A few of my girlfriends and I have developed a sacred vow with regards to our future mother-in-law status that goes like this:
If I ever behave like that, please punch me in the face – and I promise to do the same for you.
We created this vow because over the years, we’ve observed patterns of objectionable behavior in mothers-in-law … patterns that we very strongly do not wish to repeat when our own sons grow up and marry.
So I’ve compiled a list of 15 of the most obnoxious mother-in-law behaviors for which my friends and I would happily invite violent corporal punishment should we ever stoop so low as to commit them:
1. Ask my son to put me before his wife. Once my son is married, his wife comes first. I am already emotionally preparing myself for this inevitability. I demand to be punched in the face if I dare throw a hissy fit over the fact that my son is putting his wife ahead of me or loves her more than me. He damn well better love her best, as she will be the mother of his children. This is the way of things.
2. Ask my grandchildren to keep secrets from my son and daughter-in-law. Parents rule. There is no such thing as “grandma privileges,” other than the ones stipulated by the parents, who are in charge. Always. There is no wavering on this rule whatsoever. Please don’t let me piss off my daughter-in-law and lose babysitting rights over a stupid forbidden bag of candy. Stab me with a hot poker first.
3. Try to mediate my son’s marital disputes. Mothers-in-law don’t get to have the inside scoop on the young marriage. Ew! If you catch me trying to involve myself in my son’s arguments with his wife, give me a stiff uppercut to the jaw.
4. Rearrange my daughter-in-law’s house. Clearly the coffee mugs should be stored in the cabinet over the coffee maker. Any idiot can see that. But it’s not my kitchen, so I don’t get to decide where the coffee mugs go. If you see me reorganizing my daughter-in-law’s kitchen, or any other room in her house, for the love of all things holy, punch me. Hard.
5. Fold my daughter-in-law’s laundry without her permission. There is something sweet and generous about helping without being asked. But there is also such a thing as period underwear. Tie me to a post and flog me if I ever get up in my daughter-in-law’s lacy thongs without asking her first.
6. Buy my daughter-in-law clothes only I would wear. Clothes that are clearly not my daughter-in-law’s style, but I obviously have some creepy secret desire to turn her into me, because if my son loves his wife when she dresses like me, then that must mean he also still loves me. No. Water board me if I ever try to pull a crazy stunt like this.
7. Think my son is perfect. Also known as: “Daughter-in-law is always wrong.” This is delusional behavior, so might as well tie me up in a straightjacket.
8. Think my daughter-in-law is perfect. This might be even worse than thinking my son is perfect, because it sets the stage for bitter disappointment once the poor daughter-in-law slips up and reveals her humanity. The straightjacket will do fine for this as well.
9. Enter my daughter-in-law’s bedroom without knocking. Lots of mothers-in-law think a light knock on the door is all that is necessary before barging into a bedroom or a bathroom. WRONG. I can only hope that if I ever invade my daughter-in-law’s privacy in this manner, I find her butt-ass nekkid, riding my son – just to ensure my corneas are permanently scarred and I am thus forever cured of the compulsion to enter someone’s personal space without permission. This psychological trauma is a more just punishment than any kind of physical torture one could endure, don’t you think?
10. Offer unsolicited advice. Please, please push me down a flight of stairs if I give my daughter-in-law unsolicited advice. And afterward, while I’m recovering in the hospital, remind me that no one, no one likes unsolicited advice, but especially not daughters-in-law.
11. Show up unannounced. Like number 9 above, this situation could get embarrassing in a hurry. Please, if I forget my manners and start appearing on my daughter-in-law’s doorstep like she’s my best friend – roll over me with a bicycle a few times.
12. Criticize my daughter-in-law’s cooking. This includes surreptitiously dribbling hot sauce on things that don’t ordinarily require hot sauce, like spaghetti, or slyly adding salt and pepper to the soup my daughter-in-law has been slaving over all day. She cooked it how she likes it. She thinks it tastes good. She worked hard on it, and even if she doesn’t admit it, she wants to impress me. If I don’t gag that shit down with a sincere-looking grin on my face, make me walk barefoot across a pile of my grandchild’s Legos.
13. Expect my son to mediate a dispute between my daughter-in-law and myself. Just. No. I can’t even. Get out the frying pan. And make it a good one.
14. Behave passive aggressively. What woman doesn’t love a good ol’ underhanded cut-down while deep in the trenches of social warfare? I know; it’s delicious. But this conduct has no place between a mother and daughter-in-law. If you catch me behaving in this unbecoming manner, I will give you a sledge hammer and carte blanche on my kneecaps.
15. Compare myself to my daughter-in-law’s parents. Perhaps I believe my son and daughter-in-law prefer spending time with her parents. Maybe they have a higher social status, more money, better educations, a bigger house, or healthier family relationships. If I ever mention any of this in front of my son or daughter-in-law, please … well, you know.
Many of the items on my Punch Me in the Face list are considered faux pas in any situation. They are a hundred times more egregious when put in the context of a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. I don’t know why these behaviors seem so prevalent in the elder, supposedly wiser generation, but I do know I will keep this list at the ready lest a friend one day feel that ominous tug, that devilish whisper in her ear that falsely emboldens her to put her nose where it doesn’t belong.
So I can give her a good, hard punch to the face.