Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In which I meet Sly and Doris for the first time

October 2006 Primo takes me to meet his mom and dad. I don't know they already dislike me because of our political and religious differences. And because I am not comfortable sharing a bed with Primo under their roof. And because I am not good enough for their son. Nobody is good enough for their Only Joy.

We arrive, greet each other, sit. They focus immediately on Primo. Ask me not a single question about myself, my family, my life. It's not as if I'm a dull, unlikeable person. (Am I? Maybe I am. Oh no.) I've lived and traveled* all over the world. I have a family. I've done cool things. My family has done cool things.

They're not interested.

Almost immediately, though, I hear about Stephanie, who is married to Primo's brother half-brother Jack,** who is not yet my sister in law but will be eventually. What a bad mother she is: She feeds her kids white rice instead of brown rice! Her grammar - atrocious! She doesn't take the children to museums but watches TV with them instead! Worst of all, though - she's FAT.

Yeah, well. Glass houses, Sly. Glass houses.

But my first thoughts are these:

1. This is how they talk about their own family in front of strangers?
2. This is how they talk about their own daughter in law in front of their prospective daughter in law?

Lord have mercy what am I getting myself into?

Let the record show that Primo is wonderful enough that I stick around despite everything.

After more of the fat talk (as if fat is a character flaw), I ask Sly why Stephanie's weight is any of his business.

He sighs. Isn't it obvious? Why must he explain everything? How will they save Primo from making yet another marriage mistake?***

"Because her mother died young from heart problems and Stephanie has heart problems and if Stephanie dies young, then we will be raising those three children."

I bite my tongue rather than ask the obvious questions, which are, "Don't they have a father?" (they do - Jack) and "Why are you so sure that you would be their guardians?"

I asked Stephanie last month who would get her kids if something happened to her and Jack. "My brother," she said.

I told her the story about Sly.

"Omigod no!" she said. "Nonononono. My brother. I made sure about that."

* To this day, they have never asked me a single question about 1. growing up abroad, 2. my Peace Corps experience, 3. any of my travels to four continents. Never.

** A distinction that is not important to me, because family is family, but matters for this story because Primo is his mother's only living child and it makes a difference in her attitude to him versus her attitude toward Ted and Jack and the grandchildren. She does love them, but they are not hers in the way that Primo is hers. Which is fair.

*** How can Primo be so brilliant and yet make such Bad Decisions About Women? Where did Sly and Doris Go Wrong?


  1. Wow. My FIL was the same way about not asking anything about me or my life. But he did gush quite a bit about a future DIL (my spouse's brother was about to be married for the second time when we got together, and FIL would go on about how wonderful she is. Granted, she's a nice person, but his lack of inquiry into my life spoke volumes.)

  2. Yeah - it's like Guest 101: Making someone comfortable in your home. Did they miss the first lecture? How rude is that?

  3. So it is weird to be writing a comment so long after the fact. First of all I just lost an entire afternoon to reading your blog (followed off a link from Captain Awkward). I have been really enjoying it. I should have done the same thing as a way of dealing with the Outlaws. Mine are not so bad: we have the same politics, they are generous and they aren't mean. But they apparently have no interest in me. At all. Been together with spouse for 7 years and in all that time they have never asked me where I grew up, what it was like, what my parents did, what the new job is like etc etc It is weirdly alienating to have that much contact with people who don't ever have a personal conversation.

    1. Hi anon and welcome! I am sorry that your in-laws are not interested. Even if someone is not interested, it is only polite to ask questions like, "How did you meet our child? Where do your parents live? What do you do at your job?" It's like they missed Polite 101.