June 5, 2009

Today I came across a piece of practical employment advice: “Find new applications to your education.” Indeed, there are many unsolved problems that plague humanity.  What peeves me is that by the 21st century the educated sisterhood of emancipated women still does not know how to deal with the universal  “evil mother-in-law” phenomenon.  Stating the problem brought me half-way to the solution.  EVIL MOTHER-IN-LAW.  This is the problem.  Once I applied a fraction of what I learned in college, an elegant and simple solution revealed itself. Here is my logic.

The Jungian archetype of a mothers-in-law stands apart from all other familial archetypes.   We expect mothers-in-law to behave in a non-motherly way. Many of them live up to our expectations. Could it be a “chicken and egg” problem?

Semantics of words for MIL in different languages becomes evident from the following examples.  A Spanish word suegra and a Russian word свекровь, both meaning a MIL,  sound awfully close to “sangrar” and “вся кровь,” meaning “to bleed someone dry” and “all blood” respectively. In other languages we use aliases such as “monster-in-law” and “dragon lady.” One does not need Taro cards to associate a MIL with a cross between coiffed Madam Ceaucescu and Madam Mao Zedong, and a manicured reptile.

William Shakespeare reminded us that a name does not matter –

that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Personally, I believe that Gertrude Stein was more grounded in reality when she stated the obvious –

A Rose is a rose is a rose.

Is the phenomenon of an evil MIL nothing more than the Law of Identity in action? Do some MILs live up to their title?  If we evoke The Principle of Contradition, then someone by the name “blood-sucking-dragon-monster”, CANNOT behave as a loving mother (except towards her blood-sucking-dragon-monster darling).  The logical solution is to change the nomenclature.

EURIKA!  We just figured out how to rid humanity of evil MILs.  Let the words for a mother-in-law  in all human languages roll off our communal tongue like sweet pearls, gentle and suave. My friend who chose to call her future MIL “Tootsy” was on the right track. Is there a Nobel Prize in mother-in-law science?


Not every blond is,well, you know… blond

May 25, 2009

After researching numerous mother-in-law jokes, I came to the conclusion that they are all sad and humorless. Their satire is aimed at stereotypical vixens who might be in need of psychiatric pharmaceuticals.  Here are a few tired examples:

Q: What is the worst thing an emergency doctor can tell you after admitting your MIL?  A: Sir, we were able to save her.

I always know when it’s the MIL knocking at the door, because the mice throw themselves in the traps.

I bought my MIL a chair for Christmas, but she would not plug it.

What about good old-fashioned humor? Where are tongue-in-cheek puns? I have surfed many MIL / DIL websites, read blogs, and joined several women’s groups in search of a kind-hearted MIL joke.  So far I came across more or less nasty  MIL folklore.  In my opinion these distasteful, tactless, and downright cruel jokes reinforce a negative stereotype.

To the contrary, personal stories related to MIL/DIL relationships are like seashells. They appear to be similar, but no two are the same. Every woman wants to be “one and only.” This applies equally to DILs and MILs. Therefore the anecdotes about their relationships are endlessly diverse.

Not every MIL is a monster-in-law, just like not every blond is, well, you know… blond.  So, why our mother-in-law humor is so lopsided?  I challenge you to post on my blog something funny about your MIL. But please don’t wait for my joke. I can’t write about my own MIL (see the beginning of this post).  Maybe I will ask my daughter-in-law to write about me.

A Half Blind Janus

May 15, 2009

Back during the Cold War, when the Soviet news agency routinely distorted facts to embellish the supremacy of communist leaders, there was a joke that went something like this:

Two presidents, Brezhnev and Reagan decided to race each other to prove which country was superior.  The Soviet news agency, being blind to any truth that overshadowed the glory of its government, reported the following –

“Our president ran well and took second place.  The American president finished next to last.”

What’s the connection between this tongue-in-cheek parody and troubled mother-in-law (MIL) / daughter-in-law (DIL) relationships? Consider a story from one of our contributors::

My MIL is an old-fashioned Italian mom who dotes on her grown children ages 37 and 43. She treats them like the irresponsible children they are, she still does my SIL laundry and shopping and cleaning. Both do not want to marry, because mamma takes too good care of them.  My husband is the only one who is married and she does the same when she comes over to my house. I hate it because when she leaves he says I will never measure up to the woman his mother is….. the cooking, cleaning, sacrificing for the family, “blah…blah…blah”. We have come to blows he and I, and it sometimes puts a strain on our marriage…what am I to do?


