Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Washington: Is a potential toxic mother-in-law a reason to call off a promising relationship?
I'm 28 and have gone out a few times with a very nice man. We took his parents, who live in Richmond, to dinner last week at a fancy D.C. restaurant. It was a disaster from the get-go.
The first thing his mother said to me, even before "Hello," was, "Why aren't you wearing a bra?" Startled, I explained that I had had a mammogram that morning (and was still sore). Her response? "You're too young to be having mammograms." I explained that my mother, aunt, sister and two cousins all had or have breast cancer. Her response? "Hrrumph!"
In retrospect, I think this was a shot designed to embarrass me. I'm a small person, and I was not spilling out of my clothes, or displaying cleavage or nipples.
I subsequently learned this woman does not like liberals, minorities, foreigners, homosexuals, immigrants (legal and otherwise), non-Christians (and she considers Catholics "non-Christians"!) and many others. Everything was wrong about the restaurant and the meal. If she were a character in a movie, you would say she was completely over the top. Unfortunately, she's here.
Her other children, not surprisingly, live on the West Coast. My boyfriend and his father say, that's just Mom being Mom; you have to learn to ignore her. But the thought of spending any time with her, much less her being the grandmother of my future children, sends shivers up my spine.
I'm not nearly at the ultimatum stage yet. Should I retreat before it reaches that point? We do get on well, but so far it's only semi-serious, so a split would not be devastating. However, I also hate to let this woman ruin my chance at future happiness!
Carolyn: His not sticking up for you is a reason to stop regarding this as a promising relationship. The exchange you describe is horrifying, and if your boyfriend was a witness to it but did not step in to protect you from Momzilla's venom, then that upgrades the whole scene from horrifying to jaw-dropping. "Ma! Back off" is just not that hard to say. That is, not for the healthy children of even the most twisted parents.
Anonymous: "Why aren't you wearing a bra?" Whatever happened to the cold stare, the raised eyebrow, the "Excuse me?" said in a chilling voice? Whatever happened to answering the question that SHOULD have been asked ("I'm fine, thank you; it's lovely to meet you") instead of the question that WAS asked?
Carolyn: They're all still alive and well. It's just that some people aren't that fast on their feet - be it because they're a little nervous, or their first instinct isn't to protect themselves, but instead to please.
Submissiveness could even be something the couple have in common. It would explain why she gave a real answer, why he mounted no real defense and why Momzilla felt she could get away with being so rude. We are animals, after all, and animals make a lot of quick, subconscious calculations in situations like this. Alas, unlike pack animals, we aren't always sure of the protocol after we learn who's in charge.