love out loud: meeting mama bear
So I decided to think about more recent experiences for this week’s column rather than drawing on my bank of disasters.
I don’t usually do this for a couple of reasons:
1. I need objectivity so that what is already a self-indulgent column doesn’t become a weekly emotion-fuelled rant.
2. It’s more likely to make people mad at me
(‘I’m really not happy about this.’
‘I wasn’t too thrilled about it either.’)
But this past week has held a few firsts for me.
One was that I, for the first time, had a key to my house cut for someone I was dating, but this was a pragmatic decision rather than a commitment-oriented one, to prevent him from ever again having to break in via my balcony. The other was less obvious.
Boyfriends meeting my parents has never really been a huge thing for me. I’ll probably have more riding on this first meeting when I’m ready to wed or whatever, especially as I imagine my parents won’t be quite so diplomatic about their feelings towards my partner as they have been to date if they fear I might reproduce with him. But thus far, they’ve all been pretty incidental meetings because I need to pick something up from home or otherwise because I was still living with my parents whilst dating a given dude.
Julio doesn’t have the same nonchalant approach and when he told me I was the first person he’d wanted to introduce to his family in a long time, I knew it was a big deal to him. But I didn’t realise was how big a deal it was to me until we’d arrived outside his sister’s house and a mental scan of my past relationships revealed to me that I’d never actually met a boyfriend’s parents before.
Of course, it went well. Julio’s family is lovely and I’m generally presentable. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for very interesting narrative, as much as I wanted to make ‘meeting the parents’ the focus of this week’s column.
But what it did get me thinking about was how the treatment of your friends and family can be rather telling about a person’s character.
Few actions are truly altruistic, and when someone likes you, it’s still in their interests to do nice things for you, as there are often romantic and carnal rewards to be had. True, it is consequently also in their interests to do nice things for your loved ones, as this is also likely to make you happy, and thus offer the aforementioned treats. But many relationships begin or continue even with the disapproval of one partner’s nearest and dearest; a lot of behaviour is justified when it doesn’t happen to you.
Some years ago, when Bono met my mum, she jovially mentioned that Serbs were the first people to use forks.
‘They were the first to use a three-pronged instrument for anything? I don’t think so,’ Bono snidely responded.
Unlike Bono, my mother is far too lovely and good-natured to try to make someone look stupid in front of another person. What she explained to me later was that the earliest ‘three-pronged instrument’ known to have been used to eat food with was discovered in Serbia.
Although this was fundamentally a trite point, what this exchange between my mum and Bono should have shown me was that if my then-boyfriend was being disrespectful to my mum, he probably wasn’t a very respectful person (the very fact that she is my mum should be enough to have kept his behaviour in line, but as I touched on before, she also has a hideous number of kind and wonderful qualities that make any condescension or rudeness towards her entirely unfathomable). It wasn’t about cutlery; it was about him needlessly being a dick.
Sadly, it can be easy to overlook the shit things that someone does when you’re emotionally invested in them, but that protective instinct that kicks in when douchebaggery is directed at your friends and family shouldn’t be dismissed, even or perhaps especially when it’s someone who alleges to care about you.
(Image credit: 1.)