Saturday, September 2, 2017

Ch 10 Doris never answers my email thanking her for the book and the catalogs

Me: She didn’t answer.

Primo: I don’t know why.

Me: I thought she wanted a relationship. I thought she was complaining that she had reached out and I had not responded. I responded. I am trying.

Primo: I know. I don’t know what’s going on.

Me: Isn’t it time that I just have an open conversation with them?

Primo: I don’t think that would work.

Me: You mean I can’t say, “I know we got off on the wrong foot. It doesn’t have to be this way. Can’t we get along, even though we don’t agree on things? We do agree that we all love Primo.”

Primo: That’s not how we do things in my family.

Me: I know. You’ve told me that before. But honestly, I don’t know what else to do. I know that I have not put my heart and soul into it, but I have been very cordial with your mother and I answer all her emails and I have initiated some emails and letters. No matter what I do, she either ignores me or finds something to criticize. I am tired of tiptoeing around. Can’t we just be honest?

Primo: I guess it couldn’t hurt. I don’t know that they could dislike you any more than they already do.

Me: Gee, thanks. 

Ch 10 I tell Stephanie she does not have to be friends with a Bad Bacon Eater

Me: S told P another reason he doesn’t like me

Stephanie: what? broccoli? load dishwasher wrong?

Me: Probably. but not what he said

Stephanie: what then?

Me: doesn’t like how I eat bacon

Stephanie: What?!

Me: I eat it wrong

Stephanie: How U eat bacon wrong?

Me: By eating it way I do

Stephanie: No wrong way to eat bacon!

Me: I cracked code - peel the fat off and give to P

Stephanie: can’t be friends with U

Me: of course not - you are person of integrity

Stephanie: Yep

Ch 10 Sly tells Primo that I am a bad bacon eater, which Primo thinks is horrible news but which I realize, upon reflection, is freedom

Primo: I'm not sure I should tell you this.

Me: Tell me.

Primo: I don’t know. It’s just –

Me: You cannot start a conversation with, “I’m not sure I should tell you this” and then NOT TELL.

Primo: OK. My dad said something about you.

Me: Great. Now what did I do? Besides not go with you for your dad’s birthday.

Primo: He's unhappy about something that happened once when we were visiting. The first time we went.

Me: So not the birthday.

Primo: No.

Me: Wait. You mean the first time I went with you? You mean years ago?

Primo: Yeah.

Me: Not this year. Not at Christmas. But the very first time?

Primo: Yes. But they are also still annoyed that you didn’t sit in the living room and watch the football game with them.

Me: But I did! I did sit there and watch a stupid football game I wasn’t interested in!

Primo: But only after I got you out of the guest room. You didn’t want to watch the game and it’s intentions that matter with them.

Me: Fine. Whatever. What else did I do wrong? Eat with my left hand? Show the soles of my feet to him? Not curtsey? Except I would never curtsey to royalty. I am American. We don’t curtsey. We don’t bow. We do not lower ourselves in the presence of royalty. We fought a war over that.

Primo: I think you are getting a little sidetracked.

Me: Oh yeah. So what was it?

Primo: When he made breakfast that day – remember? – eggs and bacon – he didn't like that you picked the fat off your bacon and just ate the lean.

Me: Of course I don’t remember breakfast! This was years ago!

Primo: OK. But he didn’t like that you ate only the lean part of your bacon.

Me: So?

Primo: You didn’t eat the fat.

Me: And he’s mad about that?

Primo: Yeah.

Me: And how long ago was this?

Primo: A while.

Me: And not only does he think this is something worth discussing but he waits a few years to bring it up?

Primo: Welcome to my world.

Me: He didn’t like how I eat my bacon?

Primo: Yes.

Me: He has been upset about how I eat my bacon for years?

Primo: Yes. He said it was an insult to the host. His exact words were – I wrote them down because even for my dad, this was bizarre – I was also put off by the obsessive way she ate her bacon, which I considered more than weird. If, in company, one doesn't want to eat what is served, either refuse it or don't eat it.  What she did was an insult to me."

Me: The. Way. I. Eat. Bacon.

Primo: Yes.

Me: Is an insult.

Primo: Yes.

Me: You are making this up.

Primo: Nope.

Me: You are not making this up?

Primo: Nope.

Me: Your dad is full of crap.

Primo: Yes.

Me: And you were worried about telling me this?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Why?

Primo: Because I thought it might upset you.

