Peace, Love and Understanding: Fail

October 17, 2009

Last week, Wifebian’s father suddenly initiated a conversation about our plans for having children. It was 8 o’clock at night. I had spent the afternoon in the ER with a client that had had panic attack after being on ecstasy all night. Wifebian just watched her principal make a student bleed. (More on that later, maybe) About 15 minutes into the talk, Wifebian had to take a phone call in reference to the middle school shitshow and she didnt re-appear for another 45 minutes. I was alone with the fil on the front porch.

For some reason, a talk about kids turned into talk about money. He needed to know how much sperm cost so he could confirm that we don’t have money and don’t know what we are doing.  Fil thinks Wifebian and I are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and wanted to know all about it so he could offer to take out a low interest loan for us — without talking to his wife about it and not before making us feel stupid.

But, the highlight of the conversation was me refusing to answer his questions — for an hour. I just love saying no. To men. Who have more money than me. And are asking for answers to personal questions. To which they are not entitled. There’s really nothing like it.

(The communication patterns in the family are really wack. For example, I was just laying on a “decoration pillow” and mil called Wifebian by her first name and said, “My decoration pillow,” and Wifebian just took it out from under me.)

Anyway, I can’t actually say that he started the conversation for the purposes of offering a loan. I think he just threw that idea out there after I made it clear that I wasn’t going to tell him anything. When I would try to summarize our conversation so far to keep us organized, he got defensive and said that I was trying to manipulate the conversation. I then tried to explain why I was witholding the information. First, I said, I didn’t think it’s appropriate for a father-in-law to demand his daugher-in-law’s financial information because, well, I’m an adult and not his kid. To which he replied that he would open my mail to find out because I live in his house.

I ignored that one.

But second, I explained, that I would like his advice, his insight and his suggestions, but that there seems to be a lot of shame and blame when it comes to money and it didnt feel safe to share. We talked a little bit about the time that he called Wifebian an idiot when we were buying a car. He mentioned that he signed for little sil’s car, even though he didnt want to. After I refused, for the third, fourth or was it fifth time, to tell him my credit card debt, he said, “Well it must be more than ten thousand dollars.” I explained that my refusal to tell him was based on principle not shame. He said I wasn’t telling the truth.

(Mil just came in to show us a Christmas ornament her friend in Rhode Island gave her and tell us about how uncle Bobby used to shoot mistletoe down from trees with a shot gun.)

When he finally got around to the whole loan thing, I thanked him for the offer, but said that I’m an adult and that my wife and I are prepared to manage our own finances. Then he rattled off all of the things we havent thought of — child care, baby furniture, first month’s rent and security deposit, furniture for the house. Then I said, “You just told me you didnt want to sign for little sil’s car loan, why would you offer to sign on a loan for us?” Then from the living room mil shouts, “We arent giving anybody a loan!”

(Mil just announced that I can use the washing machine now.)

I grew up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck until I was maybe 15. By that time, my dad had gotten sober, gotten a contractor’s license and started a small house painting business. My mom was a teacher. When I lived in their house, I always had everything I needed. I started working part-time at cute little teenage jobs and have been employed ever since. Then, when I went to college, my parents took out loans in their name for half of the tuition and paid for my rent junior and senior year. Since graduation, I have received a very nice $25.00 check on my birthday and $200.00 for my wedding. My mother does not do things like co-sign on loans and buy rings from Tiffany’s.

(Mil just came in to show us an advertisement for a Haunted Halloween House.)

Truth be told, I think fil kid’s are spoiled and opportunistic. I think they compromise their dignity when they let him bully and belittled them and then take a down payment for their house from him. But, what Wifebian and I really took away from the conversation was a deep understanding of the real misperceptions that have been allowed to fester over the past three months. Mil and fil think we moved here because we’re broke.

Quick refresher for those of you who just came in: we moved because the family was devastated by the premature death of their youngest son. Wifebian wanted to love her family better. And we moved into their house because mil is alone 6 months out of the year. Saving money on rent was, like, a consolation prize for me. But really, we have lost about twenty thousand dollars in annual income, had to buy a car and pay insurance for two, so I’m not really that consoled. If we are having financial trouble, moving here is what did it. So, basically, we saunter South of the Mason Dixon feeling like two Mother Theresas and they think we are begging for alms.

And start offering us low interest loans.

(Mil just came in to show Wifebian a picture from a family trip to Jackson Hole.)

Now fil is in China for the next 8 days. After Wifebian went downstairs, I shook mil and fil’s hands in a very sweet, playful way. I tried to keep the entire conversation fun, to emphasize the sparring, the give and take, the absurdity. And I was successful until Wifebian came into the room — and brought with her a very powerful and painful history of emotional and verbal abuse, the wear and tear of a life lived as the oldest daughter of a mother who keeps marrying the same man over and over and over again. Fil started yelling and Wifebian started crying. Then she walked out. Everybody in this house walks out when they get mad.

We did pass an important baby-making milestone, though. Fil now knows that sperm will be shipped to our sunny Southern clime and that a doctor is not the one who puts it in. He said, “Woah.”

(Mil is showing Wifebian the candle Wifebian bought her for Christmas two years ago, and telling us about how she only burns it on special occassions.)

Please, let me get pregnant in November.

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6 Responses to “Peace, Love and Understanding: Fail”

  1. Heather said

    Wow. That’s a lot to process. In-Laws can be so exhausting. I’m sorry yours are so frustrating. Here’s hoping November is the month and SF is the place. It’s so beautiful there, hopefully you feel relaxed and happy.

    Good luck with the in-laws. Mine took nearly a decade of work, not that they were the same, they were okay with their daughter being gay after the first three or four years, the next six were more of how they would have preferred she not have chosen me, a vertically and weight-challenged girl from a broken family from the midwest. Believe it or not just being me finally got them and we’re an actual family now. Of course it has been eleven hard years in the making and only this summer did mil learn of my family history something most people learn in the early months of our relationships!

    Keep on keeping on, persistence is a very strong tool [or weapon, you decide].

  2. Loaf said

    Holy crap. Your in-laws sound A LOT like my family. You are strong and brave for trying to deal with them in a compassionate manner. I would just walk out of the room. Because that’s what we do in my family, too. Sigh. Good luck.

  3. thebao said

    Oh, the absurdity of it all. Sorry you are having to deal with all of this. I hope you get pregnant in November too!

  4. metalstork said

    Can you call HBO? This is some wild stuff. I’ve definitely been in those “wtf” situations where you can only laugh (or cry if you don’t) but by george it’s hard when it’s where your wife comes from. i’m sure, despite the bs, they’ll be devastated when you two leave, but show that despair with sarcasm and disapproval. You are strong.

  5. Me said

    Man. Isn’t it true that the only people crazier than your own family is everybody else’s family?

  6. A. said

    Man, this sounds a lot like how my own dad is about money (your financial stability is his measure of your adulthood/very nosey about money to prove his superiority/loans are a means of asserting control/etc.). I find it hard enough to deal with when it’s my own dad, I cannot imagine dealing with it from a father-in-law. Hang in there, dude; it sounds like you are straddling the line betweem polite and not-a-doormat as best as you can, and I hope that you get the fuck out of there soon.

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