The first confession

It's hard to know where to begin. There is so much to the story I feel I should take a few years in telling it to provide any kind of relief for myself and to do it justice. I'm not exaggerating when I say I feel like I've been to hell and back. But... if I ever hope to find peace through the telling, I guess I'm going to have to 'go there' in my mind... a place I've completely blocked out and walled up for so, so long. A place, if opened, will let out all the horrors and anxiety I've worked hard to keep under control.

Scratch that. This place is a dumping ground, right? Let's go back to the beginning.

My experiences with these people started just a few months after dating my now-husband in university. A little about that happy past, I was head over heels for the guy. Had been for years until what can only be considered fate brought us together and we found out we had more in common than my school girl crush on an older student. We both knew we were meant to be together from the get-go and our relationship is still something I admire that is good in my life, oftentimes the only good that came out of college and those dreadful years wading through the mess of his family.

I remember him talking fondly of his family, their love for each other... how funny they were. I was happy this guy could relate good feelings about his family and was nervous, but eager to meet them. Thinking I would be accepted. If only.

Our first meeting. I felt they were friendly and had the hunch they were richer than my then-boyfriend had let on. You know the people you'd look at and assume they were a slice of American pie followed by the scent of a crisp dollar bill? Yeah. That's them. 1% or not, I got the feeling they did not want for anything. They were nice, if anything alarms should have only gone off when they planned out the rest of their stay to the university and seeing their son. My parents, though wonderful people, are NOT at all controlling. To me, there was only a difference in how dictated everything was to be up to their standards. They were Christians, they were eager to help their son and show him a good time along with the rest of the family. Like many, many N's I'm sure they thought they were catching me with honey like some bizarre fly. Putting on a good show. SCRIPTED, like a term I saw so well-used to describe their ways. If it seemed like something written by the writers of Gilmore Girls, that's because it probably was.

My hunch of 'ick' about the family didn't actually come up full-flared until my first visit north to their abode... really, mansion. To say a little about this family, they have two houses. Something I'd only heard tell of growing up lower-middle class. Each parent has two cars, one purely for pleasure. Each adult child's bedroom was built by the mind of NMIL to house their entire family in the future need they come back to stay with them for financial reasons, her excuse. I took the guest suit and what was supposed to be only a week after school's end stay, turned into two. Another warning. The birthday of my future DH was the following week and god-forbid we left earlier so they wouldn't be able to celebrate with him.

But that's ahead. The first night of my stay I was hit with feeling incredibly awkward, a feeling that remained much of the visit. Again, scripted. Again barraged with stories and tales from the past and the 'good old days' being relived by the children so their parents could have some sense of satisfaction. No one talked of much else, new gadgets, shallow things. The first night of my stay, my boyfriend's sister showed me her school project at her family's urging 'it's SO funny, isn't she SO funny?' (this is NSIL) For a social studies class, this junior in high school had put together a pop-up book of the KKK with her friend. Complete with poorly drawn lynchings all in brown marker, as if some psycho five year old watched way too many historical biographies and decided to act them out. I was horrified. While the entire family laughed and shared the good humor of their daughter, I felt like losing my dinner. I didn't say anything but excused myself to the guest suite. I am not the same ethnicity as my now-husband, my father's family was part of the KKK back in the day and that was  one of the biggest reasons we were never accepted into their family. Horrific that in the 90's anyone would still be predisposed to think that way, but here I was in the 2010's being faced with some boldfaced ignorance with little thought to whether or not it would be a good subject to bring up in front of me. I felt trapped. Also being pretty much the only non-white person in that very northern sub town was a little weird for me. What I still cannot understand is.... why would any school, especially a well-known Christian high school... allow their students to make fun of something so terribly wrong with our country's past???? Thinking of it now makes me sick.