Me: Ummmm. Yes. Wow. I’m not sure what I think about this. I am upset. But – I am upset because this is so stupid. It’s not like any bacon fat is being wasted – you eat the parts I don’t want – but even if I did waste the fat, so what? So the heck what? Once it’s on my plate, that bacon is my property and I get to decide how I use it, right? I need to think about this.

Primo: You are upset.

Me: Yeah – but you know what? This is a good thing! I have been trying to make someone who is completely irrational like me. And now I know it is never going to happen because it has nothing to do with me.

Primo: No.

Me: Your dad dislikes me for reasons that cannot be fixed. For reasons that have nothing to do with me. He decided he was not going to like me no matter what and has been looking for excuses for that dislike.

Primo: I think that’s it. They weren’t going to like anyone who will take me away from them.

Me: But they didn’t have you when you were married to ex-wife.

Primo: No, but that’s before my sister died and they didn’t even have time to think. But I left ex-wife before Nancy died, so for years, before I met you, I spent a lot of time with them. They got used to it.

Me: They thought that would last forever? That they would have you for every holiday for the rest of their lives?

Primo: I think so.

Me: They were wrong.

Primo: I know. I feel sorry for them but the only reason I spent that much time with them was because I didn’t have anyone else to spend it with. Now I have you.

Me: They don’t like that.

Primo: No.

Me: And they don’t like me – your dad doesn’t like me – because of how I eat bacon. He’s been thinking about that for years.

Primo: That’s what he’s like – he stores up all the things that offend him and parcels them out. And he’ll do it more than once. This will come up again. I’m sorry.

Me: No! This is liberating. There is nothing I can do to make your dad like me. Nothing. So I don’t have to try anymore.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ch 10 I write a thank you note to Doris and try to find common ground to inspire future conversation

I write her an email – an email! Not a letter![1] – telling her that I had read the novel for book club and had really liked it. I toss in the conversation-starting comment that the guy who always finds something not to like didn't like the book because he thought the writer was too hard on the Germans.

It is a World War II novel. About the occupied Channel Islands. Written from the English perspective.

The Germans are not the heroes here.

(Spoiler for those of you who were not paying attention in high school: The Germans, although the reasons were complicated, did start WWII.)

I mention a few other books we had read in book club. Tell her about the cranky guy's response to those books, one of which was a memoir by a man who escaped from China. (“We are being too harsh on Mao and the Cultural Revolution! Who are we to judge?” a comment that got Lynn, the second-most liberal person in the group, to snap that in this country, people are not shot or starved or tortured for their political beliefs.)

I am doing it right, right? Will Sly be able to criticize this letter? Will Doris find bitterness in it?

[1] Have I mentioned why I prefer to write actual letters to Doris? It’s because a letter takes longer to answer. An email can inspire an immediate response, which means I have to reply to her response and then the chain never ends. 

Ch 10 Doris reaches out to me by sending me her used books and three mail-order catalogues and at first I am really confused and think it was a stupid thing to do, but I try to see the good in it and realize she is trying to share with me the things she cares about

Oh bless your heart, Doris. You are trying. You are trying and I have to acknowledge that.

Primo: My mom sent you a package.

Maybe it is the Julia Child cookbook I read every time I am at their house and have been coveting, to the point where I asked Doris – discreetly, I thought – if she had ever cooked from it and if so, did she recommend it because it looked like a really good cookbook.

Oh no, she answered dismissively. She didn’t look at cookbooks anymore.

Me: It looks like a really, good useful cookbook! I really like it!

Take the hint, Doris! All I want is for you to give me this cookbook or something like it.

OK. What I really want is an end to the gift giving because this is a crazy arms race where Primo spends a lot of money on them and they give him (and me) crap we don’t want and can’t return. Yes, I know it is not my money, but we are going to be married and we will be combining finances eventually.

And I know it is rude to be ungrateful for a gift and to express a preference for something else. My mom did raise me better than that. I feel guilty for complaining about gifts. It’s a gift! An item freely given as an expression of affection.

But – Doris does not give Primo presents he wants. I don’t expect her to get it right with me. She doesn’t know me and she does not even have to give me presents. But she never gets it right with Primo, even though he has told her what he would like (because she has asked him) and then she still doesn’t get him what he wants.

I need to shut up. I am digging a hole deeper and deeper and I am looking worse with every word.

It is a book-sized and a book-weight package. But it isn’t even Christmas. Maybe it is a Just Because present.

I open it carefully, not wanting to rip Julia’s pages.

