Monday, December 18, 2006
In the Dumps
I'm a bit down today. I'm sorry, but it is true.

I'm having a bad day. Found out this morning that I made 2 mistakes on Friday in my huge heap of stuff to get done. I'm not feeling well today. Bunny was sick all weekend, and this includes being sick for her birthday party. Figures. She barely touched her birthday cake. I did take pictures of the cakes though, and will post them eventually or soonish, whichever comes first. From all reports, the cake was tasty, so that's something.

I'm a bit bummed over something that was said to me over the weekend.

I am fully aware that I should toughen up, sticks and stones and all that, but this person has a real knack for saying the things that are going to make me angry. I suppose what bothers me is the way they are passive-aggressive and, well, just nasty.

Let me set it up for you.

Prince Charming and I are sitting at the dining room table across from each other and this other person is sitting between us at the foot of the table. Nobody else is in the room. We are looking through some old school documents from Prince Charming's school days. And this person says, I kid you not:

"When you divorce him, Phoenix, make sure Prince Charming gets these back."

This was not followed by a giggle or a smirk or even a wink.

This was not said in a jesting tone, but matter-of-factly. It was said like you might ask someone to pass the salt and pepper. And the items in question, just for the record, were not exactly priceless treasures that some cold-hearted gold digger would want.

Now, she has said things in the past that have bothered me. Things like not needing any more grandchildren and Prince Charming not needing to change the beneficiary on his insurance policies. I know, I know. I shouldn't let it bother me. But, in the sum total, you can't keep chalking these things up to being jokes. As I have contended many times, THEY AREN'T FREAKIN' FUNNY!

And a joke, by its very nature, is humorous to somebody, if only the joker. However, not even she was laughing. Moreover, I might have bought the joke argument a few years ago when I barely knew her. Maybe. But now my experience with her is into the fourth year. She's not a joker. She doesn't jest. So the whole "she must have been joking" argument is fallacious on the merits.

I don't care if she doesn't want me to be the mother of her grandchildren. The horse is already out of the barn on that one. I don't care if she doesn't like the fact that I and our child are supposed to be the beneficiaries of his insurance policies. Frankly, that's a state law (I believe) and she's going have a hard time getting around that.

Maybe I'm not the best mother in the world. Maybe I'm not the best wife in the world either, for that matter. But frankly, these judgements are not up to her. Prince Charming seems satisfied with his choices of me as his mate and in choosing me as the mother of his child. For most people that would be enough. But not her.

In her opinion I must be evil incarnate, come to destroy the life of Prince Charming. I must be a really miserable bitch. And, maybe I am a miserable bitch, but certainly not for the reasons she assigns.

Prince Charming and our daughter are my world. I gave up an excellent career to be with him. I took a huge pay cut to come and live with him. I do everything in my power to make his life with us comfortable, happy, and stress-free. Prince Charming and I have had one fight in 4 years. One. From what I understand, this is highly unusually low. Even happily married couples fight, but we don't fight all that much. We communicate regularly, and given our opposite sleep schedules, this speaks volumes about our commitment. At least, I think it does.

Do you need more proof of his happiness? He'd rather be with me and Bunny than out with the boys or contributing to some bar's bottom line. He would be the best authority, of course, but he sure seems happy to me. I am not in this for the short-term. I have signed up for the Life Plan. Had I not loved the man to distraction, I sure as hell wouldn't have chased him for six years. Long Distance. I love him very very much. I am not going to apologize for that. She may not like it. But you know what? She doesn't have to like it.

You want to know why we don't come to see you very much, Lady? It is comments like this, where you anticipate our eventual divorce to my face, that make me very much not your ally when you complain about not seeing us. What, in the name of all that is good in the world, is my inducement? Sign up here for a weekend filled with insults and win a special kick in the head for your trouble!

I'm not going to subject myself to it, thank you very much.