I spent the rest of the week really only hanging out with my boyfriend, going to museums and enjoying time off from the family home and an end to the school year. I got a cold in the middle of the week which constricted me to the guest suite and my man took care of me, I felt so terrible I didn't come out much and encouraged my guy to go meet up with his friends from high school as I wasn't feeling well enough to tag along. I still wanted him to have a good time. Later, his parents accused me (to him, I heard of it later) of avoiding the family circle and ruining his time because of this. He explained I wasn't feeling well enough to go but... warning, warning.... guess, what? That didn't fly with them. I felt I had ruined how they saw me at least a little. My being ill was no excuse for missing family or even their own adult son's get together with his old friends. No one asked how I was doing or even offered to show some kindness as I recovered. I was alone much of the time, their lives went on. I stuck it out. I remember crying to my mom on the phone because we had to stay one more week to celebrate my guy's birthday with all the family. I wanted to leave after just one. I'd had enough. My now-husband was completely ignorant to their behavior at the time, probably hoping it would all work out in the end. Probably lied to when they said they liked me and liked him and hoped he'd stay for a long time.

Like a good Christian girl, I kept my feelings under the hood. I sacrificed my sanity in an attempt to bring my boyfriend a happy week for his birthday. After all, as I was encouraged by my own family, even if you don't like your in laws... you do things like this for your spouse, right? You make him happy even if you hate visiting. That lie circulated again and again in my mind as the guy I completely adored turned out to have a family I less-than cared for. But you marry the family. I didn't end my efforts to make a good impression and constantly tried talking to or connecting with whoever was around during that week.

Later in the week, my future NABIL brought up another jab. My boyfriend and I were debating on what to do with the rest of the week, NABIL overheard my guy bringing up the thought of a baseball game as a good way to spend an afternoon. I utterly detest sports so I told him, um maybe another time. NABIL jumped in and stated that he thought all 'ethnicities' loved baseball. I shut down once again. He wasn't joking.

I think I got through the rest of the week on shots and a little wine. (hey, a girl has to cope lol) I don't remember much else.

And so this is my first confession.

I allowed myself to lose myself. To numb myself to what was actually going on, to being ignored. Being an item. Being an object. My relationship with my in laws, when we were on speaking terms was always like this. They talked, I listened. That was how they connected. I see now, no connections were made. To this day they don't know my birthday, don't know how old I am and I'm pretty sure don't even know what I do for a living.

Getting out of there that week was a breath of fresh air to me. Back home, back to living with my own family with boyfriend who found a job near our city to be close to me. Emerging out of that week I felt as though I was emerging from prison. Where all my food choices and even movie nights were dictated by the mom and dad of the house. Where adult children crammed around the table and the tv like we were all five year olds again with no free will. Family time was strictly dictated. I simply ignored this as being 'different' not really unhealthy. But then, my ordeal had only begun. I was to see this control hit an unhealthy level of involvement in the coming weeks and months and ... oh god, I hate to say it... years.

Flag number one, which should have been obvious to me, N's dictate life itself. Being a part of such a family, you either feed into the N drama or are ignored. You are not accepted. You yourself do not matter. There is only the controller's will and those who follow it. Those who follow are rewarded by a rich lifestyle and parties for friends. Those who follow it are shown 'love' through gifts and presents although they all have strings attached. Strings attaching them to the NIL's for good. It took us over a year to sever those strings. Unfortunately, by then the damage was already done. But that's a whole other story for next time.

Comments

  1. I'm struck by the fact that you ended up having to stay a whole extra week so that DH's parents could celebrate his birthday with him. That's not even remotely practical, and it speaks loud and clear to their desire for control.

    I mean, to have to stay a whole fucking extra week when you'd only planned for one? Just so they could look like the "awesome parents" they wanted to pretend they were and celebrate his birthday with him? Doesn't make for a very "happy" birthday if you're forced to change your plans that drastically.

    "Each adult child's bedroom was built by the mind of NMIL to house their entire family in the future need they come back to stay with them for financial reasons, her excuse." <---CREEPY! First of all, who the hell creates rooms in her house "just in case" her adult children fail in life and need to come back home to mommy? That's weird. And gross.

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  2. The latent and overt racism here is what REALLY freaks me out! Both because I find it frightening, but also because I can't help but think that they exposed you to your NSIL's "KKK FUN ART PROJECT" (?!Yeah, HOW is that AMUSING?! Good Lord!!!) on purpose! It's the jab of the NABIL - obviously your "ethnicity" was a point of interest to them! (Also a red flag - who cares?! People are people are people...!). Unless of course, you're a Narc, in which case people are placed into a hierarchy with the Narc at or very near the top!