It contains not the Julia Child The Way To Cook cookbook but

·         The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I read years ago and really liked
·         A 30 year old guide to opals, a precious stone Doris and I have never discussed. The only conversation we have ever had about jewelry was about her mother’s wedding ring.
·         A gardening book about gardening in tropical climates, which is not the climate in which Primo and I live
·         Three mail-order gardening catalogs

No note.

Just used books.[1] And mail-order catalogues.

I put the books in my library stack so I can donate them the next time I go, toss the catalogues, and debate what to write in my thank you note.

My thank-you note for used books and catalogs.

OK. End snark. Sending someone books you have read that you like that you want to share with that person so you can have a good experience in common is a nice thing to do. It is a gesture of friendship. OK. Point Doris. Yellow Bitch Card for me.

[1] There is nothing wrong with used books. Nothing at all. But it is not cheap to mail books. Why not just donate them to your library? And the carbon footprint. Think of the Carbon Footprint!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ch 10 Sly tells Primo he has bad taste in women

Primo: My dad told me I have very bad taste in women.

Me: What? When? Last week? When you were there?

Primo: Yes.

Me: What prompted that?

Primo: I commented that I thought a particular tennis player is really good looking and he said that I have particularly bad taste in women.

Me: But he is saddened by the rift between us and cannot understand why I reject their pleadings for a better relationship.

Primo: No! Not just saddened. He's "deeply hurt."

Ch 10 Stephanie and I unite against a common enemy

Me: Did you know that Sly and Doris are really annoyed that we are friends? They think we are intellectually incompatible. They sent Primo this super long email complaining about it.

Stephanie: they think I’m stupid?

Me: Yes. And they think I’m stupid. How can we be intellectually incompatible if we’re both stupid?

Stephanis: LOL!

How can you not LOL? We are both stupid intellectually incompatible people.

I might be better educated than Stephanie, but that does not mean I am smarter or nicer or more interesting. It just means I went to college and she didn’t. Big deal.

I don’t understand the “intellectually compatible” argument as a basis for or a requirement of friendship. If they mean by who’s smarter, well, Primo is a lot smarter than I am but we still like each other and are compatible in many ways.[1] We are incompatible in many ways as well, but none of those ways have to do with intelligence.[2]

Stephanie and I do have a lot in common. We have in common a strong dislike for Sly [3] and for how he and Doris treat people, only Stephanie has to deal with her dislike more than I do because she lives only fifteen minutes from them. I learned in my organizational behavior class the management theory that one of the best ways of bonding people is to unite them against a common enemy. I have discovered in practice that the theory is indeed valid.

[1] Actually, we are incompatible in almost everything – politics, religion, when we like to eat dinner, what we like to do for fun. Yet we still like each other. It’s mostly because he is so fabulous in bed.
[2] They have everything to do with bedtime. That is what will end our relationship someday: I like to go to bed early and Primo likes to go to bed late.
[3] That is not the only reason I like Stephanie, of course. I like her because she is nice and interesting and gracious and fun.

Ch 10 Sly and Doris complain that I have rejected them, which I don’t understand because I visit them with Primo and talk to them and clean their kitchen and garage and weed their garden. In what world is that rejection? And they complain that Stephanie and I are friends.


I know that somehow Goldie and Stephanie correspond and have a relationship.  But I don’t understand why, because they have absolutely nothing in common unless it is gossip about our family.  Goldie, by so coldly rejecting me and your mother, made it clear that she doesn’t want to be part of our family.  Please let her know that you don’t want to hear any of the gossip she gets from Stephanie about our family.

Stephanie is our former daughter-in-law and the mother of our grandchildren, so we have to get along with her even when we disagree—sometimes strongly—with some of the things she does, especially with the children.  She ALWAYS had the children on the dole for free food at school, which here, anyway, includes breakfast.  The program, of course, is for children who live in poverty, which certainly does not describe their household.

The main reason we have been unable to penetrate the cocoon they live in has always been how closely Stephanie ties them to her apron strings.  Consequently, the children depend on her for everything.  They have never yet taken any kind of pill (medication)--another way for Stephanie to control them.

No one from Stephanie's  family—and apparently, none of her “girlfriends”—had gone to college before Michael and Maria, and Stephanie doesn’t know how to deal with that. Maria needs to have an opportunity to learn how to be independent; even Michael criticizes her for her lack of independence. Stephanie was aware that Maria's friend drove home every other weekend, so there was no need for Stephanie to go to visit her (the money is a factor to us, but not the only one).  As long as Stephanie has lived here, she has always driven fairly long distances very often, as if gas is free. Recall that she had already exceeded the mileage warranty on the Mazda van before the month was up, and the place where she bought it was initially not going to honor the warranty when she took it in for whatever problem it had.  

