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OK, MIL, I Get You

Mother In Law, I get it.

At my brother-in-law’s wedding today, I actually had a connective moment with my mother-in-law for the first time in my life. She was complaining about how they don’t make cute clothes for fat people, and I chimed in that she was absolutely right, and it was a very brief moment, but I felt like I finally understood a tiny part of her. After that, I watched her more carefully throughout the day—more than I usually do, since she has this glare when she looks at me that makes me want to crawl into a hole and die—and had a little epiphany that I’m still not so sure about what to do with.

We’ve never seen eye to eye on anything, really; I’ve known her for 17 years and I know she’s never liked me. It might be because when she wanted to dress me up and have me ride in a limo during my first school dance ever (It was casual! Everyone wore jeans and made fun of us!), I was reluctant, refused to wear her dress (which hung off me), didn’t want the limo ride, after I’d had a bit of a traumatic experience in a limo as a kid.

I like to say it’s because I got “the good one.” And I did. Of her three boys, her eldest, my husband, is pretty awesome, and I know I’m a lucky woman to have him. We’ve butted heads over the years, and though she’s never said it to me, I know she’s bummed out—to understate it—that we got married without telling anyone.

The thing is, it just wasn’t a big deal for us. I’m a super liberal feminist who thinks that marriage is fine if you want it—but not necessary. I had said yes when he proposed years ago, sure, but we’d been together forever and even had a child before we went through with it. I also hate being stared at, dressing in formal wear, and wasting money—all things that weddings are made of.

Then there is the whole feeling of a medieval dowry, the ridiculous vows that they want you to say (of course, I would have made my own, had we had a ceremony), and just the whole insane pageantry of it all. Sara no likee, to say the least.

We figured we would get married eventually, and when we did, it was on the day the courthouse had available. We wanted to share insurance, since mine was out of state and complicated to use every time we needed it (which was weekly; we had a premature baby, after all, and we were paying $500 a month alone for her synagis shots) and his, though not better than mine, was local, and simple to use. So we just got married.

My parents did come as witnesses, but it was very last minute; they both came straight from work. I don’t remember what we wore or what we said—it wasn’t religious, which meant it was fine by me—but I know we giggled the whole time, like school kids, and it was fine. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I felt like I was doing it right by me, and I was; but looking at how joyous my MIL was today as she took pictures reminded me that she probably had the dream of seeing her firstborn get married, and was hurt that it didn’t happen. I know if my daughter got married without me I’d be pretty devastated.

I wouldn’t change what I did, but maybe how I did it by inviting her; we just didn’t think to do it. But now that I know this information, what do I do with it? Apologize after so many years have passed? Use it in future situations when I feel uncomfortable and alienated again to retain some perspective?