Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ch 2 Sly and Doris thought I was “rude and detached” because I was on Primo’s computer reading the Sunday newspaper online while they were reading the paper Sunday newspaper in paper

Primo: Ready to visit my mom and dad again?

Me: Yeah, sure. It was so fabulous. They were so welcoming.

Primo: I know.

Me: They don’t like anyone, do they?

Primo: They like me. But they still think I am doing it wrong.

Me: What are you doing wrong?

Primo: They told me not to marry [ex-wife]. They still bring it up.

Me: They do? I didn’t hear them say anything about her when we were there.

Primo: Maybe they thought it was too personal to mention in front of someone they had just met?

Me: Definitely. It was pretty clear they were holding back out of a sense of propriety. They crossed no boundaries at all. If only they would say what they really think. They were so – so – superficial. I have no idea what they think about anything. They were Sphinx-like, really. I bet they are great poker players.

Primo: And my dad thinks I should have gotten a PhD or at least a master’s degree. I did start a master’s, but I hated it and dropped out. They are still ticked off about that.

Me: But you have supported yourself – and other people – since college. You haven’t asked them for money, have you?

Primo: No! Ted and Jack have, but I never have. But my dad thinks that because I do not have an advanced degree, I am not doing it right.

Me: It seems like not much makes them happy.

Primo: Nope. I was not happy with how they treated you. When we got back, I told them that.

Me: You did?

Primo: Of course I did! I said I had hoped they would be more welcoming.

Me: What did they say to that?

Primo: My mom emailed me.

Me: Let me see.

Doris wrote,

I'm sorry . . . that you noticed the chill in my last message. Sometimes I get the feeling that your dad and I have gotten placed rather low on the totem pole[1] of your priorities. I promise to open my mind and heart to your girlfriend and look for areas of mutual interest. Neither dad nor I recall any instances when we were rude or unwelcoming to Goldie.[2]

If you have any examples of our behaviors that were offensive, PLEASE tell us. I simply wasn't yet comfortable in giving her hugs,[3] and we saw her as, frankly, rudely detached, spending time in the living room on your computer, with us sitting there,[4] and both of you putting your heads privately together, even though we were present, and whispering, much the way you and [ex-wife] used to do,[5] as if you were enjoying some private joke that we weren't supposed to know about.

Me: Well OK. I wondered if they might have decided they liked me after all but I guess they didn’t.

Primo: Nope.

[1] The bottom of the totem pole is the best place to be. If only Primo had written back with that information.
[2] Well they wouldn’t, would they?
[3] In their defense, I did not want to hug them, either.
[4] While they were reading the paper or doing crossword puzzles or otherwise showing no interest in me whatsoever
[5] In the one and only visit [ex-wife] made to Sly and Doris’ – after that, she refused to have anything to do with them. I am in solidarity with you, my sister.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ch 1 Sly has disdain for Doris’ parents because they didn’t have PhDs, which, in Sly’s book, made them unworthy of life

Primo: My dad’s mother was not a nice grandmother or mother, but my other grandparents were the kindest, most loving people ever. My dad would make fun of them because neither of them were educated. I think they probably got as far as eighth grade before they had to drop out of school and work.

Me: Education does not cause niceness. It doesn’t even correlate to it. They are two completely independent, non-correlated statistics. I guess PhDs in English are not ever required to take statistics.

Primo: I loved my mom’s parents. My grandfather taught me to shoot pool. They loved Nancy and me. They were always so nice to us. They were always happy to see us.

Me: Did they ever take you to a lecture on global warming?

Primo: No! They didn’t even feed us brown rice!

Me: That means they were bad.

Primo: One time, my dad was being nasty about my grandparents to my mom. He does that to her to be mean. I was little and I said, “But Daddy – Grandma and Grandpa are nice! Doesn’t that matter?”

Me: What did he say?

Primo: I don’t remember, but I don’t think he was impressed with my observation.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ch 1 Monday Sly and Doris are pissed that Priomo and I are probably going to get married

Primo: My mom and dad told me I shouldn’t marry you.

Me: What? How did they even know that we have talked about that?

Primo: They’re not stupid. They know I’ve dated a little since (ex-wife) and I split five years ago, but you are the first girlfriend I have brought to meet them since they met (ex-wife).

Me: Why do they think you shouldn’t marry me?

Primo: They don’t like anyone. It’s not personal. It’s not about you.

Me: It feels pretty personal.

Primo: I don’t care what they think. Don’t worry about it. But you have probably noticed that my dad is a jerk. I don’t think he’s going to change. The best thing to do is to focus on my mom. She really is a nice person.

