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.
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.
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.