Friday, November 30, 2007

Monday Morons--Christmas with the in-laws

Not that I'm writing this to say that my in-laws are morons. Well, we might get to that later, but that isn't what this is about. No, this is about my husband being totally clueless.

Well, you know how it is. Your parents got married and had you and maybe your brothers and/or sisters. And your mom had her family traditions, and your dad had his family traditions, and then they got married and had to give up about half of their own traditions to participate in the other family's traditions, and then they also made up some of their own traditions. So maybe you spend Christmas Eve at your maternal grandparents' house, and maybe you spend Christmas Day at home, and maybe you spend Thanksgiving and New Years at your paternal grandparents' house. Or maybe you do Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other, and then the next year you switch them.

So twenty or thirty years later, we you've gotten most of that worked out, you get married, and that all goes out the window. You have to decline about half of the stuff you'd normally do with your family to make time to spend with your spouse's family. Either that, or you spend holidays apart from your spouse and never even see the in-laws. Or maybe you both decide to decline all family traditions on both sides.

But I think most people go with the first option. Do some stuff with one family, and then do some other stuff with the other family. It's not rocket science. If you get married, little things like this change.

I don't remember doing much of anything with his family that first year. He had some weird schedule at work. I had a part-time job at a movie theater, a temporary job at the mall, and had just finished what were supposed to be the last two classes on my associate degree. And there were problems with the car. I still lived with my parents, and my husband spent half the time at our house and about half the time at his mom's place, and sometimes he would check on the empty house where we would spend the next nine and a half years. I don't think that we did a lot for Christmas. I remember Christmas with my family, and I'm sure we must have gone to his mom's to exchange gifts, but I'm afraid that I don't even remember doing that. The schedule was crazy, and two or three days a week I didn't even see him. Mostly I remember him unwrapping presents from me, and my family all looked bewildered that I got him a pepper-mill and other things like that. And they got him stuff, but mostly it was stuff like candy, cause they didn't know what else he liked. He bought me a ring, which my mom didn't car for, cause it had a garnet and didn't look like a wedding ring.

Anyway, I know that we didn't do much with his family that year, cause of the schedule.

Sometimes it just didn't seem to sink in with him or his family that he was married now. His brother would invite him to lunch and then be surprised when two of us showed up. They would just expect him to do something that he used to do. It didn't seem to occur to them that he wasn't going to go grocery shopping with them or do laundry with them anymore, even after he moved out of the house. And that first year we didn't file our taxes together, cause he just gave everything to his brother like he aways did. And then he signed it and sent it off without telling me, and he didn't even copy information to give to me so that I could properly file my taxes. I think maybe he even filed as a single person to get the extra money.

In February we moved into his grandmother's old place. It was not a good place and there were bugs and peeling paint and such, but I didn't care cause I finally got to spend the whole week with my husband.

So it was either the next December or probably the one after that, and my husband reminds me about going to his brother's place the next week.

Only this is the first that I've heard about it.

Not only does he think that he's already told me about it, I'm just supposed to know anyway, because the whole family always gets together every year on the 23rd. Just like last year and the year before.

But we didn't go anywhere on the 23rd last year or the year before. So far as I know, we were not even invited anywhere on the 23rd. And I don't even remember him mentioning that they did this while we were dating.

He insisted that they always do that and they have done that every year for his whole life. They all have their own plans on Christmas and Christmas Eve, but all of them who live in the area get together on the 23rd. He needed to call his mom and find out what time they were expected and if we were all going to drive over together and such.

I am quite sure that I had not gone to this brother's house on the 23rd before. It is possible that he'd been going without me, and certainly I would not have expected to be invited during the two years we had been dating. But if he'd gone without me after we were married, that was strange.

So he called his mom, and she didn't know for sure, so she said she'd ask and then get back to us. A couple days later, he gets all the details and confirms that we are going to his brother's place on the 23rd.

I'm a bit rattled by all of this. We are apparently going to some big family gathering in a few days, and I knew nothing about it. I hadn't scheduled for it. And if it's a dinner aren't I supposed to bring something? I had probably met this brother, but I didn't really know him. These were not people that I spoke to on a regular basis, and I didn't feel like I should just call and ask what this was all about.

The first two years we were married, I had a part-time job. Then I quit the job, intending to get another one with a different schedule, but my husband talked me out of that idea and said I should just stop working. So at this time we had every little money, and either I didn't have any job, or I worked less than twenty hours a week. So at least I didn't have a scheduling conflict with this last minute family function.

I had just about calmed down about the whole thing, when I asked to confirm that this little visit to the brother's place did not involve exchanging gifts with the extended family.

Oh, we get each other presents.

What???!!!

I had spent the last two months buying Christmas presents. With my limited funds I had barely managed to get things for my family, his mom, two of his brothers, one of his sisters, and a nephew that still lived "at home", and I already knew we were expected to exchange gifts with them just as we did last year. Now, with no money and not enough time to go shopping anyway, I'm supposed to have presents for another brother and his wife and nephews that I had never met and possibly their wives or girlfriends.

My husband doesn't see what the big deal is. We'll think of something.