Doris: re Stephanie driving long distances: for frivolous reasons.  She often travels to (out of town) stores to select clothing items and other “bargains.” How she paid for Maria's Junior and Senior Prom gowns, I’ll never know. She also seems to have eaten at every restaurant in the area (except for the very highest priced ones).  From the outside, the kids have enjoyed all the luxuries associated with upper middle class to affluent families.

Remember that before the kids were working part time, she often paid for movie-going at $20ea. She is a true shop-aholic and appears to have no self-control about her buying mania.  

Maria had only been gone 5 weeks before Stephanie visited, which required a hotel and gas for 520 miles, plus the shoppin’ for other of Maria's needs/wants. She had also prepared food to put in Maria's freezer (meatballs, etc.).

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ch 10 Sly and Doris don’t like that I re-use Ziplocs

Primo: Here’s one! They don’t like that you re-use Ziplocs.

Me: How on earth do they know I do that?

Primo: Because when I was there for my dad’s birthday, my mom was throwing away a few Ziplocs that we had used for crackers and for cookies.

Me: Your mom the environmentalist?

Primo: Yes. I told her that you wash and re-use Ziplocs unless the bag is too hard to wash or has holes in it.

Me: It’s wasteful to throw those away after using them only once.

Primo: They think you are too frugal – that you are cheap.

Me: Are these the same people who would not buy cans of diet Dr Pepper for me because the two-liter bottle was so much cheaper?

Primo: Yes, the same. They also don’t like that you don’t have the right reasons not to re-use bags.

Me: What are the right reasons?

Primo: Because You Care About The Environment. Not because you are thrifty.

Me: Like they care? They don’t re-use Ziplocs! I thought they cared.

Primo: They would probably say it’s too much trouble to wash them. Besides, they care about the big issues, like power plant emissions. So they don’t actually have to do anything, like reduce the amount of junk mail they get or stop using their air conditioner all year round, even though most of the time, the weather is nice enough in Florida that they could just open the windows – they just have to say they care.

Ch 10 Primo calls Doris but she is still despondent

Primo: I called my mom and spoke to her directly. She is still despondent about not being thanked. In addition, she is upset with you.

Me: Now what did I do?

Primo: She says you are bitter and resentful that I does not share your interest in gardening.

Me: How on earth did she come to that conclusion?

Primo: She says you wrote her a letter about it.

Me: Yeah, I wrote her a letter and of course I wrote about gardening because that is one of the two topics we can discuss without her getting all emotional, or so I thought. I mentioned that you aren’t a gardener but you like the results. I said you like having tomatoes and basil from my garden and think my flowers are pretty but that my garden is messy. And I put in a smiley face. By definition, if you use a smiley face, you are not being bitter and resentful.

Primo: What’s the other topic?

Me: What?

Primo: What’s the other topic that you guys can discuss without her getting emotional?

Me: What does that have to do with anything?

Primo: I want to know!

Me: OK, engineer. The other topic is books. Anyhow – why does she think I am bitter?

Primo: Because you told her that I don’t share your interest.

Me: But you don’t!

Primo: And you’re bitter.

Me: I couldn’t care less that you don’t share my interest.

Primo: That’s what I thought.

Me: First, I would never use the word “bitter” to your mom and second, I would never express a real emotion to her. Third, I would never say something negative about you to her. I am all surface happy and polite with her. It’s the only way. I would never invite that kind of intimacy with her. And besides, I am not bitter!

Primo: I know. Then she was worried because you and I don’t agree on politics.

Me: Yes, we are all well aware of the political divisions among us.

Primo: She thinks are going to break up.

Me: Over politics? And gardening?

Primo: Um – yeah.

Me: And that has her despondent?

Primo: Apparently.

Me: You'd think she'd be elated to finally have that happy thought in her head.

Ch 10 Doris complains that Primo did not thank her properly

Primo: My dad says my mom is despondent.

Me: Why?

Primo: Because I did not properly thank her for some information she got for me on mental health charities.

Me: But you thanked her, right?

Primo: Of course I did.

Me: So she just doesn't like how you thanked her?

Primo: Apparently, it wasn't the proper kind of thanks.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Ch 9 Sly and Doris don’t like the cookies I sent and are angry I did not send more of them

Me: Did they like the cookies?

Primo: They said you didn't send enough of them.

