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It's All Relatives

Where can I start about my mother-in-law? For my birthday (in early January) she gave me a dozen almond nuts wrapped in cellophane. I thanked her and she said perhaps I could use them for cooking. I replied that we would probably just eat them. She said, "well I couldn't crack the shells" She had obviously bought a bag of mixed nuts in for Christmas and given me the ones she couldn't get into. And she didn't seem embarrassed in the slightest. Oh, and when my husband rang her to tell her we were expecting our first child her first comment was: " There was a program on last night about birth defects, did you see it?"

Not long after we first started going out we were at her house and as she had to nip out somewhere she said: "Upstairs is out of bounds and I've cleaned up there today so I'll know if anyone's been up there" I was only 18 at the time and NOT used to being spoken to like that, I was appalled! She's lovely isn't she? I could go on but perhaps I'll save other stories for another time...    Relatives0111-02

My tale of the mother-in-law from Hell includes the wedding, but mostly life before. I had dated my ex-husband for about 10 years before we got married. Part of the reason for the long wait was that we met when I was 15, and I wanted to wait until after college to get married. But I digress. My husband’s mother, "Gertrude" was really a piece of work. During the years we dated she never missed an opportunity to insult me and call me a slut/whore/etc. When I would come to visit "Rick" (at their non-air-conditioned house) wearing summery clothes (tank top & shorts) she would declare it an outfit for "easy access".

Once in college I decided to bleach my hair. I was very pleased with how it came out. When his mother saw it she loudly proclaimed, "you look like a whore!" Rick’s sister "Janet" (the nice one) happened to be sitting there at the time and admonished her, "Mom, you shouldn’t say things like that, it’s not nice." She replied with "I say what I think. That’s what I think. What, I shouldn’t say what I think?" Whatever.

Gert was quite a swearer too. (However I am sanitizing most of what she’s said as I am NOT a swearer.) She could say things to make sailors blush. Rick’s other sister "Judy" was aiming for being a carbon copy of her mother. The two of them often swore in front of Judy’s children. Interestingly enough Judy’s daughter’s first words were to repeat a common insult Gert used towards "Mark" Judy’s 8 year old son when he wasn’t the proper "slave" to her desires. "Mark I’m going to cut your Ba**s off. (Nice thing for a grandmother to tell her 8 year old grandson eh?) They were both so surprised when she said it and wondered where the little girl got that from?

She was also notorious for volunteering people to do things without their permission or often even their knowledge. Like one time I show up to visit Rick only to be informed by Gert that we will now be babysitting Rick’s sister’s children for several hours while the parents and the sisters and their spouses (but not Rick) go out to dinner. Rick’s brother had learned to avoid Gert’s demands by screening his phone calls so he didn’t have to deal with her. Then he would conveniently return her call after it was too late to do whatever it was she wanted. Unfortunately Rick was too much of a mamma’s boy to put up any fight to her demands, no matter how unreasonable they got. Also, because she couldn’t get the brother to do things, Gert often heaped even more things on Rick.

After I graduated from college, I thought I should try to put some effort into finding a pleasant way to relate to the woman who I knew would eventually be my mother-in-law. We spent several months going shopping, doing lunches and hanging out. Things seemed to be going well. However the more I spent time with her, the more she felt she could order me around and volunteer me to do things. One of the things she had been doing that bugged me was: whenever it would rain, she would call me and ask me to come pick up Rick and his father from the train station and drive them home. I should also mention that they lived about 2 blocks from the train station, and usually the guys walked. (I lived about 20 minutes away.) She could have picked them up as she was home all the time, but she didn’t like driving, so I was supposed to do it. After several of these trips to pick up the guys, I asked Rick to please ask his mother not to volunteer me for anything else. He assured me he would take care of it, and from now on if he needed a ride from the train station he would call me directly.

