I have a very very BAD relationship with my MIL. And there is nothing like the Holidays for getting ILs who behave badly to behave even worse. Once upon a time, before J and I were J and I, I loved the Christmas season. Being non-Christian, I loved it in the way that only a pagan can – fully and absolutely and totally enthralled with the music, lights, festiveness, presents, presents, presents and food galore – iow, like a 3 year old child, with none of the morose Christ like died for our sins guilt.
Anyways, MIL always takes her insanity up a notch around Christmas time. J attributes it to her divorce from FIL (which happened 25 years ago… Yes, that is not a typo… 25 FRIGGIN' YEARS AGO). Apparently, the divorce shattered any hopes of her having the idyllic family of her dreams, and the holidays, with its uber-focus on family, slams her hard and makes her all teary eyed with what could have been. (My friggin ice-cold heart bleeds, not, and you will see why). So it means that she gets very very clingy at the Holidays, as in clingy, as in clingy to her darling boy, J. (BTW, J has two brothers, both younger, who have had it with the antics of their parents, which means there is no love for them, apparently).
I'll powerpoint the highlights of my (now almost 15 year) relationship with my MIL:
- After J and I had been dating from maybe a year or so, MIL told her BFF (who is actually a sweetie, and which is why we know this) that she was worried that J was getting too attached to me and that she hoped we weren't going to get serious because she thought he could do better.
- Once it became very clear that our relationship was serious, she started with the passive-aggressive gift giving. Among my favorites: a half empty bottle of perfume, clothes that were aggressively mis-sized (I was a 6, she would buy me a 12), clothes that looked like they belonged on grandma (we're talking Golden Girls outfits – gag). But that was when she could bother with actual gift giving at all leading to…
- Her favorite kind of gift giving, which was basically to completely upheave our lives and make it a gift. An example, when we bought our first house in bumfuckville after we were married, we closed but did not actually move in for about a month. During that time, she decided that she would very much like to look around in the area for a home for herself (oh, did I mention that the woman was homeless – yes homeless – for well over a decade? I don't mean that she was renting, I mean she was neither renting nor owned a home for well over a decade, living during that entire time with friends and family. In other words, MOOCHING, FOR OVER A DECADE). I was still in my "be gracious to irritating ILs" period and agreed that since our home was empty, she was welcome to stay there, but warning her that the place was clearly inadequately furnished for living. She was Ok with that. So she lived in our home for a month, and during that time she (1) bought a bed and a TV for herself to use, and when she left, she slapped some gift bows on them and "gave" them to us as Christmas presents, (2) dug up the entire Japanese garden (one of the reasons I had loved the house) and planted a ton of frouffy plants that were completely NOT my style, (3) moved the patio furniture indoors to be used as dining furniture even though it had been my one request to her (the dining room had clay floors that got badly scratched up when the heavy wrought iron furniture was dragged across it, (4) left us the electric and gas bill to pay, and (5) left us a bill for all of the cleaning supplies (mop, pail, soap, gloves, duster, etc…) she had bought "for the house".
- So fast forward 4 months and she returns to visit us for Christmas. And this being the very first Christmas that J and I were spending (a) as a married couple, (b) in our own house and (c) back in the US, we decided to host Christmas for her and the BILs, since for the many years we lived abroad, J often heard a lot of groaning from MIL during the holidays about being left all alone by her miserable children. During that visit, she does the following things: (1) complained that a piece of furniture that had been shipped to bumfuckville (she had sent us some furniture because all of her stuff was in storage because she was friggin HOMELESS for over 10 years) was not suppose to be there (even though she had been there when the shippers took it from storage and packed it and shipped it) and that it was an antique and an heirloom and that she would want it back someday (shit, lady, I don't want your fugly furniture. It was and has been too big for every space J and I have ever lived), (2) skipped out on the welcome meal that we had at a nice local restaurant, choosing to stay at hope and have a "salad", despite all her whining about not being able to spend time with her children, (3) disappeared for a half a day in our car without asking us, leaving all of us effectively stranded, on the pretense that she had a tooth emergency that had to be looked after, (4) cooked one thing while leaving the kitchen a deplorable mess, (5) complained that I had never once thanked her for all the work she had done on my garden, and that I was ungrateful for allowing it to go to hell in the time since (which I had because I never wanted that garden and because the plants were all wrong for bumfuckville's environs) and a bunch of other ridiculously passive-aggressive shit. Anyways, after two days of this, I had had enough, so I basically told her that she was the bitchiest person since bitchy mcbitch, told her that she was welcome to stay because we had invited her but that I was not going to be staying anywhere near her because I might just beat her to a bloody pulp in my sleep and then left to go stay in a hotel for Christmas. Which I did.
