Friday, October 02, 2009

Hey, I Gave It My Best Shot....


* (By the way, Anonymouses, you're starting to get on my nerves....and also, my friend Amy has asked me to stop responding to your nonsense. And I value my friend Amy---so BACK OFF. The party's OVER, ya hear me? I'm changing the subject.)


A lot of people have asked me recently about why I don't like Blaine's parents---especially his mother--- and why I went into total rebellion mode when they visited this past week, where I hid in my room for most of their visit. (Which, of course, is one of the rudest sins one could commit against guests in one's home.)

And yes, I know that I have a reputation for being a scrapper---and that I can be irritable on certain principles that I hold dear to my heart---but I promise you, hand over my heart, that 99% of the time I am a very loving person, using my best southern manners to everyone I encounter with a true desire to get along with all of the people in my little world. And for 16 years I truly gave my very best shot for a decent relationship with Blaine's mother.

But it wasn't to be---no matter how hard I tried. Blaine's parents never gave me a break and treated me like a dog for 16 years, criticizing everything I ever did/said/wore/or talked about.

Blaine's mother is the worst. That woman defies all manner of compatibility, no matter how much one grovels at her feet---and believe me, I have groveled at her feet plenty over the years.

But this time, when I returned from Texas after two long train trips in the space of one month, one after the other--- first after the tragedy of my grandmother's death, and then second after going to Dallas for some birthday celebrations--- I was more than EXHAUSTED.

I was shellshocked and fatigued, having experienced a myriad of emotions in a short period of time---from despair at my Mamo's death to happiness for my sister's family during their birthday event---and I had no emotional defenses left for the usual ugly treatment of me by Blaine's parents.

It all started in 1993. I'll just list everything in chronological order, beginning with the first day I ever met her, in the days before Blaine and I got married at Lake Tahoe, NV. And I'll let you make the judgment of whether or not I tried "enough" over the years to get along with her (and paid enough "dues")--- or whether or not you think I was a complete jerk this past week when I committed the ultimate "southern manners" sin of being a bad hostess.

1. (First night I met her, two days before Blaine and I were to be married in 1993, when I offered to make the family dinner and made my Texas Country-Style Stew recipe.) She took one bite and asked loudly: "Why is there RED in the stew? What in the heck would make it RED?"

This remark mortified me. I was raised "Southern", where every child is indoctrinated that the worst sin in the world is to criticize a lady's cooking. In fact, you are taught that you must actively COMPLIMENT the hostess' food, no matter WHAT!---even if you're served dog shit on a plate! Per my southern upbringing, I ignored Blaine's mother's horrid remark and kept politely chatting around the table with various other relatives there---but the harpy REPEATED the remark even LOUDER! And then when I ignored it again, she repeated it again LOUDER so that everybody HAD to acknowledge it. (And the other relatives looked horrified as well.) Finally, I quietly replied: "There are some tomatoes and a little bit of tomato sauce in the stew."

But she kept muttering about the "redness" of the stew the rest of the meal.

This.....was only the beginning....

2. (Over a period of the next 4 years of Blaine's and my marriage) Every single solitary meal I ever cooked, she would ask about the ingredients. Her pet peeve was cumin. She would always ask: "Does this dressing have cumin in it? I hate the taste of cumin." For FOUR solid years!!! And the only thing I ever put cumin in was chili and Indian food! And I had never served her chili or Indian food!

When I complained to Blaine he said she truly didn't like cumin and wasn't trying to be critical. But I didn't think so. I knew she knew exactly what she was doing and was intentionally trying to be rude to me. So finally I got so tired of her asking if my dishes had cumin in it that I decided to play a trick on her to prove to Blaine that I was right---to prove that she WAS just trying to be rude.

So I made a grand meal for a holiday one year--- and I put cumin in everything. I mean, I put that damn cumin in EVERYTHING. I even put cumin in the fruit salad and the hot rolls. I even sprinkled it in the ice tea. But at dinner I sweetly informed her that I had respected her wishes and hadn't put cumin in anything. Sure enough---after she finished eating-- she praised everything, saying: "FINALY, at last, your food is much better because you have stopped adding cumin to your dishes. Cumin is such a bitter spice and it ruins the flavor of anything it is put in."

