This is a really small, silly thing that happened last week, but for some reason I just cannot let it go. I thought maybe if I post about it, I can finally put it to rest and realize how ridiculous I’m being.
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My parents are excellent planners. A month ago we had our TG 100% planned, down to who’s bringing what, what time they’ll arrive, and what we’ll do while we wait for the turkey to finish baking.
Conversely, my in-laws are notoriously lazy planners. If it were up to them, we would send out our first semi-planning email on Wed around noon. But somehow, amazingly, all 10 people manage to be present at every holiday. They’ve done it this way forever.
Until I came along. I’m the first addition to Kyle’s family in 15 years, and evidently I’m also the only one with a familial holiday conflict.
In the interest of being proactive, I sent an itty bitty feeler group email to Kyle’s family asking if we could have TG dinner late this year since we wanted to spend time with my parents earlier in the day. (Mind you, the only time we had an early TG dinner was last year, when two days before TG, Kyle’s SIL’s mother [yeah, I get confused too] invited us all to her place and set the time for 1:00, which is what my parents and I had already planned. I pulled rank and told Kyle we were going to my parents’ place. Kyle was not happy at all.) After a week, I did get “approval” for a late TG dinner. Planning Phase One complete.
Planning Phase Two: deciding what to bring. Kyle’s sister has always acted the martyr despite almost everyone else’s enthusiasm to contribute. She’s a workaholic, a cookaholic and a hostaholic, which my therapist says is actually a sign of being a control freak. It’s not the mean kind of control freak, it’s the “Oh, I already know how to do it, so it will be easier for me, and you shouldn’t try because everyone will like my way better and we’ve always done it that way” kind of control freak. So, once the “late TG” timing was set, my SIL’s final response was, “OK, Mom and I will start planning.” Which in SIL control freak language means, “OK, Mom and I will divide up the cooking and hosting responsibilities between us, and everyone else’s contributions will be purely nonessential.”
Call me crazy, but I was offended by her comment. Why weren’t Kyle and I included in the planning? Kyle and I both love to cook and we consider it an act of love to contribute to the food stash. I decided to ignore the “OK, Mom and I will start planning” comment and immediately asked them to please let us know what we can bring. After a week of not hearing from them, I decided to make a suggestion: I knew how much my gluten intolerant nephew and BIL love chocolate cream pie (so much so that I saw my BIL lick the pudding and whip cream right off the graham cracker crust last Easter), so I could make a big bowl of chocolate pudding with whip cream and they could eat it to their heart’s content without the threat of gluten. Seemed like a nice, thoughtful idea to me.
Kyle immediately jumped into the email thread by saying that he was sure we could make a gluten-free crust to make it a proper chocolate cream pie. I wasn’t thrilled about him editing my offer without my permission, but I let that go. Then my SIL, the martyr and control freak, said she had once made a gluten-free pie crust with cinnamon chex and could make it again. I fought off my first reaction, which was, “WILL YOU PLEASE JUST LET ME DO IT ALREADY?!” What the hell is wrong with pudding, anyway?
I decided not to let her be the martyr and usurp my idea, so I spent about 30 minutes formulating my response. I came up with “Interesting, I’m not much of a crust person myself, probably because of my anti-flavor-mingling tendencies. But it seems like a cinnamon chex crust will be much appreciated, so I will happily make that, along with a little bowl sans crust just pour moi.” There. I patted myself on the back for shutting the door on any argument while remaining sweet and civil.
At that point, Kyle stepped in again, saying, “Now, now, ladies, there is plenty of pie-making to go around!”
Well, I flew off the handle at him (privately, not in the group thread). In one sentence he had made it sound like I was perpetuating an argument and he was stepping in to lighten up this tense situation with his charming humor. It felt like he was trying to “manage” my relationship with his family. He said he was only “needling” me to be funny and he never would have done it if 1) I’d actually sounded b*tchy or 2) if he’d realized how much time and effort I’d put into my response.
I guess this silly little email thread has bothered me so much because I have a long history of being misunderstood by Kyle’s family. I’ve been working very hard to improve my standing. It started when Kyle proposed too early and I asked him to wait a while. Proposing at that time was a bone-headed move on his part because it was obvious I wasn’t ready. But of course, his family is understandably biased, so they only heard his side of the story and thought I was being a b*itch. I think Kyle and his family still believe that the proposal debacle was entirely MY fault. Then later there were 3 years of of fertility troubles, which meant that I was sometimes sad at family gatherings because I was either having a f*cking miscarriage, or the previous day’s IVF didn’t go well, etc, etc. Rather than ask me what’s wrong, they would just whisper amongst themselves about what a morose b*tch I was being that day, and oh poor Kyle for having to put up with that, and oh she seems depressed, has she gotten any medication for that? In more recent times, they have begun asking Kyle what’s wrong with me. But as you can see in the case of the TG feeler email, he doesn’t always make things better. Then there’s the fact that I occasionally need time to myself because I’m an introvert. Conversing meaningfully in a group of 10 isn’t one of my strengths, no matter how hard I try.
On several occasions, I’ve tried talking directly with individual in-laws about my issues so that they wouldn’t have to whisper, surmise, assume, or ask Kyle to translate badly. But every time, I have felt very distinctly that they don’t want to hear about it. They only want to hear about good things. My SIL knew how to react to exactly one scenario: she could be excited for us after embryo transfers. Fragile X, miscarriage, infertility, hormone stims, chemical pregnancy… these are all ideas that are completely foreign and uncomfortable for all my in-laws. They’ll either change the subject or just stare at me, not knowing what to say. The support from them has been lackluster. If you ignore it, it will go away, and all you will feel is happy. If you don’t feel happy, we can’t help you.
Well, that’s interesting! I thought this was about chocolate pudding.