception). I apologized. And previously, when Lisa showed me the engagement ring, I exclaimed how big it was, which was off-putting. Yes, that was a gaffe on my part. I apologized. My parenting skills were addressed. My son is a happy, thriving child, full of smiles and he sleeps through the night. I’m very proud of him, albeit I’m a new mom and I’m sure I make mistakes. Lisa has no children yet. This continued while I looked for a way to escape my own home or change the subject to bean dip, but Lisa was on a mission. Finally, they left and I was utterly depressed for days. I wasn’t sure if Mother-in-law had mentioned her annoyance at my subject matter to Lisa, although it seemed unlikely. Mother-in-law never said anything bad about anyone.

The wedding is fast approaching and I’m still unsure how to approach or deal with Lisa. Since our conversation, I have “laid low” and have been civil, or as my mom would have suggested, I have smiled and been polite. I haven’t mentioned bargain shopping or saving money to Mother-in-law, and she hasn’t mentioned that she’s noticed any change in our conversations, which are always pleasant. Maybe one of these days, I’ll ask. I haven’t reached out to talk to Penny at all, nor has she called me.

I know it’s been a few months since this happened, but I still feel stung and astonished. I haven’t mentioned any of it to anyone else, except for right now at this writing. Has anyone ever been in a situation like this? Is it common? I’ve never had such an experience, and would rather avoid having it occur again.  1002-13

Lisa has ensconced herself as the family busybody before she’s even married.    And that is exactly how you should view her….a meddling, divisive busybody.   Almost every family has one and the way I deal with it is to refuse to discuss problems with people who are neither part of the problem nor the solution.    If a relative has an offense against me, that person is free to come discuss it with me but I do not entertain secondhand reports of someone else’s alleged offense from people who thrive on this kind of family drama.   Several years ago I was approached by a relative who claimed to speak for another relative about an offense this person had against yet another relative.   Did you get that?   Person A is allegedly offended at Person D so it goes through Person B to Person C (being me) and I am supposed to either be the mediator for Persons A and D or be the gossipy reporter to Person D.    I promptly took Person B to task for being willing to listen to Person A’s gripes and then come gossiping to me about it.   Person A can put on their big kid pants, grow some Spauldings and arrange to address the issues with Person D at any time but I will not be drawn into this drama.   And until Person A does speak with Person D, I’m going to assume there is no current issues between the two.   Person A never contacted Person D.

If your MIL has not mentioned any issues she has with you, I would continue living life as if nothing were amiss and dismiss Lisa’s lecture as the work of the family gossip.   Meanwhile you should examine yourself to make sure there is no crumb of truth to what Lisa claims.   Talking to MIL about issues that are of special interest to you only or using her to fill the motherless gap you have is somewhat selfish.    Unless your child is a raging brat, I would ignore Lisa’s ignorant child training observations, too.

Where is your husband in all this?   What does he think of the situation?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • acr October 11, 2013, 8:33 am

    OP, my heart hurts for you. To be ambushed in your home by a person who you thought you could trust – and who brought reinforcements! How awful! I don’t really agree with the Dame’s advice here. OP does not need to review her actions with a fine-tooth comb. None of the OP’s supposed “offenses” warranted this attack by Lisa and Penny, even if they had been 100% true. They come to your home, trap you, gang up on you and then lecture you. In front of some random friend of theirs. Have you discussed this with your husband?

    Penny and Lisa are social bullies. Don’t give them free rent in your head. Nothing they said is worth thinking about.

  • Nicole October 11, 2013, 9:04 am

    @ justme:

    I have a rummage/bulk Goodwill Outlet near me too, that it where I have found some really great stuff. The catch is they do not have a dressing room, but it is so cheap i buy what looks like it potentially fits, and then even if I donate half of it back to the same store, what I keep is still a deal. Some of my favorite things are Goodwill items or Lost and Found things from my job.