Sigh. You don't like me. I get it. Maybe you think the prenup was a signal that I don't really love him. You are wrong. The prenup, completely and absolutely none of your business, has more to do with the continuation of my father's livlihood than our marriage. And just for the record, every person in my generation from my family had to have their spouse sign one. It was a decision we made as children (well, some of us were still children) when the first of us was ready to walk down the aisle. We agreed to require this from each other to protect our fathers and our birthright. I didn't even know Prince Charming when I agreed to this. Moreover, Prince Charming fully expected to have to sign one before I even mentioned it. Because he realizes how modern farms are organized and the perils of divorce and how they impact business. He's no dummy. You should also know that there are provisions in the prenup that protect Prince Charming. Again, not that it is any of your business in the first place.

Or, perhaps your issue is with the fact that I am a child of divorce, and therefore might see it as an easy escape from a bad situation. Let me set you straight. I am more likely to try harder to save a marriage because I know divorce. I know what it does to children. I know what it does to men. And, I know what it does to women. I am unlikely to view this as a good plan. Why? Because I married Prince Charming when I was old enough to know myself and not have any delusions about what was ahead of us. I am pragmatic, and so is Prince Charming. We don't expect every day to be a honeymoon. Neither of us has unrealistic expectations.

Now that I'm done ranting, here is my bigger problem:

I know full well that she isn't particularly fond of me. I even sort of expect her to say these nasty things to me. So why is it that I'm so ill-prepared when she pulls the trigger? She said this and I froze like I was caught in the headlights of an 18-wheeler. I am stunned when she says things like this. This is why I know they aren't jokes. My family is familiar with jokes about divorce. Very familiar, you might say. But usually, the joke of the sort she told is told first-handed, where the teller owns the divorce.

Such as:

"Oh, look, I think I've just spotted my future ex-husband."
"Well, when we divorce, I'm going to get his golf clubs because they've been such an integral part of my happiness - keeping him out of the house."
"I don't see how divorce will change things all that much. He already only visits here and we never have sex. All that's left is the paperwork and making the ring into a pendant."
"He can't afford to divorce me!"
etc.

In each of these example where divorce is a central theme of a joke, the joker owns the divorce, playing a pivotal role as one of the divorcing parties.

Telling a "joke" about someone else's divorce is a) in bad taste, b) impolite, c) crass, d) offensive, e) a tell. Or, F - all of the above.

You wouldn't think I'd have to tell her that.

Why can't I break out of the stun and call her on her bullshit? Why must I persist in attempting to let it slide off my back and act unaffected? I am affected! This sort of thing hurts me. It hurts me very much. I wonder if she doubts my love for him.

I know that shouldn't bother me, but it does. I don't understand. Am I the only person that she does this to? Am I her only target? Why can't I tell her, as I would like, "Sorry, lady. You are stuck with me for life!" or "Honey, you can shove your nasty comments up your hee-haw."

I don't want to be impolite, I really don't. But I am loathe to let her continue to play her little word games with me. I don't want to allow her to keep treating me this way.

And, before you all start in, I am aware that she may not be aware of the hurt she's causing. She'd have to be an absolute clod, but it is within the realm of possibilities. I try very hard not to break into tears when she says things like this, painting a bland emotionless expression on my face or looking into my lap entirely. Regular readers may appreciate that this takes a supreme amount of effort for somone so opinionated.

It is also remotely possible that she's trying to be funny. It is possible that I am the one who lacks a sense of humor. But somehow I doubt that this is the case. In either case, whether she says these things without intending offense or through a misguided attempt at humor, I think she should know that she's making enemies. I could be her ally, but instead she is setting me up as the opposition. Does she think she can win?

Part of me feels like I should be the better person and just take it. It wouldn't be polite or respectful to call her out. But on the other hand, seeing as how I intend to be with Prince Charming for the next 50 or 60 years, I don't want to keep feeling this way when she fires off her little comments every few months. True, she's unlikely to live for another 50 years, but I do not want to become her target dummy either.

Does she think I'm not clever enough to understand what she's saying? Does she think I'm not smart enough to know when I'm being insulted?

I don't know what to do. Prince Charming has always thought she was joking in the past, but I'm not sure what he thinks of this latest comment. I have asked him if he thinks her past jokes were funny and he agrees that they are not. But I don't think that excusing it by saying "that's just the way she is" is the right answer either. He also is quick to point out that she doesn't get along with any of her children's spouses, but again, I don't view this as an excuse.