Me: Uh huh.

Ch 1 Monday I get the scoop about Primo’s brothers, whom Sly and Doris are careful to call “half-brothers,” which is weird to me, as I have half-cousins and step-cousins and adopted cousins but they are all my cousins and all my family, period, without any qualification

Of course he has mentioned his brothers before, but it’s not something we talk about a lot. What? Did you think that they might be important to this story? Would you like to know more?

OK! Here is the dirty truth about Primo’s half-brothers, who, in a normal world would be referred to as simply “brothers” but apparently that is not how Sly and Doris roll.

Primo: My dad was married to another woman when he met my mom. He left his first wife for her.

Me: How old were your brothers?

Primo: They were little. Not even in kindergarten yet.

Me: And he left them?

Primo: He and his first wife had married too young. They’d had problems. She was an alcoholic.

Me: Wait! Your dad abandoned his little boys to an alcoholic mother?

Primo: He thought he was going to get custody. He and my mom tried for years to get them. He said he couldn’t live with his ex anymore because of her drinking. He had to leave. And he really did think he was going to get custody.

Fathers didn’t get custody in the early 60s. They didn’t even get it in the late 70s. Didn’t he see Kramer vs. Kramer?[1]

Me: How did it happen? With your mom, I mean? How do you abandon your little boys and your wife for another woman?

Primo: He met my mom at church, where they were both singing in the choir.

Me: They met at church? Your dad abandoned his wife and children for a woman he met at church? Are you seeing some inappropriateness here? Not that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, but I don’t know how you maintain the high moral ground after something like that.

Primo: No! I mean, yes. They didn’t belong to the church – they just sang there. They’re atheists.

Me: Why were atheists even in a church?

Primo: They sang there. In the choir.

Me: They are atheists but they still supported religion by singing in a place that they totally disagreed with?

Primo: They like to sing. And they were paid.

Me: Not that principled about their atheism, then.

Primo: Whatever. My dad asked my mom out and she told him she wouldn’t date a married man.

Me: Good for her.

Primo: He moved out from his first wife and started seeing my mom. As soon as he was divorced, he and my mom got married. Then I was born.

Me: Your mom knew he was married. She knew he had little kids. And she was cool with your dad abandoning them for her?

Primo: My dad’s ex-wife was an alcoholic and not a good person.

Me: Uh huh. I’m sure that’s the story that helps your parents sleep at night. If the first wife was so bad, though, why did your dad marry her in the first place?

Primo: I don’t know! This is what they’ve told me!

Me: And your dad was the good guy in all of this? Leaving his little boys to someone so alcoholic that he couldn’t live with her?

Primo: That’s what he thinks.

Me: Nice.

[1] I am realizing that I get a lot of my understanding of the world from movies. Is that wrong?

Ch 1 Monday Sly complains about Stephanie's weight again and I wonder what he will be saying about me when I am not around to hear, as I am not the thinnest person in the world

We just had breakfast. No meal – no gathering of two or more – is complete without some complaint about Stephanie, who is, you will remember, The Worst Person in the World.

Sly complains about Stephanie's weight. Resisting the temptation to make a glass houses remark and clearly having forgotten my resolution Not to Argue with Sly, I ask, “Why does Stephanie's weight matter to you?”

He sighs. Isn’t it obvious? Why must he explain everything? Who is this dullard of a girlfriend their Only Joy has brought home? How will they save Primo from making yet another marriage mistake? They couldn’t stop his first disastrous marriage, but maybe they can stop this one. Oh the burdens a father must bear.

"Because,” Sly explains, “her mother died young from heart problems. She was only her in late 40s when she died. Stephanie has heart problems. If Stephanie dies, then we will be raising those children."

I bite my tongue rather than ask the obvious follow up questions, which are, "Don't they have a father?" (they do – Jack, Stephanie's ex-husband) and "Why are you so sure that you would be their guardians?" Instead, I just nod my head and say, “I see.” 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ch 1 Sunday We haul the empty booze bottles out for recycling and it takes a long time

Oh you guys. I had no idea. My mom and dad are/were not big drinkers. Sure, I had my pencil case made out of the soft blue bag with the gold stitching – Crown Royal, google tells me – onto which my mother embroidered my name. I was in second grade and that’s what I used to hold my pencils and other school supplies, but I had one. ONE. ONE CROWN ROYAL BAG.