The house had a big pecan tree, so I think that we ended up giving them a bag of pecans. And he was supposed to make a bunch of pralines, but most of them didn't turn out so good.

I was terribly embarrassed about the whole thing. I am uncomfortable in a lot of social situations, and my husband does nothing to help. You're supposed to do stuff for each other, like you're supposed to nudge the other person, and he's supposed to look at you so you can whisper "Get me out of here." Only instead of thinking of some excuse so that we can quietly leave, he either doesn't seem to get the signal, or he stands up and announces "My wife wants to leave now." So I should have known this sort of thing would come up, and that he wouldn't have a clue.

When I got married, I gave up things to be with the man I loved. I'd grown up being used to things like nice clothes and living room furniture. After we got married, I didn't do much socially. I didn't buy clothes except for jeans and what I could wear to work. Most of my old dresses still fit, so if I needed to go to a church thing I had stuff to wear, but what was I supposed to wear to this thing with his family? I was pretty sure that it wasn't a dress-up kind of thing, but were jeans okay?

So for a few years, we went to his brother's place on the 23rd. That first time, his brother's wife confirmed that they had not had this little gathering "in a while" and had definitely not done this since we'd been married. Every year I worried what to get them, cause I didn't have money to get them much, and I didn't know them that well anyway. I usually ended up trying to make them candles or whatever I was into at the time. Every year they seemed to remember to get me something at the last minute, and as they all exchanged gifts I unwrapped one package that was usually candy or soap or something that was probably re-gifted. Every year they got my husband a dress shirt, and maybe a sweater. That would be the only nice clothes he would have for the year, and usually he would ruin it two months later by wearing it to change oil or something.

I think that the family gathering had stopped about the time that their own kids had gone off to college, but my husband didn't remember. It started again, mostly because my husband expected it, and they didn't have a tactful way of saying they didn't want to invite us anymore. One year they found a way out by announcing that they were going out of town before that date and did not expect to be back until the next year. The year after that we did not get an invitation, and after that we had such hectic schedules that I don't think we even bothered to ask about it.

Eventually, my husband learned to dress like a grown-up without the brother's help. But he never did get into the whole gift giving thing. He gets stuff for me all the time. But he doesn't wrap them and wait for a special occasion, he just gives me stuff if he thinks he's found something I'd like. Christmas and anything resembling work that is related to Christmas, such as buying presents, wrapping presents, or decorating is left entirely to me. He gives me the money, and that is the end of his participation in Christmas until it is time for him to unwrap his own presents or eat something. I can barely get him to express his opinion on whether or not one of his relatives would like a gift I was thinking of buying.

When everyone found out that his mother had cancer, I thought that there would be one last big deal around Christmas time. But no one invited us over on the 23rd that year. For her sake, I hope that they did something and just forgot to include us.

The year after his mom died, the brother and sister and nephew that still lived "at home" still thought we should exchange gifts. We didn't actually go to see them, but they left some things for us when they went to visit one of their brothers, knowing that we would see him later that week. Now that his mother is gone, my husband doesn't really want anything to do with any of them except for one of his brothers.

Last year, I did not get any of them anything. My husband and the one brother he still likes can exchange gifts if they want to, but it's a relief that I don't have to deal with the rest of them ever again.

5 comments:

Dame Honoria Glossop said...

We live fairly close to our respective in-laws, but like to be on our own on Christmas Day. I guess we've made our own traditions.

If you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.

I hate that 'giving a present 'cos it's expected' kinda thing. But I do love giving presents to people I love. Christmas isn't just about consumerism, either of presents or food I guess!

laughingattheslut said...

Oh, I love giving presents too. But I don't really know these people, and I didn't appreciate being told three days ahead of time that I was supposed to get them something. If he wanted to do something with the rest of his family, he could have told me just about any time that month that I should be looking for additional gifts. Not three days before the event, when I don't have any money left.

For the last few years I've exchanged gifts with several of my Star Trek club friends. That has become a major part of the holiday for me. This year it seems like I won't be exchanging gifts with a few of them, and I'm a bit unhappy about it. But, people have stuff going on in their lives outside of the club, and I'll just have to get over it.

evil-e said...

I am going to be introduced to this horror all over again this year. My family has some traditions...not many anymore (too many deaths in the family). Renee's families (divorced parents) have their traditions, including Hanuka. This should be an interesting year for the holidays.

On top of that, I only get Christmas off from work, so I cannot even spread this whole thing out over a couple of days. I am just hoping for decent weather, short visits, and not much "optional" gift giving.

dmarks said...

Our Christmas stuff is so fractured this year. We had the gift exchange with my brother-in-law and his family just last Saturday. I know there will be one more Christmas: good chance of two.

As an aside, my brother in law does not talk much. He was sent over to Iraq earlier in the year, but ended up in Kuwait. I asked him how it was. He said "Nice". He had no other words to say.

Princess Extraordinaire said...

It's amazing hwo many directions a family goes after someone gets married then has children of their own and so forth - the fmaily traditions get tranfered down litle by little but jost can't be caried out due to other familial demands - we had traditions growing up now it's totally different since we have our own families - but it's still one happy family!