My ex-MIL stopped being my MIL 15 years ago. She died over 3 years ago. Chances are she won’t be reading CTWMs, so I’m about to share some of her more annoying quirks. See if any of you recognize YOUR OWN MIL in these words.

1. She would notice my clothing by saying, “That’s pretty. Is it NEW?????” by which she meant, “Another new item? You spendthrift!”

2. She knew I hated visiting her on Sundays, because every Sunday when I was growing up, we HAD to visit my grandmother – and I liked my grandmother! I just hated that weekly obligation that messed up my Sundays. Not to mention the fact that I had to watch the Ed Sullivan Show with a snarling pack of old people commenting on the British Invasion Band of the Week (“I can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl!” “You call that music?”). So thinking I would elicit some sort of understanding from MIL, I told her that, especially as a working mom, Sundays at home were precious to me. As a result, her invitations were expressed this way: “I know you hate to visit on Sundays, but I would like you all to come over this Sunday for dinner.” So let me understand this – she was knowingly and with malice aforethought doing something SHE KNEW I WOULD HATE. Why? Because SHE liked having people visit on Sunday, and her wishes trumped everyone else’s.

3. She would share, in casual conversations on the phone, that she had just had “the worst diarrhea of my life.” She did this often! I had a fantasy of writing these revelations on a calendar so I could ask her, “Tell me, how did today’s ‘worst diarrhea of your life’ compare with the ‘worst diarrhea of your life’ that you reported 3 months ago?” But I was too polite.

4. She would buy books for my children as holiday gifts, and then read them aloud at the holiday celebration. The kid in question would run off to play with the FUN toys, and I had to sit there and listen to her read, with lots of phony expressiveness, some corny kids’ book. I have never liked being read to, but this traumatized me so much that, to this day, I cannot listen to books on tape! Again, I was too polite to scream, “STOP! I HATE THIS!”

5. She wrote her memoirs, which she called, “Growing Up in the Quiet Thirties.” Sounds spellbinding, doesn’t it? She wanted me to read them. I didn’t want to read them. She guilted me into it. When I got to the part about her crush on her divorce attorney and how he made her feel all fluttery inside whenever she was in his presence, I couldn’t take it. Who wants to know this stuff about one’s MIL? I overcame my politeness and told her I couldn’t continue. She was very hurt and bided her time until my son (her grandson) got married, and then she made my DIL read them!

6. She was a secretary in a law office, where I worked for a few years. We got along a lot better at work, or at least she didn’t annoy me as much. However, when she went out to lunch, she would unplug the copier so it wouldn’t catch on fire. I am not kidding.

7. She saved the twist ties from bread. She had a whole drawer full of them. I have no idea why.

8. One year, as a holiday gift, she gave us a large framed formal portrait of herself, which I then had to display at all times in case she came over.

She did other, more hurtful things, both to my then-husband and to me, but why go there? The above list continues to amuse me all these years later. I have written before about how weird it is to have a MIL and to be a MIL, where you’re suddenly thrust into someone’s intimate family and forced to be familiar with people you barely know. She really didn’t mean any harm – she was just an immature, selfish woman without a lot of insight. She had no filter and said things that were inappropriate without realizing it.

I think of her often as my example of how NOT to be. If I misspeak, which of course I occasionally do, I try to apologize to my DIL as soon as I possibly can and make an effort to talk things out.  I am sure there are things about me that are annoying to her, but on the whole, I think I’m doing better at being a MIL. I hope I am, because it really matters to me. I love my DIL and think she is quite special, and I genuinely enjoy her company and her point of view. And of course, she hatched Little O, my most amazing and adorable grandson, and allows me to be a big part of his life.  I am really lucky that I have such a wonderful DIL — but so was my ex-MIL!


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