If I’m Crazy, At Least I Have Company

When I asked if you thought it was crazy that I wanted to buy separate dishes for my mother-in-law’s visit, I admit I was hoping for “no.” In fact, I was worried that someone might not only say yes, but recommend a specific medication. And yet, every single time someone did in fact say yes it was crazy, I laughed with delight. Actual audible laughter, not just LOL laughter. Or maybe this kind of laughing is called “cackling.”

I also laughed at those of you who took it up a level, and now I am a little more in love with all of you and wish I had married YOU instead. Lori D. thinks the dishes should be not only separate but also ugly and chipped. Tessie thinks I should incorporate a subliminal message into the glaze. (Tessie suggests “There’s no place like home.” I’m thinking, “Go home, you crazy old bat.”) Marie Green and Shoeaddict remind me to use old sheets so I can throw them away (or burn them? do I hear any votes for burning?) after she leaves. Nikki thinks I should give my mother-in-law paper plates while the rest of us use fine china (and then I could burn the plates out in the backyards afterwards, while she watches from inside). T with Honey brings up excellent points about using Lysol sprays and Clorox wipes when sharing a bathroom with such a person. I like the way she thinks, and I already have some of that antimicrobial Febreeze for the furniture. Caley wins first place for suggesting I buy an entirely separate HOUSE to live in while my mother-in-law visits.

Jess (and now we have more than one Jess, so this is Du Wax Loolu Jess…or Jess Loolu…or Jess Du Wax…) wonders if I worry that my mother-in-law will find this blog. YES I DO KENT. In fact, often after I do a mother-in-law vent, I take the post down after a few days. I realize it’s still “out there” on the Internet, but it makes me feel like it isn’t. I mean, imagine how doomed I could be. And this kind of thing happens all the time. She wouldn’t even have to be looking for me, she could just be thinking, “Hm, I don’t want to bother Swistle for her Chocolate-Crusted Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe, since I’ve already asked for it twice and then lost it twice. I’ll just Google it!” And then she Googles “Chocolate-Crusted Pumpkin Cheesecake,” and oh HERE it is! And look, the person who posted it has twins too, just like my daughter-in-law! Huh! And what are the odds that all her other children are born in the same years as my grandchildren? Huh! –This could easily, easily happen. So I always decide not to discuss her ANY! MORE!–but then before I know it, I’m doing it again.

JMC brings up an excellent point about the children commenting on the new dishes; I’d been thinking that what I should do is buy the dishes as soon as possible so they’re familiar by then. CAQuincy thinks that in a pinch I could also get away with blushing prettily and saying we bought the new dishes specially for grandma’s visit. Way to work the truth, Carrie. Tina points out that even if I can easily incorporate the dishes into the household for this visit, I have a long-term problem if I want to keep bringing them out for future visits. Good point. I think we’d better refer to these as “the good dishes,” don’t you?

Kristin H. and Karly and Devan and Samantha Jo Campen and Nowheymama want to know Paul’s thoughts on the dishes idea. I haven’t yet exactly mentioned it to Paul. And since Paul is a conflict-avoider, I thought what I might do is just buy the dishes and have them in the cupboard already when he comes home from work, and hope he’ll guess what’s up and decide not to ask. He sees why she drives me crazy; what he doesn’t understand is why I can’t ignore her like he does. Sorry, charlie, you get what you married.

Omaha Mama wants to know why I don’t ASK her when she’s coming. It’s because she is WILY, and JUST as I am thinking of asking for information, she says something like, “I’m still figuring out the dates! I’ll let you know when it’s settled!” Then more weeks go by, and JUST as I’m thinking that ANY REASONABLE PERSON would have told us by now, she throws us another crumb: “I’m still trying to arrange things with someone else I’m visiting, but I’ll let you know soon!” Paul’s family values secrecy for the sake of secrecy. When I see this trait emerge in Paul, I get out the biiiiiiiiiiiig iron skillet and whack-a-mole it right down again.