Sure enough, the next time it rains I get a call from Gert telling me to go pick up the guys. I explained to her that if Rick wanted a ride he would have called me, which he didn’t, and they would be fine walking the two blocks home. She seems ok with this and we hang up. A few minutes later Rick calls and says "so you’re picking us up at the train station?" I ask him if his mother had called him and told him to call me to ask for the ride and he says yes. Now I’m fuming because Gert is being manipulative yet again and Rick isn’t doing anything about it. Rick tells me at that point that if I have a problem with Gert I needed to deal with it myself. So I call her back on the phone and politely try to explain that I do not want her to volunteer me for anything else please and that I have talked to Rick and he does not need a ride home. Well she goes ballistic. She screams F*** You, I can’t believe you won’t do this after all the things I’ve done for you!" and slams the phone down. That was the last time I tried to be friendly with her.

So now fast forward to our engagement. Once we were engaged I had a little over a year to plan the wedding. My parents kindly offered to pay for our wedding. I come from a family of modest means, so I really hadn’t expected this generosity. Now, I should also mention that my family is very, very small. When my grandparents were alive our entire extended family was 11 people. Because of this I decided to have a very small wedding, 50-60 people. Unfortunately Rick came from a very large family. Because of this I allowed him to have two thirds of the invitations. When the limited number of guests was explained to his mother she had a fit. How could we not invite this one and that one etc. They all just HAD to come! I nipped that one in the bud by telling Rick that I did not intend to have my parents pay to host a family reunion for his family. If his parents wanted more guests than had been allotted, then they would have to pay for those guests themselves. That ended that debate rather quickly.

Meanwhile, his parents bought a new house in Indiana. (They currently lived in Illinois.) They did not however put their old house up for sale. Their plan was to move things from one house to another over time. Fine. Well, a few months before the wedding, Gert announces that they will be renting a truck and moving ALL their stuff the weekend before our wedding. Since the other house was not up for sale, it wasn’t like they had to move at any certain time. She just HAPPENED to pick that weekend. Hmmm... Well Rick’s brother informs her that he will be on vacation that week and not to expect his help. Rick also informs her that it’s the weekend before our wedding and we’ll be too busy to help them move. She says that’s ok, no problem. However a few days prior to their chosen moving day Gert called up Rick and laid on the emotional blackmail thickly "how can you not help your poor mother? You #@**$ ungrateful wretch" and even though he was in tears because of her verbal cruelty he agreed to help her move. Oh, I should also add that she threatened to not come to our wedding if he didn’t help them move. I believe that was what finally made him agree to help.

Ah, but there’s more! Rick and I had chosen to have a hyphenated last name. So to let the family know this I used the new last name on the return address for our wedding invitations. I wasn’t sure if that was appropriate or not, but I thought it would be the best way to get the message across to our families. Well, although they never actually said anything to our faces, we heard from other family members that Rick’s parents were very upset by us choosing a hyphenated last name. (Of course it’s all MY fault was also what I heard.) One day at work I get a call from one of Rick’s uncles (Gert’s brother) who is in town visiting. He proceeds to grill me for over an hour about why on earth would I choose that name and didn’t I know how wrong and screwy it was? I could hear Gert in the background telling him what to say to me. (A classic trick of hers to make the confrontation, "not her fault") The conversation finally ended with the uncle saying "what would my minister think?!?" To which I replied, "I really don’t care what he’d think as it’s none of his d**n business. The uncle hung up soon after that. '

As I said, I had planned a very modest wedding. One of the few "frills" I wanted was that I had asked the two fathers to wear a tuxedo. My father went right away to get his. Time passed, and the wedding was only a few weeks away and Rick’s father had not gone to get fitted for his tuxedo. I called him to ask him when he thought he’d be able to do it. His response? "Oh I was planning on wearing overalls to your wedding. That would be different. That’s what you want isn’t it? To be different?" (I assume he was referring to the last name although he never actually said it.) I tried to be nice and said that I would prefer if he would wear a tuxedo, but I would be ok with whatever he chose to wear. He did eventually go get a tuxedo. I also tried to get his mother to go out with me to pick a dress for her. Her response when I asked her, "I can’t afford a new dress". This from a woman who spends hundreds of dollars on the home shopping network weekly. You can’t afford a new dress for your own son’s wedding? Whatever. I left it at that as I didn’t want to get in another fight with her.