Yes, I did laugh my ass off later, privately, after everybody had left and I was alone with Blaine---and confessed to him what I had done. (He just rolled his eyes....)

3. She has always talked bad about me when she's within earshot of me! I mean, she actually WANTS me to hear her! And other people near me hear it, too! But never once have I said: "I can hear you....."

4. And then last winter, tragedy struck. She had to have knee surgery---and her husband is elderly and incapable of helping a heavy sick woman who can't walk. And not one of her four children would agree to go take care of her, which I found sad. And then, two days after surgery, she developed a severe complication--- post-op pneumonia, which can be fatal to elderly people. Still....none of her children would go take care of her. And add insult to injury.....her doctor solemnly informed her that her recent breast biopsy was positive for cancer. She would need a mastectomy as soon as possible after she recovered from the pneumonia, when her lungs could tolerate anesthesia again.

She was so very sick. And none of her children would take care of her. And so, being a nurse, my nursing oaths simply would not allow me to leave an elderly lady to languish without good nursing care. Her situation was lifethreatening. And so, without hesitation, I paid $900 to go on the damn Amtrak train to dadgum New York to take care of her myself. (It was $900 because I travel in those little rooms on the train---and I'm frightened to death of New York because it's so big.)

But when I got there, she treated me like a yard dog for the entire time I was there! One time, she asked for some chicken noodle soup. I set the pot down on the stove and God forbid but I set it down on the big burner, even though it was a smallish pot. She actually screamed at me: "Don't you know you NEVER put a small pot on a big burner?" And then when her husband came in from shoveling snow she immediately (before he took his coat off) screamed at him: "Bo doesn't know how to use a stove! She put a small pot on a big burner!"

But back to me making the damn soup. When I put the soup into a bowl I said: "Hold on a second, and let me put this bowl on a saucer or something so you can hold it in your lap." And then I reached into their plate cabinet and grabbed the first small plate I could see. I put the soup bowl on it and then took the soup into where she was sitting, in front of the TV.

Twice, she made me take the soup back to the kitchen and remove some of the noodles. (Like Campbell's really puts "too many" noodles in their soup, but what do I know?.....)

Then suddenly, while she was loudly sipping her soup, she stopped in mid sip and a light came into her eyes---as if she had just thought of something extremely urgent.

"Bo!" she screamed. "You called this plate a saucer!"

"Um....and so?....." I said, wondering what in the hell she was going to complain about this time.

"This IS NOT a saucer!" she bellowed. "It's a luncheon plate! Don't you know the difference between a saucer and a luncheon plate?"

By now I was getting angry and so I just sat there, biting my tongue, looking at her with a blank expression on my face. But she persisted.

"I asked you a question, Bo!" she continued stubbornly. "Do you or do you NOT know the difference between a saucer and a luncheon plate?"

Of course I do know the difference but I wasn't going to play her game. And no way was I going to answer that question. So I simply asked her: "Do you want me to take the luncheon plate away and get you a bonafide saucer?"

5. Also the whole time I was in New York taking care of her complaining ass, she criticized my beloved Bass Pro Shop rubber fishing boots. One night, after I'd pulled them on in preparation to go and get her some take-out pizza, she forbad me to wear the blasted boots. God, the fight we had over that---and she actually took her own sneakers off her feet and commanded me to wear THEM instead of the rubber boots. Finally, after I'd had enough of the arguing, I pronounced with finality: "There is TWO FEET of snow on the ground---I'm wearing the boots!"

6. The whole week I was taking care of her after her surgery she made me sit on the floor. Yes, the floor. During her convalescence, she always laid on the couch in her little back room where she watched TV during the day--- and the only other sitting furniture in there was her husband's chair. Since she always laid down full length on the couch it wasn't possible for me to sit there. And she instructed me NOT to sit in her husband's chair as "he didn't like anybody but him to sit in it"---even though he stayed the whole week watching TV in their living room! And when I asked about bringing another chair in, she said: "I don't think there's anything that we can move conveniently....."