I don’t know if my siblings got bags. There may not have been enough booze. The photo to the right? That’s booze from my mom’s house. Some of the bottles have tax seals from 1972. In case you are bad at math, that is more than 40 years ago. My mom still has booze from 40 years ago that she has not finished.

Point is that my mom is not and my dad was not a big drinker. Booze lasts a long, long time at my mom and dad’s house.

But Sly and Doris. Lord have mercy.

I think they are drinkers.

OK, I know they are because Primo warned me but I really had no idea. I don’t like booze and I hardly drink, but it’s not a moral thing – it’s just that I don’t like how it tastes. I don’t care if other people drink, although I think that if you are going to get drunk, you should not drive. I don’t care if you kill yourself but drunks usually take innocent people out with them and that’s not fair.

In our one moment of private, alone, romantic together time since we arrived in Florida, Primo and I clean the garage. Boxes of recycling have accumulated for months, rusty tools are scattered on top of the workbench,[1] and plastic storage bins with Christmas decorations and linens are molding.

We take the trash out to the curb. Drag it out. Sly and Doris refuse to get a wheeled trash can because they’re convinced it will be stolen or the garbage men will destroy it or something. They had one, but didn’t replace it.

Primo: I asked my dad why he didn't get a new wheeled trash can.

Me: And?

Primo: He says the trash guys used to tear the top off and leave the can halfway down the street.

Me: They tore the lid off? Off its hinges?

Primo: No. Like your trash can. They'd leave the top open.

Me: You mean they'd open it and leave it flipped back?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Well so what? All you have to do is flip it back.

Primo: They always have a reason.

Me: Would the trash guys really leave them halfway down the street?

Primo: The one this morning was about ten feet from the curb.

Me: Hardly halfway.

Primo: Yeah.

Me: Although I suppose if you are old and out of shape, ten feet from the curb is a lot. So what happened to the wheeled cans? Were they stolen?

Primo: No, they just stopped using them.

Me: To use ones without wheels instead?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Oh good grief. How does that make things better?

Primo: Because they get other people to do the work for them. When I’m not here, Jack or Stephanie put it out for them.

Sly comes into the garage to supervise the putting out of the trash. Primo stuffs a bunch of bubble wrap into the bottom of the can, then lifts a bag of trash to put on top of that.

Sly: Not like that! Put the bubble wrap in a bag.

Primo: But it’s all going into the garbage truck. It doesn’t need to be put in a bag.

Sly: That’s not how I do it! Put it in a bag!

I want to point out to Sly that he is not, in fact, doing it, so his way doesn’t matter. If he wants it done his way, he can do it his own darn self.

But I keep my mouth shut. When is it appropriate to comment on something stupid and senseless when you are not related to the person doing something stupid and senseless? Shouldn’t Primo be the one telling his dad to be quiet or do it himself?

Bigger question: When you meet the parents, is it ever appropriate to argue with them?

I think not.

I keep my mouth shut.

Primo rolls his eyes, removes the bubble wrap, puts it in a bag, and then puts the whole thing back in the trash can. Wasteful.

May I point out that Sly and Doris claim to be huge environmentalists? Doris was an environmental activist when Primo was a kid. They hate mining and oil companies. They hate Walmart. They belong to the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. But actual day to day conservation, like reducing their own consumption of plastic, gas (they have an SUV), and paper – that’s for other people.

If they had a private jet, they would fly it around the world, telling other people to cut their carbon footprint.

As Primo throws one of the bags of trash into the can, Sly says, “No! Not like that!”

Primo: What now?

Sly: That’s not the right order.

Sly’s suffering is great. He heaves a deep sigh, the sigh of a man who has been cursed with a son who doesn’t do things right. It is sharper than a serpent’s tooth than to have a not doing it right child.

Primo: Then how?

Sly: The kitchen trash goes in first. Then the bag with the paper waste. The big green bag goes on top.

You guys, I am not making this up! Sly is convinced there is a Right Way for Trash to Go into the Can.

Sly: Don’t tie it!

Primo stiffens, then unties the green bag. Sly goes back into the house, leaving us alone to haul two bags of empty bourbon and brandy bottles out for recycling.

I guess I have to take it back about Sly and Doris not being walk the walk environmentalists. Look! They recycle their booze bottles!

Booze bottles. A lot of booze bottles. Recycled, but man. A lot.

Me: It seems that your parents might drink a lot.

Primo: They start drinking every day at 4:00. I can’t call them after 4:00 because they are close to drunk and they don’t remember that I’ve called.