The wedding itself went off really well. It was quite beautiful, and everyone was for the most part well behaved. The only minor annoying thing was again Gert. She had asked me a few days before the wedding if she could see my wedding dress. I told her she would have to wait until the wedding and be surprised like everyone else. The day of the wedding my mother, my MOH and I were in the waiting room before the ceremony. Well guess who barges in uninvited but Gert. (I don’t know how she found where we were, as it was a rather large church with a school attached so there were quite a few rooms she must have looked through to find us.) "I want to see your dress!" she demands. I hid behind a screen to avoid her while my mother and MOH got rid of her. And by the way, it was only about 15 minutes until the ceremony, so it wasn't like she would have to wait very long. Funny thing, but soon after the wedding Gert had a talk with Rick and honestly did not understand why I didn’t like her. Go figure. After 10 years of insults I'm surprised she didn't get it. I’m now divorced from Rick, and I have to say I’m glad I’ll never have to see that shrew of a mother-in-law again.     Relatives0628-02

Now taking votes for how many of us saw that divorce coming from 100 miles away....

I have been in a committed but non-cohabitating relationship for almost 12 years; my boyfriend is the 4th oldest of 6 children, one girl and 5 boys, all adults. Three of his siblings are divorced, his sister is currently living with a long-term boyfriend and one brother has a non-cohabitating relationship with a woman who used to live with him.

A few years ago, to celebrate their parents' 50th wedding anniversary, my boyfriend and his siblings put on a dinner in the private dining room of a very nice restaurant in our city - just the family and spouses/partners. I had not met his sister or two of his brothers prior to this, as they (and his parents) live in different provinces. There was good food, good wine, a lot of family in-jokes, but I was as comfortable as one could be in a gathering like that - I chatted with the two brothers I did know, as well as the son of one of those brothers and the son's girlfriend, and made getting-acquainted small talk with the "new" family members.

After dinner, my boyfriend's mother stood up to make a short speech. She was listing the many blessings in her and her husband's lives, talking about "our lovely Aurora (sister) and dearest Daniel (sister's live-in)", "our blessed Ronald (brother) and his devoted Barbara (brother's girlfriend)", and so on. She ended with the afterthought, Oh, yes, we're so glad Kenneth's friend Adriana was able to attend "(that's me). Friend?????

A couple of years later, older sister and her live-in were in the city over the Christmas holidays, and we went to have brunch with them at a restaurant near their hotel. We spent about two hours with them, chatting, catching up, and at the end, when we were parting, big sister shook my hand and said, quite insincerely, "so nice to see you again, ARLENE" (NOT my name). I didn't bother correcting her, just said, "it's been a pleasure" quite warmly and left. My boyfriend has apologized to me for his family's discourtesies, and we often laugh about these incidents.


Here's a story about a gift my Mom received that I just had to share. About once a month or so, my stepfather's family get together to celebrate the family birthdays in that month. When the month of my Mom's birthday rolled around, she got some nice presents, and one not-so-nice one. My aunt "Jenny" gave her the most hideous, lime-green sweater that had geometrical shapes sewn on it. It was the ugliest sweater I have ever seen. And it gets worse. Jenny kindly informs my Mom that, in case she wanted to return it, she had bought the sweater for $2.00 on clearance from K-Mart! My Mom sucked it up and thanked her, and promptly buried the sweater in the closet. About a year later, when clash day in my high school rolls around, I wear the sweater Aunt Jenny gave my Mom, and it starts unraveling by lunchtime.    relatives1218-02

A week after giving birth to my 9 lb. 6.4 oz. son via C-section, of which he was 10 days late and included 2 1/2 days of induced labor, my mother-in-law corners me while changing my son's diaper. "Why aren't you have sex with my son?"

"What??? I just gave birth."

"Don't give me that. A week is more than enough. Men have needs and it's your wifely duty to provide it!"

She stormed out of room in a huff, leaving me to wonder why in the world she would bring this up. My husband has never been that close to her, let alone close enough to discuss something like that. Plus, any sane person knows the dangers of "marital relations" that soon after a C-section.  relative1228-02

Page Last Updated May 18, 2007