And that was pretty much the beginning of the end of my relationship with MIL, a slow downward trajectory punctuated with her ridiculous pleas to J that she didn't understand why I "don't like her" and wants to know what "she can do to make things better". And even as her mouth is moving with those words, she is still doing things like:
- Trying to show up at my daughter's births, even though I have made it very clear that I'm very uncomfortable with the whole having people around during the first days after birth thing. I didn't even allow anyone from my family/friends to come to the hospital to visit, only my mom.
- Always always not scheduling her plans until the very last minute or cancelling at the very last moment, even though J and I have 2 jobs and 2 children and she has 0 jobs and 0 obligations. She will absolutely call at the airport and tell you that she is on her way to see you.
- Doing specific things with Loo and Kali that I ask her not to. Like feeding them her own snacks when I had left my own snacks for them, using a cheaper brand of diapers when J told her specifically that we use Pampers (leading to a very bad diaper rash on Loo for a few days), and giving them seriously scary gifts (books on being a good Christian – yes, she knows I am not one and that we have decided to bring them up in a more secular environment).
- Making J take her on a "little jaunt" to New York two weeks after I had given birth to Kali. Yes, seriously, she had J leave me and his newborn child to take her on a vacay in New York.
I know I am not alone here. There are women (and men, I guess) all over the blogosphere who have crazy in-laws. And some of them have noticed that maybe that the craziness is, in fact, genetic. I had always thought that J was immune to his family's antics, and it was one of the reasons that I happily married him. But now that we've been married a few years, and we've had harder times together, he is increasingly behaving in ways that are very characteristic of MIL, FIL and BILs (more on FIL and BILs some other day). And I wonder: what will I do when J turns into one of them? Can I really live with that?
Anyways, this has been an awfully long-winded way of saying that MIL is up to no good again. Even though I pretty much refuse to have anything to do with MIL anymore (I won't discuss plans that involve her, because I refuse to get involved in the time suck that is MIL planning) I have an open policy regarding MIL when it comes to the holidays. I do not officially "celebrate" the holidays and therefore there is nothing for me to "invite" MIL to. That being said, she is always welcome to join in whatever meal we have on those days (namely, Christmas and Thanksgiving).
She's making a big fuss this year. She refuses to come to our home unless I invite her (although J has invited her, apparently it is not enough). I won't go down that road, for several reasons, one being that she always feels that she is entitled to be on her worst behaviour if she is "invited" somewhere (I guess on the logic that, as a guest, she should always be granted extra leniency). So she wants J, Loo and Kali to spend Christmas with her. In her friend's house in Brookline. (Oh yes, that whole HOMELESS thing I was talking about before. She did finally buy a home out west a few years ago, but she is still forever smooching off others. One of her favorite ploys – she is quite an attractive woman, and she has these male "friends" that she stays with in random places. There are a few that J and I know of, and maybe others, anyways, they are constantly proposing to her, and, to my knowledge, she is basically constantly stringing them along). I haven't really made up my mind about this whole thing yet because on the one hand (1) I pretty much hate friggin Christmas now because of MIL and so I don't really mind not doing anything at all on Christmas but (2) there seems to be something weird about not spending Christmas with Loo and Kali.