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?