Don’t Sit on the Parthenon

Posted: 27 December 2008 in observations, other folks, the fantastic

You know those mother-in-law jokes?  I thought they were fiction.  You know, some disagreeable chap can’t figure out how to get along with his own family let alone one he has married into.  And while his new mum is somewhat bossy, his shtick about high expectations has taken fibbing to a whole new art.  Ha ha.

I admit I grew up in a white picket fence sort of family, where mothers get along famously with the women who birthed their husbands and the husbands smile lovingly upon their wives’ mothers.  Sure, there is the occasional sniping behind closed doors, but it’s rarely undeserved.  Folks get along and, as such, there isn’t much lamenting over the in-laws.

For the first few years that I was married to D, I assumed I was the problem when it came to my mother-in-law.  She didn’t like me for dozens of reasons, none of which seemed to be important but one: I was too Fancy.  Maybe it’s that picket fence showing through, but I suspect it was my expectation that there be a place to sit among the…stuff…and that the children be washed and that some sort of utensil be provided when eating.  I tried to be less Fancy, but the fact that I was clean undermined me every time.

The first time I met her family, I couldn’t quite understand her reticence to bring me inside her mother’s den.  I couldn’t imagine why she wanted to make sure I peed elsewhere, wasn’t hungry and wouldn’t need anything to drink.  Then we got inside and I learned why.  There are toys in every nook and cranny of the house her mother shares with D’s sister,  brother-in-law and three kids.  There are stains and dirt.  The backyard isn’t visitable and, for the most part, curtains are kept drawn.  Whole rooms are blockaded for one reason or another – furniture storage, fragile items, a hole in the floor.  There is no place to sit, not without moving school projects, plates, matchbox cars and discarded barbie outfits.  I don’t go in the kitchen.  I don’t inhale deeply.

I know this is a sign of deep depression.  Her mother has a string of indicators and given the circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that D’s sister and brother-in-law struggle as well.  When you’re coping like that, it’s too difficult to keep the house normally while taking care of the kids and themselves.  Something falls through the cracks.  Depression is ugly.

This Christmas visit was noticeably better.  I only shoveled away one armload of things in order to sit down, the curtains were open and her mother was out of bed and alert.  It was, in fact, the only time I’ve ever visited her mother when she hasn’t gone up to sleep in the middle of the day.  But, as the day wore on, some of the traditional oddities still were in play.  I was still too fancy.  No serving utensils were employed and several  forks had to be wiped down and shared among the family.  I’m still not allowed upstairs and, although her mother assured me the bathroom was clean, D insisted (wide-eyed) that it was most definitely not.  This leads me to the point.

I peed all over the leg of my jeans.  Oh yes.  Sometime midday I realized that I could not hold it any longer.  Usually there’s a Christmas day visit to IHOP to sustain us (and to use the bathroom) but this time her mother was awake and holding court so I was desperate to find an alternative.  We took the dog for a walk in the woods nearby so that I could find a secluded glen in which to drop trou and make the rest of the day more bearable.  I did and it was, but for the giant stain on the cuff of my jeans where I…missed.

Yes, I spent Christmas day with my mother-in-law covered in pissed on jeans.  Yes, I’m that fancy.

The rest of the evening passed fairly quickly, my niece’s popsicle stick Parthenon survived, despite nearly being sat on several times.  My mother-in-law confined her bitter sniping to her son-in-law, sparing me the worst of her disdain, and we made it through the entire visit without either one of us bursting into tears before during or after, which is a probably a first.  And at long last, I’ve been taken down a full notch to lower case fancy after having peed on my own jeans during a major holiday celebration.

Points for everyone.

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