Amen, Girlfriend (#244)

When I was seven months pregnant, my Chinese-American father-in-law insisted on coming to visit. Jay insulted me personally and women in general. His ceaseless efforts at home improvement culminated in disasters and emergency home improvements for my husband and me. Jay refused to desist. I lost my temper and yelled some mean things at him (all the meaner for being true).

A good hostess never yells at a guest, no matter how trying. A smart wife sucks it up and stays on speaking terms with her in-laws, no matter how insane they are. And a decent mom-to-be will put the needs of her future child ahead of her desire to throttle her maddening father-in-law until he drops the screwdriver of doom forever.

So, yes, I apologized to my father-in-law: “Listen, Jay, I’m sorry for losing my temper and yelling at you. I shouldn’t have done that. But I’m really frustrated by the fact that your keep messing with the doors in our house. Can you please stop trying to fix things? I really need to be able to get into the bathrooms and it’s not possible when you keep breaking them or locking them from the outside.”

Jay nodded and said, “Okay. Andy and I will go work on the bedroom door now.”

He waved imperiously at my husband to follow him and marched down the hallway, still clutching the goddamned screwdriver.

“Aiyah!” exclaimed my mother-in-law, dropping into a chair. 

My husband sighed and whispered, “Are you gonna be okay?”

“Only if he locks himself IN the bedroom this time,” I replied. 

“If he does, I’ll wait a day to get him out,” my husband promised.

“Deal,” I said. “I’m gonna go walk the dogs.” 

“You sure you’re okay?”

“No. But I will be by the time I get back.”

Andy shot me a quizzical look. Like most men, he didn’t understand the healing power of my cell phone.

And my friends.

*****

Men usually say that their best friend is their wife/ girlfriend/ partner

Women only say their best friend is their husband/ boyfriend/ partner if the male in question is within earshot.

Most women have a least one gal pal as a close friend. We need them, and we’re healthier with them. Our pals are our sources of encouragement, our reality checks, and our emergency therapists/ marriage counselors. Especially supportive friends will listen while you vent about your infuriating relatives, many, many times. My BFF, M, had been both my therapist and my husband’s therapist the day before our wedding.

I called on her once again, telling her about my horrible, no good, very bad days with the in-laws. As I walked around our neighborhood with the dogs, M gasped in all the right places, occasionally following it up with, “Oh my God who does that?!” Her reactions mirrored mine. Validation! I stopped secretly wondering if I was the insane one, rather than my father-in-law.

M was raised by a pretentious WASP mother – she understood that no matter how great the provocation, simply not heaving a troublesome guest/ relative out the front door was Not Done. One couldn’t even hold the door for them as they stomped off to a hotel. Because appearances.

After talking with M, I felt a lot less alone/ insane.

But not quite ready to go home.

My second loop around the neighborhood, I called my friend and neighbor JK. She punctuated my story with a whole new slew of “OMGs” and “Are you fucking kidding mes”.

Then she jumped ahead to revenge fantasies.

“You know what you should do? Come straight to my house. I’ll have my husband bring back the dogs and tell your in-laws you collapsed in front of our house and we took you to the hospital. Then you spend the night here and tell them the hospital admitted you because they’re worried about preterm labor from all the stress – which is all their fault! Bahahahahaha, and you have to be hospitalized because they have to get your blood pressure down and your in-laws can’t visit because it’s really important to keep you quiet and stress-free!”

“That’s brilliant! You are an evil genius!”

“Right? And then they can feel guilty because they acted like assholes and upset the pregnant woman! Seriously, you should come over right now!”

I laughed. I reveled in thoughts of revenge. And then I declined. “I can’t leave — they might burn down my house while I’m gone. Plus, I’ve got this big BBQ with my family, too, on Saturday. Too bad. It was a great plan.”

Bolstered by understanding, evil scheming, and laughter, I went home. As I promised my husband, I was all right once again.

Thank God for girlfriends. 

Some of the bitmoji encouragement I get from the gals.

Dedicated to the friend and the phone call I missed during Christmas Eve insanity. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me.

Snapped (#241)

My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes. 

We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure. 

And so common.

Continue reading Snapped (#241)

Houseguest vs. Hostess (#240)

A woman’s home is her castle. Until her father-in-law shows up.

I’m white woman raised by a former debutante. My racist Southern grandma ran a charm school. As liberated as my mother tried to be, she was still stuck on Rules of Acceptable Female Behavior.

One such rule was “Be an Exemplary Hostess.” When friends came over, they got first pick of snacks, toys, and sleeping bags. They chose the games we played.

When my parents entertained, we children took coats. We handed around hors d’ oeuvres. We got adults drinks. If there was a shortage of chairs, we offered our seats to adults and took the floor. We cleared the table and did the dishes, too. My mother took immense pride in the praise guests heaped upon her for her adorable little helpers.

She shared their praise with us. And since we were many, and desperate for attention, we got a little warped.

Continue reading Houseguest vs. Hostess (#240)

Something Is Under the House (#236)

I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.

Until recently. Continue reading Something Is Under the House (#236)

Oh, Boy (#232)

My Chinese-American husband grew up to be a successful engineer with two advanced degrees — and a disappointment to his parents. If he got a 4.0, his father Jay would grunt and his mother Sunny would mention a cousin graduating with honors. When Andy got a job at large company, Sunny told him that a government job would be more secure and have better benefits. Continue reading Oh, Boy (#232)

Gender & Preference (#231)

Parents always say they don’t have a favorite child.

Everyone eventually learns that’s bullshit. I knew it earlier than most. I have four baby siblings, born anywhere from 9-12 years after me. And hell, yeah, I had a favorite.

Pretty Space Cadet Sister spat up on everything as a baby. She was not my favorite. Continue reading Gender & Preference (#231)

Very Telling (#224)

No sooner had my husband and I returned from our honeymoon than my Chinese-American father-in-law called, demanding to know where his grandson was.

He called every week. In vain did I explain family planning and birth control to my husband’s parents.

After three years, Jay finally quit calling. Continue reading Very Telling (#224)

Top 10 Reasons To Have Babies…Refuted (#204)

My husband wanted a baby.

Meanwhile, I literally had a whole list of reasons NOT to have a baby.

But in the interests of fairness, I interviewed and studied various parents. I came up a list of reasons why (other) people want children…along with reasons why those reasons are screwed up. Continue reading Top 10 Reasons To Have Babies…Refuted (#204)

When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

You know those big, dysfunctional but lovable white families you used to see in television and film? They were all about siblings being super shitty to each other. Yet when one member of the family was threatened, the family closed ranks and fended off the attacker.

I grew up in a huge, white, broken, dysfunctional family.

I thought those stories were bullshit. Continue reading When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

We Are Not Water on the Floor (#178)

Would you throw this vase at the patriarchy? What if the patriarchy is your father-in-law?

I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who didn’t have double standards for girls. No telling how much of this was due to feminism and how much was due to fact that the child labor pool in our house was only ¼ male (sometimes less). Big Brother had to do dishes. My sisters and I had to mow the lawn.

Our value was no less because we were female. Continue reading We Are Not Water on the Floor (#178)