(Cue shark attack music from Jaws)….
They’re coming! And they bite. I am of course, referring to my in-laws, aka, Eddie’s parents. They will descend upon Chicago from Mumbai, India on Thursday, June 11th. Eddie’s father will be with us until the 27th, while his mother will remain for a full month, flying home on July 8th. While talks of this visit had been in the works for awhile, it was only last weekend that Eddie’s folks firmed up the dates and purchased tickets. Notice that I purposely left out any role my husband and I had in the decision making process.
As many of my regular readers know, this planned meeting leaves me in a state of agitated conflict. I love my in-laws. They invited me into their family, when by any Eastern standards, I was a dubious choice of partner for their son. I am 2.5 years older than him for starters, which I did not know until after we became engaged, is a serious trangression in Indian culture. I came to the marriage without a family name, money, nor was I, shall we say, unsoiled (read: Boop was no virgin). Now to us Westerners, these points against me might sound like standard fare, but I don’t have space enough on this blog to convey the crap Eddie’s parents had to endure socially by blessing our union. They threw us a swanky, lavish 4 day affair in Raipur, India, 30 years to the day after their own marriage, and have always treated me with a love and respect I never had from my own folks.
All that being said, it was made clear to me when I married Eddie that the bar was set high. He is the only competent son of a highly respected, wealthy and accomplished family. My husband descends from the Marastian “caste,” and although that classification system has long since been officially abolished in India, the social stigmas and privileges often carry over into present day. How do I know this? Because my mother-in-law has been all too happy to educate me about these facts ad nauseum. I am oft reminded that there have been 17 consecutive generations of happy and solid Sar**** marriages, and I had better not be the one to break tradition.
I have discussed the particular tug of war over if and when I will bear fruit on the pages of this blog in the past. This issue, above all others, has been the explosive divide. Although my in-laws and I get on very well, my reluctance to rent out my 30 year old womb to the next generation of Sar****’s has been met with decided disappointment. Nevermind that Eddie ain’t ready to be no Daddy either. I am the woman and it is my job, nee, my life’s work, to reproduce. Daughters are good, sons better still. The fact that I have entered my fourth decade without clamoring for a baby is a source of endless confusion to my new parents, though I am the first to admit they find me rather amusing and capable on the whole.
So for one month, I will be right in the line of fire. Eddie will still continue to travel four days a week for the entire length of their stay. That is non-negotiable. So for four weeks of my summer, I must balance my freelance writing and job hunting with a full-time position as chauffeur, tour guide, babysitter, chef and maid to my in-laws. This, in large degree, I am happily willing to do. Eddie’s parents have seen very little of the City and I look forward to the opprtunity to meld our two separate families into one. There will be gatherings with Jen and extended family.
But there will be times, oh so many moments, where I will be naked, without the shielding support of my husband, where my life as it is here will be dissected, held up for scrutiny. My housekeeping, cooking (or lack thereof), gym and social schedules, drinking and habits (or lack thereof) as a “traditional” wife will be evaluated and judged against the backdrop of my mother-in-law’s own perfection. She was an accomplished woman in her own right prior to marriage and child bearing: a Master’s degree holding nutritionist and college lecturer. She rarely tires of telling me that it was the easiest thing in the world to let it all go for the sake of her family life. Read between the lines and you can almost see the judgement against me as I stubbornly cling to my selfhood. She is my mother-in-law and this is her job.
I am almost, without fail, a believer in shades of gray. So while I tremble in fear of a month alone with my in-laws in the confined space of my apartment, I recognize this as an opportunity to educate them as well. Perhaps I am arrogrant or naive in my hopes that my own brand of Boop uniqueness will win them over to my side, change their minds that mine and Eddie’s marriage doesn’t fulfill its destiny until we are parents? I have reserved an extra session with my shrink each week for the duration of their visit. I joked with Dr. Trotter that my regular slot will be for discussion, and the second will be devoted to my breathing into a paper bag.