Imagine that your boyfriend’s mum dislikes you, and when I say ‘dislikes’, I mean hates…and when I say ‘hates’, I mean detests. If you were Regina George, she would echo Janis Ian’s sentiments toward you.
Now imagine that you are driving up to your boyfriend’s house, for dinner with his parents. You’re taking deep yoga breaths and have been listening to Coldplay to try and calm yourself (it didn’t work – ‘Fix You’ always makes you tearful and now you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable & deeply regretful at your choice of fuchsia bra, which is clearly visible through your top).
There she stood on the doorstep – my boyfriend’s mum. A sort of malevolent Mrs Focker in her birkenstocks and flowy, (yet mysteriously stylish), garments. She had her arms outstretched towards me:
The words are sickly sweet, with a strong base note of apathy. If she had had realistic subtitles, they would’ve read something like: “you again, you nasty little toe-rag”. She wafted her shawl around me in a sort of faux-hug, and turned to walk into the house.
“Look who’s heere!”
She sang musically into the hallway, her bracelets and bangles jingling and chiming with her movement. At that, her floppy-haired husband appeared as if summoned by a bell, accompanied by their bear of a dog. He beamed toward the part of the room in which I stood (he very seldom made direct eye contact with me – perhaps because he was being watched hawkishly by his wife). At least he always seemed happy to see me. Their excitable dog jumped up, and I laughed as he licked me, his tail whipping the air at a ferocious pace.
“We mustn’t let him jump up, sweetie”
The lady of the house cautioned – her tone slipped quickly back to saccharine, yet her eyes remained icy. Archie the dog, however, did not pay much heed to his mistress, and continued to lick me – this time, on the crotch. Oh good.
We were soon sitting around the dining room table – me, trying to dab my lap inconspicuously (to clean off the dog saliva). I had taken a leaf out of the man of the house’s book, and was determinedly avoiding eye contact with everyone at the table, including my boyfriend.
Luckily, he seemed totally unaware of my presence, let alone my blatant lap-dabbing, as he re-told a story to his riveted mother for the thousandth time – the one about winning a fight on the beach in Cornwall. In fact, he had run away after some broken glass had gone right through his flip-flop, (they had bottle openers on their soles FYI – God help me and my terrible taste in men).
I gave up listening entirely and let my mind wonder – something which I had extensive practice at from Maths lessons. All at once I was jolted back to the present – the conversation must have deviated quite considerably since I last tuned in, because the next word woke me from my reverie:
She was looking at me expectantly
“Sex – it’s such an important part of your relationship darling, although…”
She now spoke directly to my fuchsia bra –
“I suspect you already know that”
She smiled, gesturing with her long, ring- encrusted fingers as she spoke. She gave off the aura of a glamorous, yet wise, sex guru.
I felt my face prickling. Both her eyes and those of her daughter burned into me, (pre-pubescent daughter, may I add). I looked desperately around the table for back-up, surely someone would step in to brush off this comment and save me from ritual humiliation? (there could’ve almost been ceremonial drums beating – I certainly wished that someone would sacrifice me off a cliff). Alas, the husband was staring deliberately at his shoes and my ex was playing with the dog – as per usual, oblivious to my existence. No one was going to come to my rescue (side note: in life, women are precisely 100x more likely to come to your rescue than men – it really should’ve been Princess Charming)
So, I excused myself to the bathroom and sat on the closed toilet, the beige walls becoming blurry around me. Did she just slut-shame me? Or was she implying that I wasn’t providing the first-class sexual experience her darling son deserved? Perhaps I was over-reacting, and that was just her way of speaking – she was very open about these sorts of things, much to the discomfort of her husband (I was sure he could now draw very detailed sketches of all of his shoes, blindfolded).
Well, either way, I was the one who was going to look like a crazy person- having abruptly dashed off to the loo. Furthermore, they had probably assumed that it was a particularly shy number two, from the amount of time I was spending in there. With a few more deep yoga breaths, I decided to face the music, practising a convincing smile in the mirror above the sink.
Nothing scares horrible people more, than those who are insufferably cheerful.