Yeah, I sat on that damn drafty floor for a week. And when you have three stress fractures and chronic arthritis in your horribly painful back from 22 years of lifting patients during a nursing career, sitting on the floor is excruciatingly uncomfortable. I knitted socks to try and keep my mind off the pain. And she made fun of my knitting with handpainted yarn, TOO!!!!

7. Since I was brought up southern, I have the southern "good manners" habit of cleaning my room when I have been a guest. So on my last day as a guest in their house, I stripped the sheets off my bed to launder them, and then I re-made the bed with fresh sheets. I also cleaned the bathroom that I had used. I also dusted and swept/mopped. When I was finished, it was spic and span clean, like I had never there.

But she wouldn't let me launder the sheets. Instead, she told her husband: "Bo probably doesn't know how to use a washing machine and dryer, and I don't want her messing them up. So you do them."

And when Blaine's mom noticed the cleaning I was doing in the guest room and guest bathroom on my last day there, she said: "And when you clean my own bathroom, make sure to get under the raised toilet seat."

Well guess what, I thought to myself. There's not a damn thing in the "Southern Lady's Handbook of Good Manners" that says I have to clean any area but where I stayed. So I most certainly did NOT clean her other bathroom. (I would have if she'd been nice to me but by now I was so pissed off that I wanted nothing more than to get on that Amtrak train just as fast as I could.)

But when Blaine's parents left our house this past week, after having been our guests for nearly a week, they left the bed unmade, messy, and with the comforter and sheets lying half on the bed and half draping onto the floor. And I noticed that Blaine's mother had used my Elizabeth Arden shampoo and conditioner that I had hidden in my bathroom. And the sink was filthy.

8. During their visit this past week (if you read my recent Twitter posts about it) Blaine's mother heard me talking about how the doctor wanted me to lose some weight to get rid of my high blood sugar from diabetes. She remarked: "But if you lose weight your face will get jowls!!"

Thanks a lot, I thought to myself. I've never had jowls no matter how much I've weighed but perhaps she knows something I don't? And yeah, why lose the weight the doctor told me to do? Why don't I just frigging DIE OF DIABETES??????

When I carelessly replied that I "didn't care" if I developed jowls, she actually seemed to become enraged, hollering out loud: "You mean you don't care about your OWN FACE?"

9. But the worse thing she did to me was the following:

Earlier, before their visit here, when she found out I was going to Texas (both for my Grandmother's death and also later on for my sister's birthday party for her children), she kept insisting to Blaine that he needed to "arrange it" for her and her husband to come visit me at my mother's house while I was down there!! She didn't even ask ME---or my MOTHER! And she's NEVER even met my mother or spoken to her!! But she kept insisting on it to Blaine, over and over. Her excuse was that they were "thinking of a driving trip to see San Antonio and the Alamo--which is only a few hundred miles from Bo's mother's house..." She was totally IGNORANT of the fact that in the south, you absolutely NEVER ask somebody you don't know if you can come visit! You need an invitation. And neither myself nor my mother had issued any sort of invitation.

Especially after we had experienced a death in the family!

But no, she kept bugging Blaine about it. But every time Blaine told me she had asked about it again, I told Blaine that it "wasn't a good time". I told him my mother was in mourning after her mother's death and that we would be doing "too much traveling back and forth from Louisiana and two different Texas cities, including Dallas, to entertain guests at my mother's house."

Blaine didn't buy it and got quite impatient with me for this. He told me he suspected that I "didn't like his parents"---which is true, but I wasn't going to admit it to him. So I held fast and stuck to my story that "it's not a good time".

And yes.... the reality was that there is NO WAY IN HELL that I would allow that critical, rude woman to come down there and visit my beautiful, artistic mother's fantastically lovely house, interrupting my tranquil and enjoyable visits with my mother. Especially since Blaine's mother and father yell at each other all day long, screechingly loud, a la George Costanza's parents on "Seinfeld"---for REAL!!! They really sound like those two! Plus, I knew Blaine's mother only wanted to visit because of her morbid curiosity about my mother---and that she would be critical of my mother's art and carry back cruel and unkind gossip about it to her family and friends.