Shelly Overlook wants to know if this is a literal contamination issue (i.e., is my mother-in-law GRODY) or if it’s more of a mental contamination (i.e., is my mother-in-law a crazy old bat). It’s the crazy old bat thing. She is intensely critical and bossy, and she has reached her 60s without ever realizing that people can do things different ways without one of them being “an idiot” or “crazy.” She follows me everywhere I go, including pulling up a chair and sitting behind me if I go to my computer. She says unanswerable things–the kind that, if I answer, I look like an oversensitive weirdo who has to argue about every little unimportant thing. She asks if I think William’s speech impediment is because he grew up hearing Rob’s (William does not have a speech impediment; Rob had an articulation delay). She expects me to cook her breakfast while she stands next to me at the stove, telling me what to do differently (numbers of mornings I went along with this: one). She sits in a chair all day “helping” me by saying things like, “Swistle! The baby’s crying!” and “Swistle! You missed a spot!” She tells us stories about other women who don’t take care of themselves and who don’t care how they look and who wear jeans every day and who can’t keep house and who can’t cook and who don’t properly care for their guests.

Carmen apparently has the same mother-in-law, since hers snoops too. Mine wants to know what sizes we wear, to give her some details about “other people” for her next discussion of people who shouldn’t be so out of shape in their 30s, and to see if I color my hair, and to see if I waste money on brand-names, and to see if I buy too far ahead (her opinion: “yes”), and to see how I stack my towels (her opinion: “interesting!”). Also, she prides herself on how little she packs–and this means she only brings enough clothes for a few days, so she has to have a way to do her laundry sneakily with ours, so she practically rips the clothes off our bodies to make laundry she can “help” with. Other things she prides herself on: how early she gets up; how quickly she can shower; how she doesn’t need coffee; how clean she keeps her house; how little weight she gained while pregnant; how cheaply she can knit a sweater that sells for a ridiculous price; how she told the salesclerk so.

Okay, enough about her. I need to be able to go to sleep tonight. And I’m sure while she’s here I’ll need to vent about her, and then you can vote on whether she’s actually as annoying as I think she is or not. Katie is predicting an implosion, and I wonder every single time she visits if this will be the time I actually do implode. Each time, I make it to the last day of her visit, gasping and panting and not QUITE holding the large chopping knife. But each time it is a closer call.

58 thoughts on “If I’m Crazy, At Least I Have Company

  1. Jess

    This post made me cackle out loud too. I love the efficient summary of the comments from the last time. I can’t decide which part is the worst… the snooping, or the following you around, or the sitting around next to you telling you what you’re doing wrong… but it makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER about my own future MIL who only says rude things implying that our marriage will fall apart, but at least doesn’t criticize the way I fold towels.

    Also, a question: since your MIL follows you to the computer when you go there, does this mean you won’t be blogging while she’s there? We all know that she can’t be made aware of the existence of this blog for some rather obvious reasons.

    Lastly, I like the options you present as to how to distinguish me from the other Jess. I think Jess Loolu is the one that made me laugh the most. Can I pick that as the future standard?

  2. Marie Green

    Whoooo Boy!!!!!!

    My, oh, my, it actually sounds like you deal with your mother-in-law VERY WELL. I cannot believe you let this woman into your house. BUT I see that you have no choice in the matter. I have not had the experience, so far in this life, to have a house guest that is so intrusive and rude and belittling (is that a word??) and despisable (again, word?). But hey! You could chalk it up as Life Experience. Because what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. No? Not buying it? Me either. If fact I hate trite sayings like that…

    Yes- burn the sheets! (And thanks so much for the linkie! It’s so fun for me to have “traffic”!) And when you DO burn them, take pictures and share with us. Or invite us over and we could have some kind of burning and celebrating that she’s GONE ceremony.

    Have you ever thrown a bucket of water on her, Just To See??? Might be worth it- if she melts, you can briskly brush your hands of all of THAT.

