I like to greet beautiful spring days with my middle finger and sleep lines on my face (or “slinkles,” as my sister brilliantly calls them), so as usual, I was a little grouchy when I woke up this morning. I wandered downstairs and was fumbling around to make coffee when this happened:
J: “Mom, if L is her stuffed animal’s mom, then what am I?”
Me: “Um, if she’s the mom, and you’re her brother, I guess that would make you the uncle.”
J: [Running out of the kitchen] “Hey, I’ll be the monkey’s uncle!”
L: “OK, you are the monkey’s uncle!”
But as with most things in my life, even normal, funny moments have an undercurrent of panic. In about two seconds I go from, “Monkey’s uncle, ha ha,” to “Wow, my kids love their stuffed animals,” to “You know, they have a lot of stuffed animals,” to “OH DEAR GOD, my son is going to be one of those Japanese dudes who marries a pillow.”
And although I like to think of myself as open minded, I would not be OK with a pillow daughter-in-law, even if she has a really high thread count and is filled with luxurious down. Mother- and daughter-in-law relationships are complicated enough without one of the parties being an inanimate object.
Which reminds me of a time I got some attitude from my mother-in-law.
So my husband is Chinese and I’m not. When we were planning our wedding, our main goals were (1) keep things super low key, and (2) don’t piss off any family members. As part of goal #2, we talked with my husband’s family and decided to have our rehearsal dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Easy, I thought; I’ll just look cute and show up to eat some good food (which, by the way, pretty much set the tone for my marriage). My white girl self found a new outfit at Anthropologie that included a sweater and (oh no) pants. I got dressed at the hotel where we were staying for the night, took the elevator down to the lobby, and was greeted by my mother-in-law – who was wearing a beautiful, traditional Chinese dress. And she took one look at my sweater and pants, and said this to me in front of all the family who was waiting: “Are you going to go back upstairs and change?”
I did a quick inventory of the available clothes in my room:
trashy lingerie pajamas and my wedding gown.
I mumbled, “Uh, no, this is what I’m wearing.”
“But you are wearing pants,” she said.
“Yes,” I confirmed.
She looked like she wanted to kick me right in my pants. But she didn’t. And there was booze at the rehearsal dinner, so my embarrassment didn’t last for long. Ten years later, my mother-in-law snarking at me so openly is one of my favorite wedding memories. Because, really, what did she have to complain about? My outfit was awesome, her son was happy, and I was not a life-sized anime character pillow.