    @Library Diva

    I know what you mean about resellers, I have seen those at Goodwill too, however I figure if they need the money then good for them. The people in your post could be less obnoxious about it though. My biggest gripe is that 1. they are often not really ‘ready’ when they get to checkout, going through each item and rethinking it as they hand it to the cashier and 2. the wait for them to get through $80 or $100 of baby clothes, that is a lot of clothes at Goodwill prices. However, I have actually bought books on Amazon SOLD BY Goodwill stores. In fact I found a copy of my favorite childhood book of fairy tales at a Goodwill in Ohio.

  • Mir October 11, 2013, 9:33 am

    I, like most people, donate frequently to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. I also shop at their stores frequently. I don’t remember the last time I bought new clothing. I really don’t think there needs to be so much worry about “taking” clothing meant for the needy. It turns out that a large portion of the clothing that we are donating is never sold with almost 45% of all that clothing being shipped overseas? The numbers look like almost 3.8 billion pounds of donated clothing annually being recycled – and not going to the needy for wear.


  • NostalgicGal October 11, 2013, 10:08 am

    @ Nicole, Indeed, I have bought a lot of books on Amazon being sold by Goodwill stores. Sometimes at insanely cheap prices, I pay far more for the shipping. Kudos to the place that sold it versus tossed it; and the book gets a good home with me. (I don’t resell, I have done my share of bought ‘withdrawn’ books from someone as well, they picked them up at the Friends of The Library sale, and resold them on Amazon or eBay).

    Viva la thrift store, I like the browse. I will probably always shop at one if I get the chance. There is nothing wrong with active recycling of that nature… rather to give my business to a place like that for a gently used and preloved, and I take it out of the box and it will look like that in ten minutes or after I use it once anyways.

  • Maureen October 11, 2013, 6:34 pm

    I have not read the other comments yet but I am so sorry that this happened to you only six months after losing your Mom, OP. I am sitting here in tears remembering how vulnerable I was for a long time after my own mother’s passing, how I would have felt, and it’s been 18 years. It sounds like you have a lovely MIL with a firm, loving emotional connection to you and Ms. Lisa sounds jealous.

    I would be proud to have a DIL like you, my dear. Lisa, not so much.

  • hakayama October 12, 2013, 12:55 pm

    @Ergala: Congratulations on having great in laws and a MIL that is truly one in millions. You’ve obviously hit the grand win lottery.
    I also had lovely ILs, and sorely missed them after leaving Mr. X.
    That said, I stand by my position that, lovely as she might be, the OP’s MIL is really an unknown entity. It is not quite clear HOW Lisa came to know OP’s seemingly favorite subject in chats with her MIL… It is very possible that the MIL is into being an “equal love &/or confidences distributing person”, so information flows freely between and among her DILs and future DILs. While this in itself is not necessarily objectionable, the potential for damage is as great as the Lisas of this world want to make it.
    I truly feel your pain and sense of abandonment with regard to your own Mom… Even after the upheaval of moving far away, she could/should have been around you to greet the new grandbaby. However, is there a way for you to know the reason behind her non-action? Could it be that, to begin with, she’s an emotionally “cooler” person than you, and another grandchild does quite resonate the way it might with other people?
    From the looks of it though, she most likely has done things “right” for you to grow into the good and strong woman that peeks at us through your postings. I do wish you internal peace and serenity…

    Re MILs, without visiting websites like “Mother in law stories”, “I hate my in laws” or “DIL sisterhood”, I’ve met two of the worst possible samples practically within walking distance. Heard them too. ;-( This in a hamlet of maaaaaaaaaaybe 500, with a very interesting demographic make up. Just think, TWO unhinged MILs in a stretch of half a mile, with maybe 15 year round OCCUPIED houses 7 of them owned by single women.

  • ketchup October 12, 2013, 3:43 pm

    These things are tiring!
    Don’t let yourself be influenced in any way by such reports. I always try not to judge someone by what others gossip about them. You have no way of knowing whether the gossip is in any way reliable, whether the gossip is truthful, or is even trying to be. Just be yourself, OP. What a person says about any subject always tells you more about the speaker, than about anything else. It seems you have a nice, comfortable rapport with your mother in law, and that’s something to cherish.

  • hakayama October 12, 2013, 4:21 pm

    @Ergala… correction please: seventh line from bottom should be:
    “…another grandchild does NOT quite resonate the way it might with other people?”