And so I triumphed in preventing her from coming to my mom's house in Texas. But she wouldn't let it die.....nooooooo, she wouldn't. So, the night she and her husband arrived at me and Blaine's last week, the absolute first, most astonishing thing she did was to put me on the spot, saying: "Why couldn't we stop at your house in Texas? Do you know that we were actually IN your mother's town--in an uncomfortable motel?"

But I didn't give a shit. And from her angry statement I knew that she had tried to force the issue with Blaine until the last possible moment--even going so far as to drive hundreds of miles out of her way to my Mother's town to see if Blaine would capitulate at the last minute. And so began my final rebellion. And also because of that completely discourteous and ill-mannered audaciousness of hers, I finally developed the cojones to stand up to her--- and I looked her right in her beady eyes and firmly told her that a social visit would not have been possible due to "circumstances".

I also told her that southern mourning can last "a couple of years". (And I had also secured my dear mother's promise that Blaine's mother would NEVER be allowed to darken her doors.)

* * * * *

Now, lest you think that I'm just a bitter daughter-in-law who likes to do the proverbial cliche thing of bitching about her mother-in law, let me tell you what all I have done throughout the years to try and garner her love (because it's true---for 16 years I sincerely tried in vain to get along with her):

1. Sent her umpteen bouquets of flowers for occasions;

2. Sent her umpteen presents of expensive jewelry;

3. Kissed her ass constantly, complimenting her over and over;

4. Defended her when Blaine said something disrespectful to her or said a cussword in her presence (yes, I have actually yelled at him in front of her, telling him NOT to cuss in her presence or talk to her in a disrespectful fashion as she is his mother, and mothers are sacred beings);

5. Never forgotten her birthday;

6. And I made very humble "amends" and apologies to her (per AA dictates) when I got sober.

But when they came this past week, I'd had it with all her shenanigans. In fact, I had had it so much that I did break my inbred southern manners' traditions. Yes, I did. I committed the unforgiveable southern sin....

I was a bad hostess.

For 4 out of the 6 days they were here, I hid in the bedroom pleading "illness" and a "nerve" problem. Blaine was totally pissed off at me. He got so mad at me that he actually called MY OWN MOTHER in Texas to tattle on me!!!

(But evidently my mother defended me because he dropped the issue after that phone call and just wearily explained to his parents that I was "sick".
) (Thank you, Mother. I knew you would understand....)

But he told me later that it was a family scandal that would "take years to be forgotten".

But I don't care.

Because I kept my sanity throughout the ordeal, ya know?

And besides, I had secretly called Fred, my therapist, and told him the whole thing. He said it was okay what I did, and that what I had done was an acceptable "self-preservation coping skill during a toxic situation."

And if I have Fred's blessings, that's all I need.




Anonymous said...

I do not understand how Blaine allows his mother to treat you in such a manner. you should come first and maybe if he told her so she might treat you a little better. Personally I think you did the right thing by staying in your room. You should have gone to a hotel until they left. I blame it on Blaine because he does not take your feeling serious and allows his mother to upset you.


Bo... said...

Thank you, Marsha! Blaine actually blames me. He says that I should just accept how she acts because she's "an old lady". So I planned (with my family) to come stay with them the next time his parents come down. (There will "suddenly" be something that happens, necessitating my appearance in Texas.....)

Denise said...

Old lady my foot! It doesnt give her the right to treat anyone that way and apparently she treats her own kids that way cause they wouldnt even take care of her when she was having her medical problems. I think maybe Blaine didnt like the fact he had to be with them all that time alone...

Bo... said...

Thanks, Denise! Yes, it does speak volumes that her own kids wouldn't help her when she was sick. If my own mother was sick, I would move heaven and earth to get to her so I could help her.

But I still don't understand why the woman has always been mean to me because I was always the only kid (whether "regular" or "in-law") that ever treated her decently. Weird.

