Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Minutiae, and a realization

A number of people have asked me, "so how's it going with MIL?"  They always ask the question as if they're bracing themselves for something in response, like an explosion or a temper tantrum.

But, I vowed not to be an asshole.  A vow I'm (mostly) sticking to.  And in all honesty, things are fine.

All I can really say is that she is as she ever was.  Somebody I have difficulty understanding on just about every level - why she acts the way she does, why she says the things she does, why she talks about the things she does - but somebody who is essentially harmless.

The hardest part is dealing with the incessant questions about things that it would not occur to me to care about -- like where everyone has their morning tea.  Or detailed descriptions of what she had for morning tea, or what the children had when they stayed with her for a couple of hours while I was out running errands.

My mom was traveling in the Caribbean for work, and called me from the Miami airport when she was back in the country.  We talked about her trip, its successes and difficulties, politics, what workout programs we were doing, funny stories about the kids, the usual.

When I got off the phone, MIL said, "how's your mum?"

"Oh, she's good.  Stuck in the Miami airport for a couple of extra hours because they missed an earlier connecting flight, but her trip went well.  She's fine."

"Stuck in the airport?  Is she going to have her tea in the airport?"

"Uhhhh... I assume that if she's hungry, she'll find something to eat.  We didn't discuss it."

Because who gives a shit???

I finally had to tell MIL  that I don't care what anybody eats.  I said it nicely and in relation to a funny story (because I have vowed not to be an asshole), but I had to say something before my head exploded.

I know that some people do.  I dated a guy about 15 years ago who was always obsessing over what he was going to order at a restaurant that he wouldn't be going to for days.  His family was like this, too.  Every Sunday we all met for brunch at this diner in Atlanta, and every Saturday they would have extensive questions and discussions about what they were going to have.  At a diner.  Where they all ordered the same thing every time, anyway -- some form of eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee. 

But I really don't give a shit.  I'm not a big foodie.  I like cooking, but I'm not particularly interested in eating, and I don't think about food when I'm not hungry.  My children are fed at school, and the school is certified and properly licensed, and I generally peruse the menu schedule that is sent out every month, but beyond that, I don't really care.  They eat at school, they appear energetic and nobody shows signs of malnourishment, they're growing properly, so I assume everything is fine.  One less thing, you know?

I was complaining to my friend Andrea about the level of discourse in my house and how precipitously it has dropped since MIL arrived.  Much discussion about morning tea and the weather and all that, and not much else.  Quite honestly, I would rather not talk than talk about that stuff. 

She very gently pointed out that the household I grew up in was not normal in that regard.  "You are now discovering what it's like for the rest of us," she said.  "Not everyone grew up with witty, well-read diplomats for parents, with the discussion swirling around about foreign policy and cultural stuff."

"Hmmm, I guess I never thought of it that way," I said.

"Yeah.  You should hear the conversations I have with my dad.  This is what it's like for most people.  You just have no idea.  You were spoiled."

One more thing to blame on my parents?


  1. now I'm pissed that we did not talk about "tea" growing up. J must be so happy to talk about tea and if he had it on the couch or kitchen chair.

    1. He generally laughs it off, god bless him. I wish it were as easy for me.

  2. I never thought about it that way, and my head would melt in the same way yours does if I had to talk daily about when/where/what someone was going to have (for) tea. Food discussions, I just don't understand. The conversations about dinner, about tomorrow's meal, about next week's restaurant, I can't ever get into. I would love it if we had a cook and food just appeared. I got kind of fixated on particular foods in my last pregnancy, but other than that, for the most part I find it tedious.

    1. Pregnancy fixations are different (and oddly fascinating to me). But maybe living with servants ruined my ability to think about food other than when I wanted it to appear on my plate, because even now, when I've been living on my own for over 20 years, it's hard for me to remember to plan ahead. Which, Christ, talk about your first world problems.

      Now I feel like an asshole again.

  3. I have a couple family members who I don't see too often who always ask me (and everyone else) "how is your car running?"

    I avoid food discussions for other, probably obvious reasons, but inevitably hear some super lame and ignorant joke about my choices...

    1. That's so funny! My grandpa used to always ask me about my car as well. But he was also a sweet man and a great conversationalist, so it didn't bother me. And whenever people bug me about my food choices ("you're so healthy! eat a donut, it won't kill you!") I just nod and smile and go about my business.

  4. Glenn B.3:01 PM

    Ugh. I am the guy who thinks about what he's going to be eating. I just made reservations for restaurants in New York and London. For trips I won't be taking FOR THREE MONTHS. Thanks for holding a mirror up to my sorry, sorry life.

    1. Aw. It's a little bit different when you're planning trips to restaurants that are special as part of a trip.

      The convos with my ex and his family were about what they were going to order every Sunday at the freaking OK Cafe on West Paces Ferry. And my MIL starts fanning herself about a trip to the coffee shop across the street. Not exactly dinner at Lutece or Le Bernardin.

    2. Glenn B.3:23 PM

      I was just playing. I've taken up cooking and bartending in the past 15-20 years, so I find my conversations tending to center around typical foodie b.s., which in times of lucidity make me feel like such a tool. But hey, sometimes it IS important to have a 45 minute conversation on the best way to make homemade maraschino cherries.

    3. I'm sure you make it interesting (what *is* the best way to make homemade maraschino cherries?). I think my biggest problem with MIL is that she's constitutionally incapable of being interesting.

  5. Glenn B.8:12 PM

    That's funny- it's like there's an interesting gene that some people lack. And what an odd cultural quirk it is that for Brits and Aussies, there's an extra layer in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, down below safety and security - "tea-related needs". I feel for you with the MIL situation, pobrecita.

    PS. Blanch cherries in a mixture of cinnamon-spiced syrup and maraschino liqueur, then store in fridge for a few weeks.