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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Meeting My In-Laws

By Lia of the Yum Yum Café blog

Years and years ago I used to collect stories of embarrassment and mortification from friends and family. Over a decade or two, I collected these pearls of narration. I thought I might write down some of these stories, names and places changed of course, and share them with you.

This is the last story of this series. I thought I would write one of my own embarrassing moments. There have been so many, how to choose? I decided to write about the first time I met my future in-laws.

My husband comes from a large Italian family. Nine kids in all. A tyrannical father who long ago alienated himself from his children. A mother who bore and raised nine children more or less on her own while coping with her difficult and unemployable husband. She worked for more than 25 years on a production line - hard, precise work with various hard metals, which unfortunately, in time, ruined her use of her elbow, shoulder, and neck vertebrae. She is a woman who caries herself gracefully and possesses a grace of spirit as well.

I didn’t really know any of these facts when I met my husband. He is a gracious person, like his mom, but he is very reserved as well. Not what you’d typically imagine an Italian boy raised by six sisters would turn out to be like. I knew he had a slew of siblings, brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws, nephews and nieces. I hadn’t given his family much thought until he invited me to come and meet them all at his sister’s up-and-coming wedding in two weeks’ time.

So began an intense study period: siblings’ names, sequence or position of occurrence in the family line, spouses’ names, offspring names and ages, profession learnt, job situation (employed or unemployed), etc. The more I learnt, the more I felt inadequate to master the social situation of meeting them all.

What I didn’t realise, thankfully, was the whole time my husband-to-be was prompting me about his family, his six very curious sisters were squeezing out every bit of information their brother knew about me. And what I didn’t realise, even more thankfully, was that the little bit they did learn did not paint me as a good prospect for their dear brother - an older woman (three years), single mother (obviously not a virgin), foreigner (non-Italian, non-German; you’re right, coming from an Italian immigrant family, this does sound a bit bizarre), electrical engineer (a men’s profession, she must be butch), and living in Germany without family (aka black sheep). In their eyes, a future relationship between their brother and me, didn’t brew well.

Off we go to the wedding. I was so nervous that I cannot remember anything about the wedding ceremony other than it went on forever and ever. The reception was held a half hour’s drive away. We’d rented a car for the occasion and I, a nitwit when it comes to navigating, managed to get lost and we were the last to arrive at the reception.

By this time we did arrive, everyone was seated and they had drunk their first (second and, in some cases, possibly third) glass of champagne. The only seats free for us were at the Reject Relative or Miserable Misfit table next to aunt Glum, uncle Castrated, and the Nerdy nephew whose one passion in life was collecting old radio transformers from antique stereos.

Then ensued a torturous hour of stuttering conversations (I’m sorry, there is only so much I know or want to know about radio transformers). I couldn’t even drink because I was the designated driver. During all the awkward silences, I amused myself by listening to my stomach’s rumbling and mumblings. I was so hungry: I hadn’t eaten that day out of nervousness.

Note: boredom or tedium is the perfect cure for nervousness, but it is also a great perpetrator of hunger.

After what seems like hours, we were finally able to go to the evening buffet. It was a huge u-shape affair with a wide selection of entrees, two soups, five main dishes, and baskets of homemade bread, platters of cold cuts, and bowls and bowls of salads. I thought that, if nothing else, at least I could feast until I popped.

Quietly, I made my way along the tables: soups - beef and something with pork feet floating in it; bread – sprinkled in bacon bits; main dishes – pork, beef, veal, meat pies, ham. I was half way down the table when I realised that every dish had meat in it. I hadn’t seen such a meaty meal since my days of living in southern Germany where they don’t even mention the ham bits or bacon bits that accompany every dish on the menu, because they are there by default.

Back to the buffet table...

Out of desperation I, a long-term vegetarian, starts removing the garnish from the cold cut platter and placing it on my empty plate. After a little while I have quite a nice selection of parsley stems, curly carrot shavings, clusters of grapes, and finely cut slices of red, yellow, and green peppers. I was so concentrated with my task, that I didn’t notice two of my future sisters-in-law standing just a short distances away. That is, until one says loudly, “Oh my gawd, she’s a bloody vegetarian too boot!” I look up at her expression of aghast and then look down at my plate of veggie bits and break out into a blush of mortification.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Oh, the shame of it. ;) A Vegetarian! I suppose you could have been an alien from outer space and the 'to be' in-laws would not have been more shocked.

I hope by now they have discovered your many wonderful qualities as we, who read your stories, have. And I also hope that they now realize that your diet was more healthful than theirs.

Oh, the shock of it. Did you say something? I'm afraid I would have eaten like a pig from the desert table even tho eggs, butter, and cream have a lot to do with Germanic deserts.....by the pound.

I'm so very sorry. Have they improved toward you over time? What a wonderful bit of writing...an expose of love and determination indeed.

I married an Italian too, and while mr. kenju has no sisters, his mother and aunts made up for that....LOL

What a story! My Spanish in-laws are deeply suspicious of my vegetarian tendencies and my FIL in fact ROLLS his eyes when I mention that I prefer veggie meals.

Mage, I can't remember the dessert table. Maybe it came out after the dinner buffet. It was slim pickings indeed.

kenju, I always say my husband has the heart of an Italian and the mind of a German. He came here while still a child. Yet, the family, especially the dynamics between his six sisters and their mother is very Italian.

Yogamum, you would think that with all that sunshine, Spanish people would really be vegetable people. My experience in Spain has shown me otherwise. Vegetables are side plates, whereas the main meal consists of generous proportions of different kinds of meat.

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