(At least, I treated her decently until now...cuz she's cooked her goose with me this time for sure.)

Anonymous said...

Wow she is just nasty. "Old lady" is no excuse for being vile. It sure is telling that her kids would not take care of her.

You did the right thing Bo.


Bo... said...

Thank you, M.!!

danielle said...

Sounds like at least YOUR MIL knows how to say and spell YOUR name....

#8 said...

you know what they say...

you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your family.


Anonymous said...

Oh, honey. Bless your heart with your MIL. She sounds simply PRECIOUS. I myself have been twice blessed in the MIL department with two of the most lovely women, both of whom I cherish. I only recently found your blog, but since my BB girl, Warrior Knitter, reads and posts here, you must be good folks. Here's to better day's to come!


Bo... said...

Thank you so much, Arkangel: (And Warrior Knitter is a good girl---the best.)

Sue said...

I love arkangles comments - if I remember correctly, 'just precious' in southern speak is just about as sarcastic as you can get without using pain in the butt :-)

Hang in the Bo - it should be Blaine's job to entertain his parents.


Rosa said...

Is that picture Gollum? Where did you get it? It made me crack up! It's great!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bo,

I have a mil who is every bit as bad, with one notable exception.....she wants me to knit her EVERYTHING. Everything she SEES. To her I am useless, except as a personal knitter.

We live in the same town, and used to "stop by" from time to time with her son, and I'd begun dreading it, because everytime I did, she's handing me those lil flyer patterns she finds at JoAnn's with the scarves and such, and she's demands that I make them for her, or "for" someone like her best friend, or a baby of a co-worker that I've never met or heard of.

It wouldnt be so bad, and I'd probably whip up a few, except she never expects to pay for materials or my time or anything, and think's its just a matter of hours to whip up an ugly sweater for her.

So yes, I've stopped allowing her in my house. I give you credit for letting her in your house in the first place. I won't go to hers for holidays, either. In the interest of staying with her son, i've consented to dinners in public places, but that's just about it.

Stay strong. I totally agree with you. I'd hide in my room, too, only I wouldn't have been so nice about it to her son!


Bo... said...

Hey Jennifer!

I can so relate!

You know, my MIL called on the phone night before last to ask Blaine the SAME thing---if I could "knit her some more house slippers".

It irked me because of the problems we'd had on this last visit, when I KNEW she'd been goading me for arguments and was treating me badly.

Know what I said to Blaine? I said: "Well, sure, I'll get around to it--but I have a lot of other people who have asked for stuff that are ahead of her in the line---and I've never knitted for them! And I've already made your mom a scarf and socks. So I'm going to have to put her in "line" behind those that I've never knitted for".

He believed that for the logic that it is, and so I am not on the hook anymore. It'll be a cold day in .....sorry, I know I shouldn't be so ugly in my language, but her treatment of me was so bad that I'm leaking "ugly" out all over!

Another thing is this--even if she forced me to knit something for her---I'd knit it UGLY and ILL-FITTING! HEH! (Forgive me, Lord...)

One other thing I've done tonight is to make a decison---I will not spend the holidays with them. I made arrangements tonight to spend from Thanksgiving till Christmas (and maybe New Years) in Texas & Louisiana with my Momma! Blaine is welcome to meet us down there in Texas for Christmas! (Which I know he'll do.)

But I have decided---no more "family" misery for me!

Hang in there girl, I'm there right with ya! You can email me anytime for some understanding conversaton!


Anonymous said...

Lora again....
I forgot to add good luck with your in-laws. She sound like a huge pain in the ass.
I still knit for my former MIL, but she's still nice to me, thank god.
YOUR MIL doesn't sound like she deserves slippers.

Beth in MN said...

I think I'm calling my MIL tomorrow (she's likely asleep already, or I'd do it tonight), to THANK her for being a WONDERFUL woman and MIL, especially in comparison!

I was told by my therapist years ago that one has to "love" family, but one does NOT have to LIKE them OR spend time with them if they're harmful to you ...

Stick to your guns! And after the holidays, you might even want to tell Blaine why ... :-)