Me: That's it? They complained there weren't enough?

Primo: And they didn't like the hazelnut ones.

Me: So they didn't like the cookies and there weren't enough of them.

Primo: Pretty much.

Me: Figures.

Primo: And they called you an Ice Queen. And blamed you for keeping me away from them.

Me: Except – right now you are there. I am not keeping you away from them.

Primo: I know.

Me: But of course if it weren't for me, they would see you all the time. Wouldn't they?

Primo: Oh definitely. I just love visiting them and spending time with them.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ch 9 Sly and Doris think a movie about a blogger is stupid

Primo: My mom and dad wanted to watch a movie tonight.

Me: Did you watch anything good?

Primo: I suggested Julie and Julia. I really like Meryl Streep.

Me: Was it good?

Primo: I don’t know. They said they had already seen it and that it was awful.

Me: Really? That’s not something people usually say about movies with Meryl Streep.

Primo: No. They didn’t like it because, they said, it was about a blogger. And we know how awful bloggers are.

Ch 9 Sly is angry that Ted'sWife ate all the pickled herring and I ate all of something

Primo: My dad is ticked off at you. And at Ted'sWife for eating all the pickled herring.

Me: What else is new?

Primo: He always trots out the laundry list of criticisms from the past.

 Me: Your dad needs a hobby. Honestly.

Primo: He has one. He criticizes people.

Me: He is good at it.

Primo: I used to be good at breaking out the laundry list. I learned to stop that, at least for the most part.

Me: You were?

Primo: When I was married to ex-wife.

Me: So that bad marriage was not all her fault.

Primo: It wasn’t always bad. She was a lot of fun. But yeah – I learned how to fight from my parents and one of the things I learned was how to bring up all the bad things from the past. ex-wife hated it.

Me: I don’t blame her.

Primo: I had to learn not to do it. It was hard.

Me: Looks like your dad has never bothered to try.

Primo: Well, he is already perfect. Why should he change?

Me: He better hope that his sister is still alive after your mom dies because she is going to be the only person who will put up with him. I will not have him in my house or in my life. Although if you decide that you will take your dad in after your mom is gone, you and I can talk about breaking up right now. Because I won’t marry you if one of them will be living with us.
Primo: Don’t worry. That is not going to happen.

Me: Good. I like you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. But not with your mom and dad.

Primo: OK.

Me: Why are they complaining to you about what Ted'sWife did? She’s not your girlfriend!

Primo: I know.

Me: Do they ever complain about ex-wife?

Primo: They didn’t spend enough time with her to dislike specific things. You have spent more time with them than ex-wife ever did. You write them letters – she did not.

Me: Ex-wife is a very wise woman.

Primo: Yeah, she figured my mom and dad out pretty quickly and decided not even to go there. I mean, they didn’t like her, but all they had against her was that I was marrying her.

Me: And hence taking you away from them.

Primo: Yes. But they don’t have specific grievances, like eating the herring, that they can refer to.

Me: How did Ted'sWife even come up?

Primo: It’s the general Airing of the Grievances.

Me: Ah. I see.

Primo: And you ate all of something. They can never remember what it is, but you ate all of it and you should have known – even though they didn’t tell you – that you should not have eaten all of it. They also got in some complaints about Stephanie – that she does not feed the kids properly.

Me: Did they complain about how Jack, their father, feeds them?

Primo: Nope. Just Stephanie. Because she gives them white—

Me: Rice.

Primo: Yes. White rice instead of brown rice and she does not know how to make broccoli.

Me: What would they talk about if they couldn’t complain about their daughters in law and about me?

Primo: I don’t know.

Ch 9 The cats have fleas, or, the cats still have fleas, even though the vet gave Sly the medication months ago

Primo: I took the cats to the vet – they have fleas. They already had fleas a few months ago but my parents never gave them the treatment. When I got here, I saw that they were scratching and scratching and losing patches of hair. The vet said he had diagnosed them three months ago and had given the medication to my parents, but when I asked them about it, they said that they had not used it.

Me: But why?

Primo: They said it couldn’t be fleas because the cats don’t go outside.

Me: But – they go in the porch. Your parents have the air conditioning on all day but leave the porch door open.

Primo: Maybe they think because it’s screened that it doesn’t count as outside?

Me: Oh right. Screens keep fleas out.

Primo: Not when I haven’t repaired the holes in the screen. That must be how the fleas got in – from the tears in the screens. This is clearly my fault for not being here to repair the screen when it gets torn.