My mother-in-law is coming to stay for a few days in order to admire the new house. She’s a regular, although not particularly heavy drinker. Exactly like LH, in fact; he can stop at one, but not at none, so for both of them the 5 pm G&T and/or the glass of wine with dinner is a social necessity. Wine decorates every social occasion despite her late husband having, to my eyes, quite an obvious drinking problem. There is no fucking way that my abstention will fly under the radar.
That’s fine. What is not fine is that she’s the sort of woman who, under the guise of kindly concern, attempts to ferret out every single possible thing that might be wrong with one’s life, or highlight any downside to a triumph. It’s hard to even describe how this manifests, but for example; you’ll announce that you have bought a new, bigger house! Hurrah! Oh, that’s lovely, she says. Are you not concerned about the cost of heating? I suppose you’ll have to postpone that planned overseas holiday for a few more years now. When her son announced that he’d been awarded his PhD last year, she said Oh, well done for finally finishing, especially since it took so long with the children and everything. An acquaintance hasn’t just had her first baby, she’s had an IVF baby, who will be referred to that way for years to come. Conversations devolve very, very quickly into us defending ourselves against imaginary problems, or explaining why a good thing is a good thing. Unconditional approval is not a thing that happens in LH’s family.
And she is obsessed with weight and diet, although she will claim not to be. She doesn’t diet herself, having maintained her weight throughout her life through a combination of genetic luck, a job that requires physical movement, and just having some self-discipline, really. So weight loss or gain is noticed, diets are noticed. Less than 24 hours after I’d given birth to my second daughter, who weighed in at almost 10 pounds, she commented on the fact that I still had a bit of a tum.
All of this means that she will almost certainly have issues with me not drinking, and any explanation I give will be an excuse for a barb. My usual ‘thought I’d stop drinking and see if I could lose some of this fat’ line will be a weapon in her hands.
It doesn’t matter, of course. I realise it doesn’t matter what I say or what she thinks of me. And to be very honest, it’s a lot easier now that her husband is not around, because he was the obnoxious alcoholic type; drank, got loud, went into long monologues, often got insulting, spent the next day being defensive and cranky. Mostly I used to cope with that by drinking, because alcohol is very useful in creating a bubble of numbness around one. His whole family reacted by just tuning him out most of the time, and it was so horribly, awfully uncomfortable. But nobody ever talked about it. Ever.
So compared to that, being ‘the sober one’ looks pretty good. But there’s still that thing. She’ll go back home and tell everyone that poor AA must have had more of a problem than we realised… or, I guess, poor AA’s weight is so out of control now that…
Oh, and we’re throwing a house-warming this weekend. No problem at all being sober and hosting a party, and I think it’ll be a lot easier to go unnoticed in that context anyway.
I’ll report back.