  3. Swistle

    Jess Loolu- Jess Loolu it is! The blogging thing–I don’t know. Maybe I’ll borrow my dad’s laptop and get posts all set to go, and then post them quick when she’s in the bathroom. Also, Paul usually plays board games with her in the evening, so maybe I can post then.

    M- Oh the awesomeness. Do you think they’d do a custom order? Something…subliminal? (If any of you had trouble with the link ((my comments section sometimes cuts them off)), here it is: the dishes.

    Marie Green- First of all, I love the idea of a sheet-burning party after she’s gone. Second, I love the idea of a dousing “just to see.” Ha ha! Can you imagine! How would I explain that? Oops, I tripped while carrying this bucket of mop water!

  4. Erica

    Going back to read yesterday’s comments, I realized that I had accidentally deleted two lines before posting, so it made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.

    “There’s that Erica girl calling Swistle crazy and she can’t even form a coherent sentence.”

    I say that you should take a vacation by yourself every time she comes to visit. When Paul balks at this plan, remind him the she is HIS mother, not yours. It is, therefore, HIS job to put up with her shit, not yours. Then, check yourself into a nice hotel with room service and no MIL or crying children. Problem solved.

  5. Mommy Daisy

    Oh wow, now I think we’re beginning to understand a little of the crazy your MIL brings to your house. Wow. I’m picturing my grandma (who I love, but likes to hover and occassionally make funny comments) times 10. Yep, I’d be out of my mind.

  6. Kelli in the Mirror

    okay, I don’t think anything I’ve read in the last month made me laugh as hard as the link to those dishes! YES! Make her eat off those! Or else get those ones from The Birdcage where they were having the senator over to dinner. “Yours don’t have any girls on them? Oh, I’m sure those aren’t two little boys!” :)

    Seriously though, if you get the wal#mart ones, you can just refer to them as grandma’s “special” dishes. We only get them out when she comes because it’s a special treat.

  7. Black Sheeped

    Jess! Mine told me in confidence, after my husband and I had been dating awhile, that he would NEVER marry anyone, and that I shouldn’t expect him ever to settle down into matrimony. I wonder if she’s bitter.

    Swistle! I love the idea of you sitting and cackling. I think the idea of calling them “good plates” is a good one. Just like I call them “guest towels” when I really mean “My neuroses are out of control towels.”

  8. desperate housewife

    On this, the day before my birthday- my birthday which I share with my MIL– I just want to wish you some sort of natural disaster in your area which would make your home unreachable and render a visit impossible until at least next year.
    Also, I didn’t get a chance to comment on your last post, but you are not crazy. Sometimes when people I’m not too fond of have been in my house, constantly GRABBING the picture frames (can they not SEE the photo unless it’s two inches from their face?) and then putting them back not quite in the right spot, I feel a compulsive need to Windex everything off so it isn’t contaminated with fingerprints.

  9. Erica

    You know, I was thinking about her hovering behind you when you’re on the computer… what if we all write a post about horrible, bossy, overbearing MILs and post them to our respective blog the week the she’s there? Then, when you visit us, she can read them over your shoulder!

  10. Shannon

    My MIL and her whole family is the same with valuing secrecy for the sake of secrecy. It drives me absolutely nuts! It’s their way of exerting control over each other and I just want to tell them to grow the hell up already.

  11. Anonymous

    I think when she gets to your house you should leave on a short trip. Leave her at home with the hubby and kids and tell her you’re SO sorry, but if you’d known when she was coming you’d have scheduled your trip for a different time. Let her son deal with her.

  12. Swistle

    Erica- This may make you break your betrothal to Henry and betroth yourself to Paul instead, but he says I MAY make up a reason to be out of town with Henry for part of her visit. My main reason for (so far) not planning this (except in the back of my mind) is that Paul would have to take unpaid time off work, then, to be home with the kids. BUT. It might be worth it. He suggested that maybe one of my friends might suddenly have a crisis that requires my rushing to her side. …Anyone want to have a crisis?

