Saturday, January 9, 2010

In which I poke the bear

Thanksgiving 2008. Or was it Christmas 2007? I don't remember. This detail is not important to the story. I don't want to be a pedant. I already have a tendency to be a scold. Why add another layer of obnoxiousness to my personality?

Anyhow. We are at Sly and Doris'. Watching a movie. Sly says he has always found Alex Trebek to be arrogant. I cannot help myself.

Pot, meet kettle, I say.

Primo snickers.

Doris gasps, then laughs. Then says, You'll pay for this.

Thirty seconds later, Sly, who has been silent since I spoke, turns to Primo and says, You're pretentious. And so is your wife.

I stifle a laugh, think of making a smart-aleck response because boy has he told me, think better of it, and return to watching the movie.

When the movie ends, I pick up the dessert dishes, take them into the kitchen and start washing them.

Doris tells a story about going to supper with the Browns forty years ago. They had heard someone famous sing and Doris had been asked to sing with her. Or was that singing story another time? I can't remember.

No honey, Sly says. It was the Smiths.

No, I'm pretty sure it was the Browns.

It was the Smiths, Sly insists.

The story Doris is telling is about the singing (or whatever). That's the story I want to hear. That's the story she wants to tell.

But Sly can't let go of the Smith/Brown dilemma.

And it isn't long before he is yelling at Doris. And telling her how stupid she is. And asking if they had had a "Stupid" category on her report card when she was a little girl because if they did, she certainly would have gotten a high score.*

And Doris is crying.

And I am in the kitchen wondering what the heck I am supposed to do.

And what a 70 year old woman who is treated like this is supposed to do.

Doris wasn't always like this. In her youth, she was stunning. Tall, stacked, with long, thick, auburn hair. A voice like an angel. Scholarship to the music conservatory after she had graduated from college, which she also attended on a full scholarship. Her parents, who did not even finish high school, were so proud. Her dad, a quiet, hard-working factory man who found the money to buy a piano and music lessons for his talented only child. It was his employer who had sent Doris to college.

But then she met Sly. He was handsome and confident. Handsome and a bit of a bully, really, but how was a woman who had been the tall, skinny, smart girl with glasses and bad skin in high school who had never had a date supposed to know the difference between confident and controlling? He swept her off her feet and left his wife and two little boys, Primo's half brothers, Jack and Ted, for her.

Oh yes. This is not a pretty story.

She left school for him.

She could have gone places.

There is nowhere for her to go now.

Even though her neediness makes me recoil, I have no wish to see her harmed. Which is why I should be careful when I poke the bear. Because he makes me pay by hurting her.

* Yes. Alcohol is involved. Not that that excuses the behavior.


  1. You have a new fan!

    Bravo to you for sharing your experiences with your inlaws. I, too, am married to a set of in-laws, step children and a bitter, vindictive ex-wife that drive me crazy while making my husband miserable. It is nice to vent about it and get validation from time to time.

    I look forward to your writing!

  2. How did Primo manage to turn out so wonderful?!!? Now there's a case study!!! White-Chocolate

  3. Oh, man, what a terrible scene.
    He sounds awful. Yet you have this amazing husband. Meant to be, right?

  4. Thank you, Monkey. I am always thrilled when anyone reads what I have to say.

    Jan. Exactly.

    Suzanne and Maureen, I am amazed that Primo turned out so well. The more I talk about this situation to people, the more I discover similar cases: difficult backgrounds yielding wonderful men. So I guess nurture is not everything. Thank goodness.

  5. I think it's more of people overcoming challenges in life. That whole building character thing. It's what made my DH into the great person he is. Still makes me sad to think about what he had to endure to get to adulthood.

  6. Sly is a full-blown bully and sociopath.

    I'm going to be raging my way through the "Sly and Doris" anecdotes, for sure.


  7. You are lucky to have found an amazing man. I have found many men screwed-up thanks to their screwed-up mothers. Doris did something right. That he stands up for you 100% is golden. Do not ever discount that.

    I am enjoying your writing very much. Hang in there.

  8. My father and stepmother are like this, I'm sad to say. He rages at her and cuts her down constantly. She prefaces everything with statements like "I know I'm nothing but..." or "I know I'm not intelligent but..." because it's what he has told her for decades.

    He is 14 years older than her and is now almost 70 and in failing health. She is only mid-fifties and would talk of dying along with him.
    But I insist on talking about her life as it will be after he's gone, and initially she denied it, but now I think it's working because she's exercising and trying to give up smoking, and seems excited as freedom nears.

    1. Good for your stepmother! She has a goal in sight. Unfortunately for Sly and Doris, I think she will die before he does. She's in far worse health. Primo and I debate which would be worse. If Sly dies first, he will feel obligated to move Doris closer to us, which sounds like a nightmare to me. If Doris dies first, Primo will be pretty comfortable ignoring Sly.

  9. I wish I could time travel back to the first time Sly ever bullied Doris and I would give him such a slap, he'd see stars. (I was 4 the last time I hit anyone, but I think I could make an exception for Sly.)