I used to think that my in-laws were less insane than my blood relatives.
And then I started paying attention, and realized that they’re as nuthouse crazy as anyone else in the family. I have two theories as to why. One, only crazy people are willing to marry into the family. Two, family members actively seek out nutjobs. Either way, the in-laws are nearly as bad as the… wait, is it out-laws?
Yeah, actually, that sounds about right.
Aunt Patsy (Uncle Curley’s ex-wife) was recently bragging about her new hydroponic garden and tilapia pond, and I was momentarily intrigued, because I have this nasty habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt. My eyes opened wide and I said in an excited chatter, “Wow! That is the coolest thing ever! Are the hydroponics just herbs or are you doing food crops too? I wrote a story about a hydroponic farm once, so I did a little research on them. Are you using a substrate or doing aeroponics? Oh wait, tilapia too, so it must be aquaponics, right? Is it just as a hobby or is…”
This is around the point that reality started to catch up with me. “… is… it… more… of… a… Oh. You’re doing this because you think civilization’s going to end, aren’t you?” By now, all the excitement had drained from my face, and I resumed the typical expression of dull resignation that I wear whenever I’m around my family.
She nodded, not recognizing the cynicism. Or maybe, after all these years, she just thinks that that’s what I look like all the time. She said, “You’re smart, Robyn. You must know what’s coming now that he’s been reelected.”
The “he” in that sentence is, of course, Hillsborough County Comptroller Ned Serkis, who promised to immanentize the eschaton within eight years and then leave office without seeking a third term.
Okay, not really. It's Obama.
Whatever your politics may be—whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, centrist or extremist—Aunt Patsy is sure we can all agree that President Obama is literally the son of Satan, born not in Honolulu but on the 6th Circle of Hell in the malignant City of Dis, sent to Earth as a harbinger of the end times, destined to lead the armies of Gog and Magog in the final battle between good and evil.
I mean, that’s just common sense, right?
Presidents Obama and Bush 43
Or perhaps you think that Aunt Patsy is a little on the unstable side. Bear in mind that she divorced Uncle Curley because he was “too muddleheaded” for her. Yeah. Stare into the depths of that horror, why don’cha.
Of course, the out-laws are no better. Uncle Wilkins is adamant that each of his many ex-wives, like all women everywhere, are gold-digging, no-good, dirty bitches. Of course, Uncle Wilkins' preferred mode of picking up chicks is to get drunk and toss his rent money around at the nearest redneck bar. It is not, perhaps, an exceptional coincidence that every woman who's fallen for that has been rather shallow.
Shallow and—let’s be honest here—pretty fucking stupid. Still, a few of his marks have managed to wise up and run away as fast as they could. Some of them got a shove in the right direction from my grandmother, who’s skilled in the art of accidentally dropping incriminating information into ordinary conversation. The twin phrases, “back in his coke days” and “around the time he was living in that cave in Colorado,” have each ended their share of Uncle Wilkins' relationships.
But my all-time favorite engagement-breaker from grandma has to be this gem, said to the father of the putative bride after the engagement was announced:
Aye, wonderful! Are ye plannin’ a big ceremony? It’s her first wedding, and it ought tae be special.
I’ll know I’ve arrived as a writer, when I can invent dialogue that’s half as delightful and awkward as the shit that comes naturally to my grandmother.
|"Honestly? I think I'm having second thoughts."|
Okay, I actually don’t know anything about Uncle Hunter’s ex-wives, except that they have better taste now than they did when they were married to him. I mean, that’s just a truism. But he rarely brought his wives around to visit with my grandparents because, while he lacks class or dignity, he’s sensible enough to notice a pattern when he sees one.
And you know another class of in-laws that I knew almost nothing about?
My mom’s husbands.
Since I was living with my grandparents, mom's various husbands had very little contact with me. This, even though one lived about a mile away. Why did I never see them? You probably won’t believe me, but I swear I am not making this up: it's because they weren’t allowed in my grandparents' house.
Once again, I wish to stress that I am not making this up. My mother’s husbands were not allowed in her own parents’ home. It wasn’t a spoken rule, as far as I know, but everyone understood it, and I never saw one of her husbands inside the house. Although, strangely enough, some of her boyfriends were allowed on the back porch. I have no explanation for that. I was only an objective observer.
My relations with the people who were technically my stepfathers were therefore somewhat… chilly. In fact, I’m not even 100% sure of how many husbands she had. I think it was three, but it might have been four, depending on whether or not she ever married that guy from the David Koresh type walled compound in Corpus Christi. It seemed like she was married to him (or high priestess, or whatever,) but I never found out for sure.
So, yeah. Chilly. Then again, none of them tried to win me over with sappy shit, and they never resented me for not accepting them. Oh, and not one of them ever asked me to call him “dad”.
So, you know, win win.