[This post is part of a series, inspired by the book Why Men Lie and Women Cry (2003) by Allan & Barbara Pease. Previous entry: Chapter Five]
This chapter is all about mothers-in-law… and frankly, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (which is on a constant rerun loop in the mornings here in the UK), then you could pretty much skip it. Still, there are a few interesting nuggets, nestled in amongst the inevitably hacky jokes that litter the pages: “While the Utah State University research shows that approximately 50% of mothers-in-law are seen as troublemakers, the other 50% must be either neutral at worst, or loving, helpful and generous members of the extended family.” (p. 145) “A mother wants to be involved in her children’s life. It’s normal that a girl will rely more on her own mother than on her mother-in-law. This can cause jealousy on the part of her partner’s mother [because] sons rarely talk with their mothers about anything. Consequently a mother-in-law will rarely get much information and begins to feel excluded from her son’s new family and may think the only way she can be included is to force her way in by being constantly present.” (p. 147) As ever, the “solution” to this problem is to set clear boundaries, and reinforce them.
Annoyingly this book has set me thinking about my own faltering romantic history, and reawakened my long-abandoned day-dreams of getting married someday… even though, at this point, I’m more likely to become a space-cowboy than I am a husband! Still, in that unlikely event, I’d definitely want my fiancée to meet my family, because it’s the quickest and easiest way to demonstrate why I’m as messed up as I am… and, hopefully, it might make me seem more functional and sympathetic by comparison. The idea of meeting her family, however, is truly terrifying. The only decent reference point I can think of on this theme is 2 Days in Paris (2007), in which Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg stop off in the eponymous city, to stay with her parents. Obviously the tension is heightened by the lingual and cultural barriers, so it might not be a great example to draw on, but I can still relate quite easily to the plight of the male protagonist. Sleeping over in other people’s houses, and trying to appear relatively smart and responsible in front of grown-ups is always a nerve-wracking experience for me… although the idea of being absorbed into a new, extended family is very appealing, if only because if could offer me a chance to escape my current, biological one.
Next entry: Chapter Seven