As a mother of a passel of boys, I have to speculate about the vast amount of bad mother-in-law stories in the world.
It seems that whenever her kids grow up and marry, the MIL instantly turns Evil and begins to wreak havoc on the lives of her new in-laws. A MIL who may have been a perfectly nice,
cookie-baking mom is transformed into a gorgon of epic proportions. Her eyes
turn piggy and red and her hair grows serpents, and those serpents’ eyes
also turn piggy and red, and she becomes the central villain in stories like
the one I am about to relate.
Is this to be my fate? Will, I, too, offer whole nuts and chocolate to an
infant barely capable of gumming baby mush? Will I, too, fail to buckle a
toddler properly into his car seat because the straps were too darned
difficult to loosen, but drive about aimlessly anyway? Will I politely
inform a less-favored grandchild that I am used to dealing with children of
better intelligence than he?
If I do any of these things, feel free to shoot or poison me. I obviously
will have long outlasted my stay on this earth, and poison is ridiculously
easy to concoct.
But maybe some people are just born bad.
My very own MIL has been living with us for about a thousand months now
(it’s really a year, but who’s counting?). She moved in after rather
desperate circs, we having paid her rent in a ridiculously overpriced
apartment for a few months as she could no longer afford it. As she is a bit
of a bigot and a snob, an affordable apartment in a less-desirable area
would have been a no-go. Instead, she had to choose a fancy doorman
apartment in a swanky suburb. But she had failed to pay the rent on time for
so long that the building authorities wanted the old bird out, despite the
fact that we ponied up for all the back rent.
Next, she was laid off from her position where she had to interact with
undesirable people who might not have been able to speak proper English. I’m
sure that when it came time to go down the roster of employees eligible for
layoffs, the woman who is rude to almost every swarthy, fuzzy, fat, unkempt,
or generally funny-looking individual who comes in contact with her might
have risen to the top of the list post-haste.
This MIL, like many of her kind, can be very charming when the mood suits
her. But cross her just once, even in utter innocence, and her mood can turn
from chipper to waspish and ugly. The problem is, one never knows what will
set her off. Hence, the effect is like walking on eggshells, every hour,
every day. I had always been able to manage my relationship with her well,
but had seen that dark side rise and bite others in the rump many times. I
should have known it would come to bite me as well. Of course, I have some
pity and understanding for her situation. I might have much more if she was
a feeble old granny with an ailment, rather than a perfectly able-bodied
woman who hasn’t the sense to balance her checkbook or live within her
Despite my feeble protests, the MIL descended upon our happy home. I could
sense the storm of doom in the horizon, but what was I to say? People say
I’m a saint for letting her in, but it doesn’t really take a saint to
suggest that putting a roof over an old lady’s head is preferable to letting
her stagger about in the snow. I also thought the stay would be blissfully
short. (Please note: Once a MIL is installed, she becomes very hard to
For one, our home is not constructed for privacy, and the woman moved in
basically right outside our bedroom, leaving us to indulge in marital
pleasures in an unfinished and unheated attic. She also brought every bag
and baggage of her life with her, from the hideous and gargantuan mirrored
cabinets, circa 1980, that now tower over our living room like a malignant
force, to the endless boxes of fine crystal and china left over from her
numerous failed marriages. She wanted the giant cabinets to stay with her so
the place could feel like home. Fab! I love it when a place feels like home!
When the moving truck arrived I quailed in horror, for among the endless
parade of furniture and general crap came a giant desk to be placed in the
very same room where I keep my home office. I could only picture her there,
tapping away at her antiquated computer, while I was attempting to do
business and make calls. I drew the line and commanded the desk back into
the truck from whence it had come. It was to go to storage! Where I hoped
she would also go, eventually.
Unfortunately, I had earlier suggested that the desk could live in the room
peaceably. I was trying to be nice, once again, but making concessions when
one’s home is invaded by a malignant force is a mistake. Now I was an
oath-breaker! Now my name would be written in blood!
Boy, did she let me have it about that desk. Suggestions were made that my
word could not be trusted. Further suggestions were made that I was picking
and choosing among her finer pieces of furniture for the ones I greedily
hoped to make my own, even though I don’t want one stick of the stuff in my
home. Frankly, I would rather every scrap of silver and china and whatnot go
to the needy (who need this sort of thing for all the dinner parties they
throw, of course) than have her continue to live here.
I only wish that I had spoken up earlier and said "no" to the whole
arrangement. For, dear reader, it is sometimes wise and best to be a nasty
and outspoken person. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. People who are
nice and try to be sweet and accommodating and never speak up sometimes have heart attacks at an early age. Mind you and beware, and when the idea of a MIL moving into your home is raised there is only one answer: No. Let’s just hope she hasn’t the wits to read the Loop, or I am in for it. I’ll just
suggest that this is the more appealing way to avoid said heart attack
rather than kickbox her in the eye every time I see her.
Next: The MIL changes into a stained sweatsuit…and never changes out of it
again! Also: The horrifying story of the salmon skin that sat on a plate in
her bedroom for seven days.