Wow!  This wife inadvertently found herself in a race with her MIL to decide who was the superior woman. The contest had been designed by her dear husband, and he was the one who reported the twisted results. Somehow he decided that “The Best Housemaid” would be the best woman.  This race had been rigged from the start.

The vocal judge in this competition, the husband and son, is a half blind Janus.  Unlike the two-faced Roman god who could see both forwards and backwards at the same time,  this guy only sees half the picture. He looks at his wife with blind eyes; the other face sees only his mommy.  Therefore, Mama always wins.

This judge should be disqualified!

Otherwise, in my opinion, if “L.” prefers to stay in this marriage she should quit the race by admitting that she is not the world’s best housemaid.  She should stand proud and coyly declare “Yes, Darling, your mom can cook and clean better than any other woman, but I bet no one else can make you happy the way I can…”  She is the uncontested winner where it counts the most.

eva goodmil

Mam, Bangladesh is the other way…

May 6, 2009

It is the “duty” of the daughter-in-law to look after the house, nurse and care for the elderly, cook, clean, entertain, and hold up the family status without a word of protest. In other words, her only function in life is to obey the tyranny of her in-laws.     The Daily Sun

This quote is from the May 4th, 2009 C. E. article in The Daily Sun. No, I have not mistyped the date.  The article refers to the current situation of daughters-in-law in Bangladesh.  Can you imagine the lifetime of undignified servitude?  Apparently, most abusive MILs were also mistreated by their MILs.  Until Bangladeshi brides unite in a bra-swinging street protest against the tyranny of their MILs, until they call for a national “no sex week” to draw attention of their complacent husbands to the despotism of their mothers, they will  continue to perpetuate the abusive customs.

Unfortunately, some Bangladeshi mothers-in-law were reincarnated overseas.  These vixens often quote one of the Ten Commandments to support their domineering attitude towards their daughters-in-law – “Honor your parents”.  One response to their Bible / Torah thumping could be “Do unto others…”  The trouble is that abusive parents most likely truncated the “Ten Commandments” to the first five. Let’s remember that the Ten Commandments were written 3,500 years ago, when “to honor” somebody meant to extend hospitality, provide food, shelter, and safety.  Aging parents could not survive on their own, so it was mandatory for children to take care of their elders.

Times changed.  In our society, here and now, many MILs live in their own tents, have a five years supply of Weight Watcher’s dinners, and are in no danger of being devoured by wild beasts.  The old commandment does not apply.  The updated version mandates mutual respect, the keyword being mutual.  So, if your mother-in-law does not treat you with respect, google directions to Bangladesh, turn her facing the glorious sunrise, and send her where she will feel a home.  By the way, last week, women in Kenya vowed to go on a week-long sex strike to protest violence.  Their septuagenarian First Lady joined in. The wisdom of tribal women…

If Your Mother-in-law is Mean… Tootsy her.

May 3, 2009

Since we cannot invent extra pronouns, we can invent nicknames. “What’s in a name?” A bit of humor can set a tone for the future. One remarkable MIL wrote the following:

I’m a MIL to three amazing twentysomethings. Josh calls me Suzie. Stephen calls me mom or Snuzorama/Snuzarootskie. Kristin calls me Suz or Snuz. I think it’s kind of like the whole gramma/grandma/nana/GiGi thing. It emerges from the relationship. : )  (T.S.E.)

Please note, that Snuzarootskie refers to her children-in-law by their names.  Sense of humor and tact.  This MIL should be cloned.  Here is an account about a MIL who was an army wife:

We all call her the Sarge because she has a time and a place for everything. She also is a die hard fan of Rush Limbaugh and Republican all her life.  There is no changing her mind at all. We don’t even try.  She never watches any news channel except Fox. She is a character but she is our character and she has always treated me great. I have been in her life 20 years.I love her. (Glenda Briley, Dubuque, Iowa)

Another woman wrote me a 20,000 word email, a tribute to a beautiful friendship with her DIL.  When her Korean DIL arrived to the USA, she knew only a couple of words in English.  Complementing a photo of her MIL, she said “Mom young…Mom so pretty.”  Hence the nickname Mom-Young. (Joan Schweighardt)

Have you came across a bossy, manipulative, greedy woman by the name Tootsy? My friend, although she is not dating, already has a nickname for her future MIL… Tootsy. I think Dustin Hoffman has something to do with this.  My friend claims that no one nicknamed Tootsy can be seriously aggressive.