  13. Swistle

    Kelli in the Mirror- Do you know, I just spent some time on Google searching for plates with nude men on them? No luck.

    Black Sheeped- Why oh why would a mother say such a thing? Even CONSIDERING saying such a thing should force her brain to fast-forward to the day that she has to eat those words, and how bad they’d taste.

  14. Swistle

    Kathi- It’s weird: when she’s here, she doesn’t interact with the kids. She acts like she’s DYING to see them, but then she doesn’t do anything with them. I’m going to try to encourage more interaction this time.

  15. melissa

    My MIL is the same way regarding interacting with my son. She acts like she can’t! wait! to see him! Then she just sits and watches him play if we’re here or spends the day in her kitchen if we’re there. I just don’t understand.

    At least we can count our blessings (???) that the MILs live far away so we don’t have to deal with them THAT often. Although it CAN feel like an eternity when you’re with them.

  16. WorksForMom

    oh my. this made me actually laug out loud.

    i can relate on so many levels. hilarious. i fear the same blog discovery, so most of my posts related to that stay in draft.

    but oh how therapeutic it must be for you to hit publish!

  17. Erin

    HA HA HA! Dang, this is funny. I do feel badly about your mother in law situation, but at least you can see how insanely ridiculous she is.

    How many days went by before she told you about her visit? Did I miss that post? I remember when you started counting, but I don’t remember the final count of days.

  18. Swistle

    Before I forget: Anonymous comments are welcome, if you’d like to say a thing or two but are worried about repercussions from your own MIL.

    Christina- See, this is just one of the ways she drives me nuts. She uses Red Heart, and wouldn’t understand the concept of figuring in labor, and STILL spends more on children’s sweaters than I do buying them at Target or TCP on clearance for $3-6. Winner? Swistle. But does she see it that way? No. She CONSTANTLY harps on me to sew my children’s clothes “to save money.”

    Worksformom- The most therapeutic part is the comment section!

  19. JMC

    There’s always a crisis at my house. I know you recently used a vacuum, so I’m thinking you may have some other housekeeping secrets that would help me. Like, have you ever heard of ‘Pledge,’ and what do I do with it?

  20. JMC

    That last comment of mine seems totally unrelated to your post. I was actually commenting on your comment asking about anyone having a crisis. :)

    Your MIL scares me. I LOVE mine. My mother, however, makes me insane after about 36 hours under the same roof.

  21. Shelly Overlook

    After your frighteningly funny (only b/c she’s not my MIL) description of your MIL, now I’m curious. Are you ever forced to go to her house? If so, please tell us about that form of torture!

  22. Swistle

    JMC- I’ll be RIGHT THERE! Er, in October sometime.

    Bananafana- Oh gross! Ha ha!

    Shelly Overlook- We went once, before we had kids. It was the first time she’d met me, so she was on good behavior. She keeps trying to talk us into visiting again. AS IF I am going to take 5 children on the plane (don’t even think about how expensive 7 plane tickets would be), or drive 3 days each way with 5 children in the car.

  23. Karly

    Swistle, if Paul decides that he loves his mommy much too much to be married to a horrible wife that hates her, I will marry you. I am thinking that I love you. The kind of deep true love that…oh hell. I’m probably scaring you. This was funny. That is all.

  24. A Whole Lot of Nothing

    My MIL smells. Literally smells. When she comes, I have to deodorize the room she’s in as well as the seat she sits in the car.

    She LOVES my daughters, but shows it by randomly buying them the ugliest clothes she can find on the sale rack.

    She’s not critical, except if you count being critical of my husband when he was a kid and how difficult he was. She literally put him in a mental hospital when he was 12 for a month because he was mildly depressed after a car accident. She’s the mental case.

    Did I mention she smells? Not a smoky, dirty smell. It’s an unclean cooter smell. Blech.

  25. Eva

    So many things I’d love to say, so little anonymity. Sigh.

    Very, very funny. If nothing else, thinking about all of the comments will get you through the visit.

