“you are really getting fat. you’ve never been this big before, and neither has your sister. you are women, you should be more conscientious of your bodies.”
the woman utters these words, her third chin wobbling in tune with her bottle black hair that would have made any toupee aspirer salivate with envy. her eyes are full of expectation, as she can see in my face the effect of her words. i am not used to such full frontal attack. i
in my fantasy world, if i am nice and well behaved, the birds will always sing, my true love will always come bearing roses, and my sister in-laws will be the nice and missunderstood angels that show love beneath the gruffy exterior. i even have fantasies of a big family table where everybody talks at once, drinks, eats and it is merry. all the books and movies say so.
lately, i am having difficulties catching even a glimpse of this alluded love or affection. if it exists, i will need to conjure all my imagination and creativity, to convince my sister, that when dishes are washed again after she has done them, it is just a quirk of the “mother’s” character, the body comments are totally innocent remarks of a woman without self-control, and the weekly closet raids are just another way to make sure that she has adequate clothes for the winter ahead.
unfortunately, any well behaved, family oriented, hardworking, dedicated and romantic man, has had a woman who kicked his butt in shape. very often, this woman is the same one who has trouble telling her partner from her son, who fears losing power and youth and control at the hands of a much younger and fiery version of her self, who makes her very jealous, but whom she has to call “daughter” for the sake of her son. this is THE MOTHER-IN-LAW.
THE MOTHER-IN-LAW, is a powerful and domineering, at her most dangerous when she feels her spirit has been wounded and her love has been replaced. her decline will make her transform from the most docile, well-educated, and self-respected woman, into a screeching banshee, scheeming hag and wounded lioness, a one stop-shop crazy market if you will. she has long ago passed menopause, so her inhibitions are gone. most of the time she has already lost her own husband, and, with the addition of the bride, she feels she is loosing her precious son too. confused in her own desire to still be useful to her family and cook, and unable to see her spoiled brat actually pick up after himself, she throws herself at the younger woman with wolverine ferocity.
i remember my own grandmother, the strong, omniscent giving woman who helped a whole neighbourhood, clash talons with her own daughters-in-law like a hag possessed. her own in-laws had made her life a black chasm, so she saw no reason for her young in-law not to bear a little lip with all the precious information she was imparting. i remember, and i think how hopeless the situation was then, with everybody all living together in small houses with one bathroom, and rationed meat, groceries and milk. shouldn’t family fights and stress be done with now?
apparently not. whether the cause is a needle put the wrong way up, or moving into separate houses, the old conflict is still there, a battle to the last drop of house cleaning liquid, between strong willed women, while the poor man is trying to duck and avoid blows coming to him from all directions, wishing he was Jackie Chan or Neo (in Matrix) and cursing his little friend for wanting to be warm all the time, and his consciense for making him do the right thing and making the source of warmth legitimate and getting his butt kicked in process.
yes, this is the wonderful life of doing the right thing, and bringing mother and spouse under the same roof. i look again at my sister’s mother-in-law, a smart woman who nevertheless always manages to say the wrong thing, and dread the moment my own mother will turn in an in-law and meet with my brother’s bride.
also, i need to buy an indulgence, and start collecting some poison, just in case i ever get married. you never know.