I have been informed that V’s parents will be visiting us at the end of September. I was expecting and dreading this – except that the shocker is, they’re planning to stay for three weeks. What, I mean what!, are they planning to do in HK for three weeks? We have a tiny house, they don’t like shopping, very few people around speak English so they cannot strike up conversations with neighbours, they get on each other’s (does this have or not have an apostropher – please vote) nerves, there are no Malyalam channels or even cricket on the telly.
I suspect that it has something to do with me being around to home-make (which they should by now have realised I don’t do). The weird thing is that when V first moved to HK before I was married to him, they only visited for one week – which I thought was strange because wouldn’t he then need the company and someone to look after him (presumably)? And at that time I was pointedly told that “we are all going to visit V before his marriage, because you know…” (I have never quite figured out what the “you know” meant but I assumed something to do with “before you the wicked wife enter the plot and spoil everything so it will never be the same again). At which time my thoughts were – “Huh?” “Gah!” “Whatever – thank God they’re visiting now and don’t think they’d be comfortable when I’m there”.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite happening that way. While my family – who I recommended come for a week or two because I think they too would get bored – show no interest in visiting me, we have been visited by V’s sister (which was ok except for the taking over my kitchen and then giving me the ‘you should cook, we all did it’ talk), V’s cousin (mostly fun) and now the parents. So much for the “you know”.
The problem with V’s family is that they are – like the evil girl in Bridget Jones’s Diary – like jellyfish. Just when you’re thinking they’re all cuddly, when you least expect it, they sting. So one is always on one’s guard – having tried the ‘I don’t give a shit’ approach and coming out scathed. I guess I’m just not confrontational – until pushed into a corner. And confrontations with V’s family can be vicious because they are so bloody minded. So I have realised that I have to pretend – and I am not good at pretending. I never did it with my own family – even extended – and because they loved me first and then tried to change me, they ultimately settled down to loving me regardless. With V’s family, there’s no love to start with – so it’s all about the changing.
So it’s going to be three months of pretending as best I can (plans are to hire a maid so she can be blamed for mess if any, and to deep freeze food either cooked by V or ordered from Thai Orchid and pretend that I made it) – and since right now my job is in shambles and my mood is shot to pieces because going to work every day is like taking cod liver oil and my self-esteem is plummetting because I cannot find a job that pays more, it is not a good time for that kind of added stress. If there ever was a good time.
There is a teeny bit of hope that V is telling me three weeks so that when they ultimately come for two weeks I’ll be mollified. Which might work but the mind-fuckedness of it is astounding.
Also V says that he told them to stay on for my birthday. How he might think this is a good idea (if he did indeed suggest it) or a good joke (if he was joking – as I said before I can never tell) is a measure of how little he knows me. I get depressed on my birthday and generally don’t want to talk to anybody expect very close friends. The fake cheer about one’s life that one has to put on when someone calls you and says “Happy Birthday” wearies me apart from the fact that I hate talking on the phone at the best of times – except to specific people and only when we have something specific to discuss. V is the only person I ever made an exception for and who I talk nonsense to over the phone. (hint to everyone – do not call on birthday. Send sms which will make me feel happy and to which I will reply the next day. Or if you forget -it’s quite ok. If it was crucial that you remember I would have reminded you).
I tend to switch off my phone on my birthday and often lie in bed in tears or get plastered out of my mind and smoke too many cigarettes (despite having quit smoking). How having not-my-parents but people-attempting-to-be-my-parents-when-I-already-have-parents around is supposed to be cheer me up is a mystery.
The irony is that V actually forgot my birthday and planned a business trip (again!) during it and then remembered and rescheduled. And I’m thinking shit – if he hadn’t, they would have had to come for only two weeks and I could have buggered off to Bombay for my birthday or at least spent it peacefully stewing on my own in HK without having to pretend to be happy.
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Everyone please go and read the comments on eM’s blog (I swear I am going to learn how to link soon – thank you Su). I feel like sending everyone straight for a crash course in Post-Structuralism. It’s amazing to hear people say things like ‘feminists are militant’ and worse ‘women are naturally more nuturing’.
But even more amazing is that people I actually know say these things. Yesterday an old friend came online and asked me when I’m planning on having a baby (she is forgiven because she had a baby a year ago and is obsessed with it and had a the good grace to laugh when I said “ewwww”). Anyway I was telling her about my blowout with V about the looking after when-it-happens baby, and she said: “Guys anyway are not going to do any work so don’t expect it” (huh? maybe true but shouldn’t we at least give them grief for it so that they at least lift a finger if not a whole hand ocassionally) and then “women are biologically built to be more nurturing”. Huhhhh. If highly educated, strong women say this then what is to be expected of one’s MIL?
For the record – women are not ‘biologically built’ to be anything except unfortunately menstuaters, nine-month carriers and then breast feeders . The rest is a social construct which we are fast tiring of. Everyone go read the introduction to The Second Sex.