  26. Swistle

    Shoeaddict- Dig? Was what a dig? I went all the way through the comments and I don’t see anything. Are you asking me, or another commenter?

    Karly- Well, I WAS betrothed to Erica, but now she’s broken our engagement so I AM available.

  27. Jenny

    Firstly, Swistle, thank you so much for posting on a saturday! Aparently there are plenty of looking for something to read. :)

    I can sypathize with MIL torture. Lo, how I can sympathize.

    I don’t like to talk badly about her too often, because underneath the SKIN CRAWLING-LY ANNOYING things she does, I know she’s not a bad person. That being said, does yours bring you junk and furniture and whatever other load of random crap her compulsive shopping has resulted in? One time, she brought us a box of 17 different, mismatched brass candlesticks. Because she thought we might need them for our house. ???? I had never once done or said anything to make this gift make any kind of sense.

  28. Kristin H

    Oh my, you are now downgraded from a 5 on the crazy scale to a 0. Not crazy. Nope. I too have been subjected to the peculiar hell that is cooking for and in-law while they stand right next to you, not helping and yap yap yapping in your ear (and yet I was not criticized while cooking) and that alone was enough to make me a 7 on the crazy scale. Adding in criticism, an inflated ego, and the fact that she DOES NOT ASK YOU IF SHE MAY VISIT…well, you’ve given me a new definition of bad in-laws, sister. I’m so, so sorry.

  29. Erica

    Ok, wait a minute here. I’m insanely jealous that you’re ready to be betrothed to another. Let’s do this: I’ll marry you and then I’ll get Henry and Paul by default. *brisk hand clap* Another problem solved. I’m such a genius!

  30. Kelsey

    I have mentioned before that I am not one to weigh in on the mother-in-law situation, but I just wanted to say hello and tell you I had a delightful time returning from vacation and catching up on all the posts I missed.

    Have I unpacked? No.

    Have I read all my Swistle? Yes!

  31. shoeaddict

    I deleted my comment about my alcoholic MIL. I thought maybe you were suggesting I should go anonymous… I’m sorry if it sounded bitchy. I don’t mean it to be that way.

  32. mom of the year

    Holy shitballs, have you got a whack-job on your hands! My MIL and SIL are about as Victorian as you can get, but at least they save the commentary and eye-rolling for when I’m out of sight. Perhaps I should have you and your sanity added to the prayer list at church…

  33. nikki

    Wow, your MIL is bat Sh*t crazy enough to make me run around screaming and begging my doctor for prescription pain meds. If she’s going to drive you crazy, I say do things to really make her nuts! Refer to yourself in third person, but tell her it’s because of your speech impediment. “Sorry, MIL, but Swistle needs to feed the baby.” “Swistle is going to the bathroom.” “Swistle is going to cook dinner and drink a fifth of vodka.”

  34. Katie

    Oh Swistle! I had no idea how crazy THAT woman is (Not you. No, HER.) She sounds truly horrid.

    Also, I agree with Jess Loolu. Not blogging during her visit would be a CRIME. You must accidently fling your computer chair backwards, thus knocking her down and rendering her unconscious so we can hear how your sheet burning bonfire goes!

  35. T with Honey

    I’m going to have to remember this post in a few weeks when the in-laws come to visit. All the suggestions may just make the weekend more bearable.

    And I’m so grateful that we at least get advanced notice when they visit.

  36. Jen

    I am soooo grateful for a normal MIL, and so very sorry that yours is a crazy old bat. I thought they were only that bad in the movies!

    I wish you luck next month. Bake lots of brownies for yourself, and head to Tucson if you need a break!

  37. Swistle

    Shoeaddict- Oh no no no! The anonymous thing was because several people commented/emailed that they’d LIKE to tell MIL stories but were worried their MILs would see the comment. So I was hoping they’d tell the story anyway but under cover of anonymity if that was the only way I’d get to hear the story. We LOVE Awful Mother-in-Law stories around here. I hope you’ll put yours back up, because it was a good one!