“Please call me ‘Dr. Mengele‘”.

“Would you mind if I call you Tootsy?”

“Oh, go ahead Dear.  How do you take your tea?”

Is your MIL mean?  If she is a mean tap dancer, or a mean rapper,  I’d like to be invited to recitals.  But if she is truly mean and hostile, give it a try.  Maybe the name Tootsy has some rehabilitative vibe to it.   Then we will tootsie all federal and state prisons, mafia, Taliban…  I think I am going to call Obama now.

p.s.  Obama told me that he knew about Tootsy magic all along.  He nicknamed  his saintly grandmother “Toot,” a derivative from the Hawaiian “tutu”, which means  “grandmother”.

Pronouns to the Rescue!

May 1, 2009

How to address a mother-in-law (MIL) appears to be a touchy question in both camps.  While in a more traditional family a MIL might expect to be called “mom,” a younger, urban MIL is more likely to shrug off the issue.  For her, identifiers and titles do not matter.  She prefers to be addressed by her first name.

When my son calls me “mom”, it is music to my ears.  His wife’s “mom” does not sound sincere.  Maybe it will grow on me, but I’d rather hear my name. (V.T. Vermont)

I was surprised to read that one ostentatious MIL asked her DIL to address her as Dr…  I say  that even if Dr. Jane Doe’s academic expertise lies in the area of MIL/DIL relationships, she has to start from trenches, dig her way up, get her name in the “Who’s Who” of mothers-in-law, and then hope that her DIL awards her an honorable title. Until then, she is plain Jane.

I have a Mexican friend, who has four DILs.  Her American-born DIL addresses her by her first name.  The Colombian-born DIL addresses her as “mummy.” Two Mexican DILs use a traditional title Suegra (Spanish for mother-in-law). Here is another post:

I call her “mom” but then she refers to herself as Mrs. Mendoza… It gets really confusing at times but guess what, this has been happening for TEN years now. She likes it this way. (E.F.)

Maybe English language needs what French, Spanish, Russian, and some other languages have — two forms of “you”; informal and formal.  In Spanish and Russian, both a mother and MIL can be addressed as “mama.” But personal pronouns make all the difference;  a formal pronoun “Usted” or “Vi” is reserved for MILs, and informal pronouns “Tü” or “Ti” for mothers.  These pronouns provide a palpable degree of separation, as if reminding a MIL “you are not my mom, although I call you mother.” A MIL/DIL title dispute is all about the status. Drop it ladies.  Let’s be on the first name basis.

…I declare you Umm.. Mother-in-Law. You may kiss the bride.

April 26, 2009

Many brides are ambivalent about how to address their mother-in-law.  Despite the fact that in our society we dropped most formalities between family members, names and titles matter when it comes to HIS mother.  Maybe your freshly minted mother-in-law spelled it out  loud and clear that she wants to be addressed as “mom”.  What are your choices? Although the best selling book ” The Daughter-in-Law Rules” recommends straight forward “Call your MIL ‘mom'”, I disagree.

I already have my mother (or mom, mommy, mama – depending on the situation I can call her any other derivative of “mother” in several languages.  But these words, uttered by me, conjure in my mind one and only image, that of my mother. When my MIL asked me to address her as “mama”, I shrank.  I could not enjoy the wedding feast from that moment on, and for the next day  I agonized, not being able to stand up to her tactless demand.  I was very young, and therefore, I yielded.  I started to address her as “mama”, but only when it was absolutely impossible to avoid talking to her.  So what are the other options?

The following came from our contributors:

She told me to call her “mom”.  Ha-ha-ha.  Instead I resolved to call her Mrs….   I would have called her by her first name, if she would not be so disrespectful to my own mother.   (Anonymous)

My MIL asked me right away to call her “mother”. I have already my mother, and I am loyal to her.  I feel  that I would betray my mommy if I call someone else by this dear name.  I do address my MIL by her first name.  She does not like it. (Anonymous)

When my MIL asked me to call her “mother”, I could not bare it.  Who did she think she was?  Did she give birth to me?  I call her “Ummm.., like in ‘Ummm… this is for you.’ (Anonymous)

My MIL never brought up the subject, and I asked her myself how I should address her.  She said that It was up to me.  I call her Mumsy.  We all think that it is funny. (D.E. Arizona)

What do you call your MIL?