Monday, November 25, 2019

Update on the In-Laws: A Serving of Piping Hot Tea

Buckle up, readers, for this post promises to be a bit of a bumpy ride.  I have complained plenty of times in the past about my in-laws and we were overdue for some more drama.

However, I would like to start this post by giving credit where credit is due.  This isn't a post about my mother-in-law, who, throughout this pregnancy, has actually been pretty fucking nice to me.  Maybe it's because of Andrew's firm we're-no-longer-putting-up-with-your-bullshit stance, one he took after last Thanksgiving, where she refused to speak a single word to me, or maybe it's because she realizes that she's about to have another grandchild and if she wants to hang out with him, it would be best to butter us up beforehand.  Regardless of her intent, she's been perfectly polite and even friendly.

I can't help but have a bit of a once-bitten-twice-shy mentality about it; the number of one-more-chances she's gotten has been decidedly more than one.  But I'm trying to appreciate it for what it is and not hold on to any resentment.  They say a baby doesn't fix things but, hey, maybe that old axiom doesn't hold true with mothers in-law.  I would love for my son to have a good relationship with his grandmother, and from what I've seen of how Gail treats people she likes, she's actually a person with a healthy cache of kindness and generosity.  I'm really hoping we can put the bad blood behind us and develop a new relationship going forward.  I almost feel bad about all the times I compared her to a Disney villainess.  In my defense, that was over a year ago and I was being immature because my feelings were hurt.

No, this post is about another of my in-laws: L-- oh what's that, Andrew?  You don't want me to use her name?  Fine.  This post is about Andrew's sister, Voldemort

Andrew's older sister Voldemort has been aboard the not-approving-Tony train since it left the station, along with all the rest of the women in his family, but while Gail and Grandma have been passengers who have kept their resentment at least a little veiled and passive, Voldemort has always been more of a crazed conductor, shoveling coal into the engine and cackling while pulling levers, or however the hell you pilot a train.  Look, I'm a writer, not a trainologist.

Everything I learned about trains I learned from Thomas the Tank Engine Skyrim mods.

Voldemort, my sister-in-law, has a bit of a history of being above-average in her horribleness to me.  For example, last year, when Andrew suggested she try to be less actively hostile toward me, and pointed out that we might someday have kids, who he would like her to have a relationship with, she said any child we conceived would be a, quote, "abomination."  You understand how, now that we're on the brink of having our firstborn, I am not especially pleased with this quote.  Frankly there's no circumstance where this isn't a completely fucked up thing to say about another person's child.  It's a monstrous, dare I say abominable, thing to vocalize.  Shit, even thinking it is kind of fucked up, but having the gall to say it, and to your own brother, about your own nephew, is supremely fucked up.

As I told Andrew, saying this sort of thing aloud is like squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube.  You can't put it back in, and even if you apologize and offer to help me clean it up, at the end of the day, there's still an empty tube of toothpaste and my whole bathroom still smells like mint.  You can never entirely live that sort of thing down.

Voldemort has gotten away with this shit for ages because "that's just how she is."  I don't think "just being that way" is really any excuse for bad behavior, nor a justification not to work on one's flaws.  With the birth of our firstborn dawning, Andrew decided it was time to confront Voldemort's issues.  At least one of which is her relationship with me.  "Relationship" may be too strong of a word.  In fact, I've met her only thrice, and from my perspective, all three times were positive or at least neutral, but somehow Voldemort has developed an intense dislike of me that borders on hatred and includes occasional funtimes like calling my unborn child a monster.


So last weekend Andrew went to Austin, where Jack currently lives, to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family.  This included Jack, Voldemort, Voldemort's child, Andrew's mom, and Andrew's mom's husband.  I bowed out because I still don't feel very welcome at family functions and had a handy excuse not to fly (eight months pregnant).  Turns out skipping dinner was the correct thing to do because Voldemort was in her usual state of aggressive passive-aggressiveness.

Important note: all the factual stuff that follows regarding what happened in Austin is, of course, hearsay, as I was not there.  Andrew is an honest fellow but just to be safe I have only given the most basic details and tried to avoid direct quotes.

For the first two days of Andrew's Austin trip, I didn't come up at all.  On the third day, Andrew mentioned his concern that Jack has a terrible work-life balance that isn't especially conducive, and pointed out that Jack won't ever get a girlfriend at this rate.  He cited his own relationship with me, his partner, and said that it's a good thing to be in a relationship because it's a good source of emotional support.

Upon mentioning my name, Voldemort cut him off and said,"Can we not?"

Andrew asked what she meant and she said she didn't want to talk about that.

The conversation was interrupted by Voldemort's three-year-old daughter.  I have never met this three-year-old but based on pictures she's insanely cute.  Andrew dropped the conversation because he didn't want to argue in front of her.

Later, in the park, I came up again, under happier circumstances.  This story has nothing to do with the rest of the story, but it's cute and I liked hearing it.  Andrew's niece has a doll named "Baby."  Baby has an entire mythology, including that her father works at the hospital, selling flowers.  While talking about Baby's imaginary father, Gail suggested that they could get flowers from him to take to Tony in the hospital when Tony had his baby.  (Tony is me!)  Again, this story has no bearing on the drama at all.  I just think that Voldemort's kid is really, really cute, and also, I think it was sweet of Gail to bring me up in a nice way, as part of the family.