    Kelsey- Yay, Kelsey is back! (I think it’s very funny you got caught up on blogs before you unpacked!)

    Karly- Well, I can put you on the waiting list. Maybe Erica will break my heart again.

  38. Alice

    wow. i don’t have a MIL, seeing as i’m not married and single and all, but holy heck i have loved these posts. it probably helps not to have a MIL, in fact.. i can enjoy them without severe empathy pains.

  39. Anonymous

    Oh dear. I have similar issues with MIL visits. The time that elapses between her arrival and my itching, burning desire to strangle her gets shorter and shorter every time.

    First: she asks incessant questions that have no answer, just to carry on a conversation (i.e., hear her own voice, since she knows she’s not going to get a reply beyond, “I really don’t know.”). I kid you not when I say that she makes my ears hurt (she’s a LOUD talker, too).

    Second: she loudly makes ignorant and/or racist remarks about other people and cultures while we’re out in public (and seems to think she’s being cute by doing so–we’ve discussed this with her before, and she implied that it’s just a cute little idiosyncracy she has. I call it idiocy, plain and simple). Ignoring her does no good; she will only repeat them more loudly.

    Third: We live in a city that, if we’re taking people out to see the sights, requires a fair amount of walking. The BITCHING this woman does about walking short distances, you’d think we’d just cut her feet off moments before we sent her on the Bataan Death March. Listen, lady: I am doing you a fucking favor by toting your awestruck, touristy ass around to every single sight you want to see. You will refrain from complaining about the distance between said sights, because really? I had nothing to do with their placement. Last time she visited, we rented a car, but we had to park a block away from the restaurant. We heard about it for the rest of the night. (Lest you think I am unfeeling, this is a perfectly healthy 50-ish woman).

    Fourth: The food issues. Oh Jesus, hold me. She is pickier than a five-year old, and I’ve yet to encounter the five-year old who will more rudely reject a food she finds too “strange.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to endure her spitting food out, gagging over it, or simply whining, “Eww, how can you EAT that?”

    Honestly, I could go on, but I’m only getting myself more riled up, and I just recovered from her last visit. I have another one to look forward to at the end of the month, so I need to remain calm. Suffice it to say, however, that we didn’t even make it an hour into our last visit before I remembered how much I loathe her visits. Distressingly, however, underneath it all, I think she is a fairly nice person. Just more fucking aggravating than one person has any right to be.

    You have my sympathy on your impending visit.

  40. Jen

    What, no one else is going to bid to have Swistle come visit next month? Man, now I feel silly, not actually, you know, knowing her at all…

  41. Swistle

    Alice- Since it’s not too late for you, I recommend looking for an orphan.

    Anonymous- Oh, I forgot to mention FOOD ISSUES! And COMPLAINING! And the…well, I should say no more right before bed. But I loved every sentence of your comment. Every. Sentence.

    Jen Skyhawk- I know, I get offers of MARRIAGE all the TIME, but sanctuary? Flat out of luck.

  42. shoeaddict

    Oh, you AND your children are more than welcome to come for the whole month of October. I know the pain of the in law.

    My comment about my MIL was- she drinks too much and is the type that “just can’t handle” anything. She’s always in need of a pill and to lay down.

    She claims I “stole” her baby. They were never even close and he barely has a relationship with her. I am not a bitch or anti-family, either. I am a cajun girl. I love my family but, that is just what the truth is.

    i got married on the beach and then had a reception back in LA. My mom and her freinds were setting up for it while my MIL (who has fake boobs, tans year round and acts 25) LAID BY THE POOL. Oh, in her bikini…

  43. Tessie

    My MIL once had too much to drink while staying with us and PEED ON OUR COUCH.

    Talk about ruining an item for life. We had it cleaned, but we still argue over who has to sit on The Piss Couch.

  44. Stacie

    I love this post if for no other reason than I now feel that although I frequently fantasize about telling my mother-in-law that she is a pushy bat who needs to get over her judgemental crap, compared to your MIL she is a delightful saint of reasonableness.

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