Is it any wonder that I avoid her as much as possible?

So, my questions to you are:

1. Am I over-reacting?
2. Are her comments funny?
3. Do I lack a sense of humor?
4. Should I continue to "take it" or should I pointedly make it clear that she's insulting me and I don't like it?
posted by Phoenix | 10:29 AM


>4 Comments:

At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Christina said...

Phoenix,

SHE is the one with the problem, not you. I would think it was deference for your husband and *his* feelings for his mother that keeps you from anihilating her.

My mother-in-law was the same way. On the very day that Sweet One was born, *her* first grandchild, she looked at my hour old baby, then at me and said: "It's a good thing she looks so much like you...no one will ever question who the father was."

There was NO chance of any infidelity.

She just said it to say it. I don't know why.

First of many, many comments, eerily similar to yours.

Her problem. Not yours, even though it hurts.

I'm sorry, honey.

{hug}

 
At 10:02 PM, Blogger Caltechgirl said...

your MIL and mine could be a pair. Except I get the snide little comments about NOT having kids. (Three grandchildren is perfect....)

You know, next time she says something like that, call her on it. Nicely.

Just look directly at her, smile sweetly, and say "oh, I will be sure to give those back." Only if she's an idiot will she take you seriously.

Does the PC know how she makes you feel? Have you told him the things you wrote? My DH knew I was upset about his mother (and sister) but he didn't understand HOW they were pissing me off or why it bothered me so much until I explained it to him. Calmly. Seems he was used to their BS and never even realized what was being said because he tunes it out.

Big hugs. I look forward to my own excoriation next week....

 
At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

1. You *may* be overreacting, BUT it's because of your pain -- the pain and hurt that your MIL has caused you. You've got to dump somewhere, and it does not sound as if your Charming Prince truly understands your feelings about this.

2. Not funny in the least -- especially in that context. Her comments are more like a challenge.

3. Absolutely not. You have a good (though delightfully warped) sense of humor. It's one of your charms.

4. This question is one that only you can answer, Phoenix. But you knew that when you asked it, didn't you?

I think it is very important to include Prince Charming in deciding if and what you (as a couple) should do. It sounds like his mother has trouble with the "cleave and leave" part of marriage. You and your Prince established your own separate family when you married. Bunny has expanded that to three.

Your MIL seems to have trouble accepting that her boy has switched his first allegiance from her to you, but that is the way it is supposed to work, so she'll just have to deal with it. Unfortunately, her way of dealing with it so far is making acidic comments to you and your husband.

Sometimes you just have to be graceful. And you and your husband will have to work out how you can show that grace to your MIL.

I have no doubt that you can (and will) work this out. May God bless your efforts!

Just my 2 cents.

 
At 3:37 PM, Anonymous wRitErsbLock said...

my $.02

I'm so sorry your MIL is so horrid. My hubby has to tolerate that same nonsense from my mother.

~Mom is constantly saying things like, "when you divorce J and move up here..."

~MIL gave hubby a pendant that her deceased husband gave her years and years ago. Hubby gave pendant to me on our 1st anniversary. I treasure it. Mom: "when you divorce J, you be sure to give that back to him. That's their heirloom."

Ugh.

And one of my favorites on our most recent trip to visit my mother. Mom kept asking about my niece (husband's brother's kid) the entire weekend. Never once asked about my step-daughter (husband's kid). I finally snapped and said, "Why the hell do you keep asking me about Niece? I don't care about Niece. You know we have no contact with them. Yet you've done nothing but ask about Niece and you have never once asked about Step-Daughter. Do you even know her name?!" (which was a nice jab because my step-daughter and I have the exact same first name). Mom stammered and made a painful (for her) effort the rest of the time to go out of her way to ask about step-daughter.

And she wonders why we're never in a hurry to call her or come visit.

I say call your MIL on it. Let her know she's being a super big meanie. And let her know that's why you rarely visit with her. On the off chance that she's completely clueless.

And then, for fun, tell her you'd shred all his childhood papers out of spite for MIL, not PC, if that dark day ever came.

 

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