 Mmmm, feels.

Back to the story.  The next day, at brunch, Andrew mentioned me again.  He said that what he said was something like, "We need to address the elephant in the room," and specifically brought up Voldemort's discomfort regarding me.  She reacted to the sound of my name like it was the Cruciatus curse in Harry Potter, and after telling Andrew to stop shoehorning me into the conversation and trying to corner her, she bolted.  Since I wasn't there, I don't know whether or not she slammed into a server carrying a tray of food, Hollywood-style, but for stylistic reasons, I enjoy picturing it that way.

In Voldemort's defense, it did sound like Andrew shoehorned me into the conversation a little bit, but I'm not sure when else he could have spoken with her about it, because she had a plane home the next day and has typically avoided conversations, making it hard for there to ever be a good time to confront her discomfort.

Gail went after her to help calm her down.  Andrew mulled over this whole thing.  At the beginning of the trip, Voldemort had presented Andrew with a large gift basket of presents for the abomination baby.  Considering Voldemort's anaphylactic reactions toward the mere mention of my name, Andrew decided he couldn't accept these gifts.  He called me to get my opinion and I agreed.  Andrew informed Voldemort that he did not want to accept the gifts, that it was not meant to be an insult to her generosity but he felt that their relationship was not close enough to accept the gifts, that he felt really uncomfortable accepting them, and that she should return them.

She went ballistic and said Andrew should just take them, as he could at least turn them into the store for credit, but he refused.  Later, on the elevator down to the lobby of their hotel, Andrew paused to go to his car to get the gifts.  Gail asked where he was going, and he told her, and she immediately, wincingly asked if that was necessary.  (A small correction / clarity on this interaction: Andrew states that "I brought the gifts in the car, told Voldemort, then told Mom minutes later on the elevator down.")

Voldemort erupted again when Gail was told what was going on, saying that Andrew was trying to make her look like the "bad guy" and was purposefully stirring up drama and why wouldn't he just accept her gifts??  The person I feel most sorry for in this story is Gail, who was torn between two of her kids and who probably just wanted a nice Thanksgiving without drama at all.  But I agree with Andrew's decision and wouldn't have felt comfortable accepting gifts from Voldemort, either, because it just feels insincere.

Our love isn't for sale, and you can't put a pricetag on dignity.

So Andrew gave back the gifts and that's where this story ends, for now.  I don't really know where we go from here.  Voldemort's total inability to even talk about me or hear my name seems like it's not very conducive to reaching any sort of peace treaty, and I'm not sure what sure a treaty would look like, anyway, since Voldemort's primary condition for peace seems to be for me to simply not exist.  I'm good at a lot of things but not existing isn't one of them.  I don't know that I could be a different person, either; the issue doesn't really seem to be me but the person Voldemort thinks I am, and since she refuses to get to know me, I can't change that perception.  I guess what I'm saying is, it's a real pickle.

I would love to say it's something I could just ignore but it's not.  For one thing, my son and Voldemort's daughter will be cousins, within 3 years of each other, and I'd like them to have a relationship.  I'd like a relationship with my niece as well.  And I don't think it's fair for Gail to be caught between the Voldemort-Andrew drama.  Ultimately this feud is bigger than just Voldemort or me, or just Voldemort and Andrew; it includes Voldemort's daughter and my son and Voldemort and Andrew's mom and probably a bunch of other family members, none of whom signed up for this, and all of whom would probably like for it to be resolved.

And the thing is, I sorta get it.  I don't know what Voldemort's deal is, except that she's sort of a high-strung mess and everyone excuses her behavior by saying that's just how Voldemort is and she's just like that.  As someone who was themselves a piping hot mess only a few years ago, I know that it's easy and empowering to feel righteously angry and indignant instead of apologetic, and that working on your flaws is a long, hard, and humbling process.

But the thing is, at the end of the day, I got my shit together.  And so while I feel sympathetic toward my fellow hot messes, I also hold them to a much higher standard.  I know that people are capable of change and growth.  I refuse to be an enabler of shitty behavior, or to tolerate disrespect.  Being a former hot mess means being fully aware of how hard growth is... but also how worth it growth is, and how necessary it is as well.

Instead of comparing Voldemort to a Disney villainness, allow me to compare her to Gideon Gray, a primary school bully who grows up to become the owner of a pastry shop who apologizes to Judy the rabbit for being a jerk back when he was a child and identifies the source of his bullying as his own insecurity, which he has since dealt with.

I hope Voldemort gets her shit together and when she does, I will be happy to turn a blind eye to her shitty past behavior, because everyone deserves a second chance, and taking a mulligan is the least embarrassing way to move forward.  I have myself been blessed with a lot of people in my life very graciously allowing me to apologize and move on from some incredibly shitty behavior in my past.

But Voldemort isn't there yet and I don't know when she will be.  I turned myself around after getting into a motorcycle accident three years ago, and ideally, I would prefer if Voldemort didn't need to have a near-death experience to clean up her act.  I'd prefer if she did it for her family and herself and it was a natural sort of growth that came without any trauma.  I'd prefer if she could just love them more than she hates me.  Maybe someday.  You can't really force these things.

Of course, you can start by making an effort, which she isn't.  You can start by at least, you know, being open to talking honestly about your feelings, which she isn't.

If only there were a way for her to work on herself that didn't involve a motorcycle accident.

If only.

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