  • Ergala October 13, 2013, 3:03 pm

    @hakayama My mother has her own life and has made that quite clear to my sister and I. We harbor no ill feelings toward her and we are perfectly fine on our own with our own families. She loves babies but isn’t quite as enamored with older children. Basically once they are walking and talking they lose their novelty with her. My mother in law absolutely adores being a grandmother and she loves being a mother in law as well. Because of this we are quite close, she has made it quite clear that I AM family. For a long time I was suspicious of this and thought she was faking it because of my own experiences with my mother. It took several years for me to really believe that she thinks of me as her own daughter in many ways. It sounds like the OP has that same understanding with her MIL. It is possible for in laws to blend together so perfectly that it’s pretty seamless. I just hope it isn’t a rare occasion.

  • Floofy October 15, 2013, 6:08 pm

    I’m 100% agreeing with Kat. I’ve seen exactly what she’s talking about and I find it absolutely sickening. What gets me the most is I’ve seen women take out the wedding dresses(!!!!) start tugging on the lace and exclaim what FABULOUS curtains these would make. I’m one of those people who shops at thrift stores out of need, not fun. I get that people want good bargains and when you have money to blow, yes I’m sure it IS fun! All I ask is people go into the store with a conscious, and donate if they’re going to shop there.
    Lastly, those people who pick through thrift stores with the intent to sell the clothes later on Ebay for jacked up prices? Someone in absolute NEED could have got a nice warm coat for $10 that would last them years, but no…a thrift-picker snatches it up and off to Ebay it goes, all yours for the modest price of $200…

    Sorry to stray from the topic. Anyways, Lisa clearly sounds jealous of OP. She wants to be the “golden child” in MiL’s eyes and is doing everything she can to make herself look better. Just ignore her, she’ll dig her own grave if she doesn’t learn to mind her own business.

  • Lola October 17, 2013, 2:03 pm

    OP, you have to let go of your desire to appease and have good relationships with these people. For your peace of mind, I strongly recommend that you limit your interactions with these toxic people and respond to every provocation with a beatific smile and, “Thanks for noticing.” And that’s it! Resist the urge to say anything else: it’s pearls before swine. I predict you’ll only have to ride it out for another couple of years, if your BIL comes to his senses.

  • EchoGirl October 21, 2013, 12:11 am

    I know the Goodwill thread wasn’t actually the topic of the post, but as it’s taken over the comment board I do have a few opinions on the matter.

    First of all, the disability issue. I’m disabled myself, so this is a sore spot for me, even though I can do most standard jobs (I know for a fact I don’t qualify for disability benefits) so it probably won’t affect me directly. The “dignity of work” thing may apply, but I’ve noticed that in a lot of cases it’s used to justify otherwise unfair labor practices like paying people below minimum wage (or kicking people off welfare). If that would affect disability benefits then we should work to fix that system, not use it as an excuse. Also, many of them are paid FAR below minimum wage, sometimes less than a quarter an hour. It’s exploitative. (This applies really only to Goodwill, not to other thrift store chains or independent stores that are covered under the umbrella some of the other comments cover.)

    Now to the more prevalent issue. Yes, I shop at secondhand stores. I’ve bought clothes, curtains, kitchenware, even, yes, things I intended to alter or use in projects (only once or twice, and nothing as valuable or sought-after as a wedding dress). If I walked into a thrift store wearing clothes I bought the last time I was there, I might very well look “too rich” to be shopping there (the “hipster” thing might also cross someone’s mind since I do have a purple streak in my hair). The prices are equivalent to clearance at the department store and even though they’ve been worn before they often last longer, and I don’t have that much money to spare. Also add me to the chorus of people who’ve never been at a thrift store that looked to be in any danger of running out of anything except maybe formal dresses (and that’s usually only during prom season, go in in September or at Christmas and those racks are bursting at the seams, as it were). I once spent two hours in a Goodwill because of a messed-up bus schedule and didn’t get through a quarter of their supply. A lot of their function is, as others have said, to sell the stuff and then use the money to fund charity programs.