Me: And then you don’t get any credit for the call. And they get mad at you because you didn’t call. Even though you did. And they just don’t remember because they were drunk.

Primo: Exactly.

[1] This really horrifies me – first, that tools are allowed to rust and second, that they are not even put away. There is no pegboard with mounts hanging behind the bench. I thought everyone used a pegboard! I thought everyone took care of his tools.

Ch 1 Sunday I try again to bond with Doris and she talks about Primo’s dead sister

One of the first things I learned in my organizational behavior class in grad school that to break a dysfunctional group, you have to divide and conquer. You have to turn the members of the group against each other.

Doris can possibly be turned against Sly. Well – probably not. But if I can isolate her, I can maybe get her on my side a little bit. Even if she would be on my side only when we are alone, that would be something.

I ask her if I can help her in the yard. Like the Apple Pie Approach, it’s another Get In With The Boyfriend’s Mother ploy. Do you think it will work?

She directs and talks while I pull weeds and spade listen.

Doris: My father worked overtime to buy a piano for me. He worked overtime so I could take piano lessons. He worked forty years at a factory doing hard work. My parents were the most loving, the most wonderful people. I miss them so very much. They were such special people.

Me: Primo loved your mom and dad. He has wonderful memories of them.

Doris: When Primo was a baby, he would pull himself up in his crib and say, “Out! Out!” He was talking at nine months! He was so smart! He is the only joy in my life. The only joy. Truly my only joy, ever since Nancy died.

Rats. She brought up the Dead Child. What do you say? What is the right answer?

Me: Yes, Primo mentioned his sister died a few years ago. I am very sorry. The pain of that kind of loss does not go away.

Doris: She was the light of my life. She was sweet and creative but then something happened. She transformed dramatically when she was a teenager. Primo would tease her and she would become enraged – far out of proportion to the teasing. She couldn’t take it. It was sheer torment to her. In addition, she was teased at school. She would come home from school crying because of the teasing. Then we found out she was taking drugs. It was heartbreaking for us, but we put her in a rehabilitation program. The program was in vain. She returned to us in worse condition.

Me: Worse?

Doris: She was cutting herself. Then she started getting tattoos and piercings. It was as if she got each tattoo to put a knife through my heart.

Tattoos + piercings + cutting + drugs = parental nightmare, even for parents who pride themselves on being hip.

Doris: We had to have her committed. She never forgave us. But we were frightened. We were afraid she was going to kill herself. That place – it was awful. I still – I don’t know. We were so frightened.

Me: That’s a horrible thing to happen.

Doris: I had such hopes for my little girl. I wanted to watch her grow up and fall in love and get married and have her own children. I still have my beloved mother’s wedding ring, the ring that was cut off her finger after she died. I saved that ring just so I could give it to Nancy . I loved my mother so much and she loved me and she loved Nancy and it is the only thing I have of my mother. I wanted to share it with my own daughter. But now there is nobody to share it with.

She starts to cry. What do you do when your boyfriend’s mother is crying? I don’t know.

Ch 1 Sunday Sly makes breakfast for us and it’s not very good but it is food, so kudos to you, Sly

At least this morning, Sly does not ask if I want to shower in the master shower with his son. Dang. Is decorum just dead in this country?

He does, however, make us breakfast. Which means that once again, I am stuck waiting, on someone else’s schedule, to eat, which I know is the deal when a person is a houseguest, but man, I am hungry. That’s why I always show my houseguests where all the food is and tell them that they are to help themselves when they get hungry. I do not want hungry people chez moi.

He makes omlettes and bacon. I am not a big omelette fan but when in Rome, etc. The omelette is not that good but I am hungry and that’s the food in front of me.

However, the bacon – I just can’t. I love bacon and now Sly has ruined it for me. He totally undercooked it. Bacon fat is not supposed to be flabby, Sly!

I don’t say that out loud. I just think it. If it were crisp bacon fat, I might eat it, but to be honest, even when it’s crisp, I am not crazy about the fat. However, it works out just fine between Primo and me because he likes fat in pretty much any form. (Like – even when it is on my body, so I am not complaining at all.) I eat the lean; Primo eats the fat. We are both happy and there is no moral dilemma about wasting food.

I peel the fat off the lean and put it on my plate. I eat the lean, which is not that good but it is protein and will carry me for a few hours, and Primo happily retrieves the fat from plate. It works for us.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ch 1 Saturday I want to let Primo sleep with me but I don’t want Sly and Doris to know about it because I am a hypocrite? Or because I have a sense of propriety?