    I really don't like how it feels like you were being JUDGED. And I mean JUDGED on EVERY conceivable level!

    I also got the screaming horrors at the way you described the adult children filing around the family dining table at their parent's behest like they were 5 years old again...! That's my NFOO! And you captured that weird, "This is the performance and script we expect you to put on tonight!" feeling perfectly!

    Eeew. I'm really sorry to hear of this two-weeks-in-hell! And I'm so sorry they didn't do anything to try to help you feel more comfortable when you were sick! NOT GOOD HOSTS, despite the pretense!!!!

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  3. Hi Gracie, I'm working through some of your "back catalog".

    Some of what you describe speaks so much to what I felt when I'm with my in-laws. I struggle a lot with my feelings for my in-laws, as they are not nearly as "bad" as my family, lots of people "admire" them, and I often wonder if I view them through skewed lenses. That being said, so much of what you describe is familiar to me.

    When I first met my in-laws, I spent many hours listening to old family stories. Like you said, they talked, I listened. They rarely asked me about my life. And if they did, it was only to resort back to them ("OH, you are a dancer? WELL, my son won a dance contest once" and then it was on to them again.) When I met DH, his family didn't have a TV in the living room. Only in the parents' bedroom. The whole family used to file into the parents bed to watch TV. And they expected me to do it too.
    One of my biggest regrets is that I never stood up for myself. That when they were unkind or uninterested in me, that I had walked off. That I hadn't tried so damn hard to "fit in" or "be one of them". It kills me that I sacrificed myself up so much to keep the peace and be liked. I'm sure that having my own NFOO didn't help that at all.
    I'm sorry they treated you so horribly. It's awful when a loving relationship with your spouse can be stressed so much by the extended family.

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  4. Hey Jessie,
    Wow. ICK. Reading your comment gave me the heebie jeebies! No matter how many N-stories I hear- they still have the ability to make me say 'yuck!'. The expectation of watching tv from one big bed- disturbing!
    I hear you on the conversation bit, as well. I hated how everything was turned around to be about someone else. Oh- so and so had that happen to them! My sister's cousin's dog loves that music, too. Nothing is simply 'yours' your likes or passions especially. Even my freaking height wasn't unique. Oh you're just as tall as so-and-so... um, no. No I'm not. I really hated that.

    Quercus- I suppose I was used to it.. only explanation. It bugged me and I let DH know that but I've experienced that in the past as well. Mostly from those guys interested in me from smaller, backwoods towns where blond-hair and blue eyes were the general rule of thumb for beauty (Hitler anyone?). An ex-boyfriend of mine introduced me as my ethnicity before my name. God, it was terrible. I agree- who cares??? I hated how the N's made generalizations and assumptions based on looks. And how they insanely expect our coming baby to look like DH lol (NSIL)! Red hair-blue eyes- sorry those are NOT my dominant traits. Even genetically it's like they don't acknowledge my part in the making of this kid. Apparently N's are sprung out of the ground with no mixed DNA whatsoever! Or maybe they assume N-dna is dominant regardless of the trait? lol of course they do.

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    Replies
    1. Gracie, my NMIL told me when I was pregnant that she hoped my baby would have blue eyes. This wasn't just a statement in passing, it was clear that she had a predetermined image in her head for her golden grandchild. Now that he's here, all I here is that he is DH's mini-me. She's smart enough to not say it to my face, but it's clear from other relatives comments that she thinks my son is HER son reincarnated. Ick. And although my son does look like my DH, he has lots of my traits. Those traits she has noticed of mine, she's spoken of in less than flattering ways (he has my "broad forehead"). And when I suggested once that my son wasn't a typical "DH's Family Name" she got very offended. God knows we are all supposed to be clones. I always felt like an incubator for HER grandchildren.

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  5. Another reason I am so glad for no contact. I couldn't hear those comments without flipping out. D: I totally hear you on the 'incubator' comment as well. I feel since we're not blood, we'll never be fully human in their eyes. I wonder how they really view us- then I realize... they probably don't. When someone has such an enlarged view of themselves, how can they see anyone else? I'm sorry that's happened to you, it really saddens me that you have to deal with such comments.

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