When I finally married a normal man, I thought I’d entered a realm of normal people. I’ve known my in-laws for years. We all get each other. We sip cocktails together, laugh at the same jokes. No drama, no temper tantrums, no fist shaking or tacky grandstanding or yelling, “I hate you!” or “I’m gonna beat your ass!” or “I think I’ll just kill myself this year!” We’re civilized. Or so I thought. I will have to excuse myself from the good manners table and go hang with the crybabies this year.
I sit upon my Grinchy ass in bed right now, unable to tear myself away from Pinterest,
my poor husband waiting on me hand and foot after my meltdown yesterday. Was it you, Tracy, who warned me about this dark vortex of helplessness that would stalk me after I quit my job?
Truly, I’m just sulking about a large house restoration that never seems to end and the continued presence (like every day for the past two weeks) of an ex-wife who’s been cleaning our new house and helping my in-laws move in. Not my idea.
I thought I was racking some good karma when I took a few hits for the team (my marriage, my stepson, the importance of not upsetting our already-crazy dogs). I climbed into bed every night, read a few comforting pages of my Alexander McCall Smith novel and reminded myself to be kind and tolerant before drifting off. Here are a few snapsphots of my week:
1. “How much you weigh?” hot Colombian ex-wife who runs 6-7 marathons a year and weighs 99 lbs asks me.
2. “Wow, Angela is so strong! She carried that sofa downstairs all by herself.” My mother-in-law about ex.
3. Trying to refinish a piece of furniture in the garage while ex squeals and giggles as one of our workers massages body lotion into her injured thigh muscle. On mattress six feet away from me. Everyone thinks this is normal.
4. Washing and folding ex’s cleaning towels.
5. Driving ex and stepson to movies and to her cleaning job because she loaned her car to a friend.
6. “Maybe we can all go to Norway!” In laws excitedly crow about ex’s new Norwegian boyfriend. (After all, as ex says, “He pay for everything!)
Did I offer to do laundry, do the driving? Yes. Because I am nice. And foolish. I believe that if people take advantage of you, they will have the decency to realize that they are taking advantage of you and stop. “Honey, this is like a sitcom,” says my dad’s partner, Bobbi. “It’s funny, except it’s happening to you.”
Has anyone been rude to me? No. Both mother-in-law and ex are kind, otherwise this would be truly unbearable. But their behavior puts them in the clear and makes what is fundamentally a bullying, disrespectful situation seem okay on the surface. And who’s the bitch? Who’s the immature drama queen? ME, yayyyyy, c’est moi! Je suis un doormat, je suis toxique! Cashing in my karma points on a major hissy fit.
A few weeks ago I was gushing about how I loved Heron Haven, it was my dream house, blah blah blah. Now I don’t want to go anywhere near it. I can envision year after year of this multigenerational nightmare, my in-laws becoming more and more reliant upon the ex-wife as I hear her upstairs collecting fees for cleaning, driving, manicures and pedicures and god knows what all (unless she goes to Norway).
Yesterday, plagued by a killer sinus headache and another furniture moving episode, I snapped. I found myself driving to North Carolina, sobbing, after throwing my medications and my Kindle and some sweaters into a bag, to be with my family. Dad and Bobbi. My husband talked me out of it over the phone. My dad has a full house anyway, for Christmas, and my stepbrother just got engaged. I don’t need my marital vitriol infecting everyone else (my rationale, not my husband’s).
My husband had a talk with his mom. She said, “I can have whoever the fuck I want to clean my house! Angela cleans better than anybody else.”
I cannot win this one. I know. I also don’t need to be told that people remain friends with their ex-daughters-in-law, that they need to keep peace for the sake of grandchildren. Every marriage has its saddle sores. I get all that. I approve. All I ask is a little respect for me, my husband — their son– and our fledgling marriage.
Friends, Romans, librarians, townspeople, relatives, strangers, thanks for being my therapists this holiday season! I know this is a bit personal for a blog, or at least a blog in good taste, but I’m sure we all have a little bit of holiday dysfunction that’s reached the boiling point. If you don’t, well, you are very lucky and Santa must really love you this year — Merry Christmas!