Primo: I have to sleep in here. I can’t stay in the spare room again. My back is killing me from last night. All that’s in that room is an old sofa and it’s not comfortable. Please let me stay.

Me: As long as you sneak out when your mom and dad aren’t watching in the morning.

Primo: They wouldn’t care! Now you’re being a hypocrite.

Me: That’s not it. I just don’t think I could take their smugness.

Primo: My dad does love to be right.

Ch 1 Saturday Primo confirms what I suspect, which is that Sly and Doris do not like me, even though they just met me and I have been on mostly good behavior

Me: I have to ask you something. Meeting Stephanie really highlighted it for me. Have I done something wrong? It seems like your mom and dad don’t like me. They didn’t ask me a single thing about myself. They don’t seem interested in me. I mean, maybe they’re not interested, but I am the first woman you’ve brought home since (Primo’s ex wife), right? It’s been years since they have met a girlfriend of yours.

Primo: They weren’t happy about having to set up the spare room for me.

Me: That’s it? They’re annoyed just because I didn’t want to share a room with you? Do they always react that strongly to things? Because I didn’t think this would be that big of a deal. But they were kind of rude to me when we arrived. They hardly spoke to me. Even when I tried to talk to them, they just gave me short answers and then went right back to bashing Stephanie. They will barely make eye contact with me.

Primo: No. That’s not it. That’s not all.

Me: Then what did I do? I have never had this problem before. Parents have mostly liked me. If they didn’t, they seemed to fake it pretty well.

Primo: I sent them the address to your blog.

Me: But why?

Primo: I really like it. Your friends like it. I thought they would like it. But they read it and said you are self-centered and shallow. And they don’t agree with your politics.

Me: You mean my blog where I write about the quest for the Yard of the Month award and the search for the perfect purse and aren’t shoes amazing?

Primo: You do talk about politics some.

Me: A tiny bit. But so what?

Primo: Politics are really important to them.

Me: So?

Primo: They don’t agree with your politics.

Me: So?

Primo: So they don’t like you.

Me: Because we don’t agree politically.

Primo: Yes.

Me: When did they say this?

Primo: It’s been a while.

Me: You knew? You knew they already didn’t like me, even before we came here?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Why didn’t you say anything? You could have warned me. You could have not brought me. I didn’t have to meet them.

Primo: You would have to meet them someday. We are getting married once my divorce is final.

Me: They could die before then.

Primo: I thought that once they met you, they would realize how wrong they were. I didn’t think they would be able to dislike you once they had met you.

Me: I mention politics about once a month on my blog. The rest of the time, I write about how the fix is in for the yard of the month and how I want all the rabbits to be dead so they don’t eat my flowers.

Primo: I know.

Me: When I do write about politics, I discuss issues, not parties. I talk about what a jerk Fidel Castro is. I mentioned Father Joe and the time he spent in the concentration camp in Vietnam before he escaped. Is any of that so controversial? Are they big Fidel Castro fans? Big concentration camp fans? Is that it? They don’t like me just because we have different political ideas? Does that mean I’m not supposed to like them, either? Because by definition, if they disagree with my views, I also disagree with theirs. Does that mean I am supposed to not like them? I don’t agree with your views, but I love you. What do political opinions have to do with friendship? I have plenty of friends who have different views. I don’t care. We don’t talk about politics. There are plenty of other things to talk about. Purses. Shoes. Gardens. Food. Rabbits. Cats. Food.

Primo: Everything is political with them. My dad, especially. My mom mostly goes along with him to keep the peace. She is the nicest person in the world.

Me: I have never had a boyfriend’s parents not like me. Or at least, not like me and show it.

Primo: I am sure that once they get to know you – or once my mom gets to know you – that she will like you.

Me: I won’t talk about politics with them.

Primo: That’s probably a good idea.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ch 1 Saturday I ask Primo why his parents don’t like Stephanie because she seems pretty nice to me

Me: What is your parents’ problem was with Stephanie? She’s nice!

Primo: They’re critical about everyone. And my dad is an intellectual snob. He thinks Stephanie is uncultured.

Me: Don’t forget that she’s fat! Your dad thinks she is so fat. Why does he even care what she weighs? Why does that matter? I think she is very cute and she is very nice and your niece and nephew seem like really nice kids.

Primo: He’s a lot fatter than she is. Stephanie is not 100 pounds overweight. But all he can do is complain about her weight and lack of sophistication.

Me: She’s nice. She’s gracious. She’s welcoming. That matters more than whether she has a PhD.

Primo: Not to my dad.