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.

The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

When I was a little girl, my mother organized caroling and a party on Christmas Eve. We sang our way around the block in Washington D.C. We were met with universal delight. Those were magical times

My Ex-Stepmother carried on the tradition in the suburbs of D.C. and then New England.

Until I dated a guy from rural Tennessee over the holiday season, I never thought some people might find caroling…odd.

Continue reading The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

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)

They’re Coming (#238)

When my white family reunites, we plan. A year in advance, a cascade of emails about wedding beach houses, Christmas in New Hampshire, or running a 10K at Thanksgiving begin.

And then there’s my husband’s Chinese-American family. Near the end of October, Andy said, “So we haven’t seen my parents in a while.”

“Yes,” I agreed, smiling. And then stopped smiling. “Wait. Are you saying to want to go see them? Before your brother’s wedding next summer?” (Yes, Denny was finally getting married! But that’s another post.)

“Well…” Continue reading They’re Coming (#238)

Rules for Trick-or-Treating (#237)

I have exactly one rule when it comes to Halloween.

Rule #1: Everyone who comes to my door on Halloween gets candy.

I have these rules because I had a racist Southern Grandma. The worst Halloween horror story I ever heard was about that grandma. My mother once told me how her mother would keep two bowls of candy by the door on Halloween. One bowl was filled with Hershey Bars. That bowl was for the neighborhood kids.

The other bowl was filled with candy corns and cheap lollipops. When truckloads of “poor kids” came in from “more rural areas,” to trick-or-treat, they got the crap candy. Continue reading Rules for Trick-or-Treating (#237)

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)

A College Story (#233)

(Trigger warning for sexual assault.)

My father once told a less than suitably deferential Homecoming date, “Bring her home safe, early, and happy, and you’ll stay in one piece.”

I was mortified. I was also home safe and right on time.

I went to college thousands of miles from home. Continue reading A College Story (#233)

West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

In my childhood house of a thousand siblings, there was only one day more exciting than Christmas.

My birthday.

On my birthday, I got to sit at the head of the breakfast table and preside over a plate of powdered doughnuts with candles. Powdered doughnuts might not seem very exciting compared to the Krispy Kremes and Voodoo doughnut delicacies of today, but back then they were a huge treat. Especially to a kid in a big family on a budget. Continue reading West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

Braced for Catastrophe (#214)

The cat asks, “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?”

Growing up amidst divorce, minimal resources, and tragedy, I learned not to be optimistic. I was always awaiting the next crisis. If my husband didn’t answer his phone, I was certain he’d been in a fatal car wreck. I sniffled as I planned that man’s funeral at least weekly.

When my husband and I agreed to try to get pregnant, I worried constantly about both having a child and raising one.

My husband had none of these fears. Continue reading Braced for Catastrophe (#214)